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Old 02-05-2013, 02:04   #1
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Coax Connector Failure

My mast is back up, bristling with antennae like a Russian spy trawler (as one of the yard workers commented).

Among others, I have a new VHF antenna at the masthead, and an amateur radio antenna on the first spreader. The idea is that the amateur radio antenna would do dual duty as an AIS antenna and for ham radio on 2 meters/440cm.

Each antenna has RG213 coax pulled all the way to the nav table with no connectors at the mast base.

Imagine my dismay when I soldered on PL259 connectors, hooked them up, and -- nothing. Nada. No signal. From either of them.

Now it is true that this was my first attempt at soldering coax connectors, but it didn't seem to be so difficult. I followed the instructions and everything seemed to go fine. How in the world could I have screwed them ALL up? It doesn't make any sense.

This is especially frustrating because my old antenna worked fine.

So I guess my next adventures in soldering coax connectors are going to be from a bosun's chair. I'll need a longer extension cord! Before I start, does anyone have any hints at what I might have done wrong?
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Old 02-05-2013, 02:24   #2
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Re: Coax Connector Failure

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
My mast is back up, bristling with antennae like a Russian spy trawler (as one of the yard workers commented).

Among others, I have a new VHF antenna at the masthead, and an amateur radio antenna on the first spreader. The idea is that the amateur radio antenna would do dual duty as an AIS antenna and for ham radio on 2 meters/440cm.

Each antenna has RG213 coax pulled all the way to the nav table with no connectors at the mast base.

Imagine my dismay when I soldered on PL259 connectors, hooked them up, and -- nothing. Nada. No signal. From either of them.

Now it is true that this was my first attempt at soldering coax connectors, but it didn't seem to be so difficult. I followed the instructions and everything seemed to go fine. How in the world could I have screwed them ALL up? It doesn't make any sense.

This is especially frustrating because my old antenna worked fine.

So I guess my next adventures in soldering coax connectors are going to be from a bosun's chair. I'll need a longer extension cord! Before I start, does anyone have any hints at what I might have done wrong?
Yep, what you did wrong was to failing to practice first on some antenna / connector that was unimportant or had easy access.

OK, now that we have fixed the blame , lets fix the problem .

1. First check that IT IS an antenna problem. Stick some wire onto the centre conductor of the radio antenna socket and see if you are receiving anything.

2. Assuming it is a antenna and/or coax problem then some common (simple) problems are:

Connector not done up tight - thus centre is open circuit.
Inner and outer of coax shorted together at one of the connectors - easy to check with meter. It only takes one fine strand of the outer braid to short out to the inner inside the connector for it to not work
wrong antenna connected to wrong radio (unlikely in this case).

It will be simple problem as this is not a complex operation!
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Old 02-05-2013, 02:39   #3
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Re: Coax Connector Failure

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Originally Posted by Wotname View Post
Yep, what you did wrong was to failing to practice first on some antenna / connector that was unimportant or had easy access.

OK, now that we have fixed the blame , lets fix the problem .

1. First check that IT IS an antenna problem. Stick some wire onto the centre conductor of the radio antenna socket and see if you are receiving anything.

2. Assuming it is a antenna and/or coax problem then some common (simple) problems are:

Connector not done up tight - thus centre is open circuit.
Inner and outer of coax shorted together at one of the connectors - easy to check with meter. It only takes one fine strand of the outer braid to short out to the inner inside the connector for it to not work
wrong antenna connected to wrong radio (unlikely in this case).

It will be simple problem as this is not a complex operation!
The blame part was painfully clear to me from the start . . . I had thought about testing all the connections, but I don't have an SWR meter and it was too late to order one by the time I thought of that . . . Yes, next time I have my mast down, I will test EVERYTHING before it goes back up
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Old 02-05-2013, 02:51   #4
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Re: Coax Connector Failure

OK, next time , ALWAYS do test between inner and outer looking for open circuit at one end of the coax using an ohm meter - this is where 99% of coax connector faults will occur. If you want to be sure, also do a continuity check on the centre conductor - but it is rare for to have a failure here.

Good luck in tracking down your problem - but I'm sure it will be simple; especially as it appears that you have repeated the error twice
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Old 02-05-2013, 03:08   #5
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Re: Coax Connector Failure

Be careful testing on transmit with a faulty aerial. It's easy to damage the output transistors.
If there is any chance the set was operated for any time on transmit while the aerial was not connected, while the mast was down, it is worth considering the more remote possibility the VHF may be damaged causing an apparent aerial problem.
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Old 02-05-2013, 05:35   #6
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Re: Coax Connector Failure

You've got some good advice!

Additionally, I would add:

1. affixing and soldering PL-259 UHF connectors correctly to RG-213 takes a LOT of practice; it is considerably more difficult than working with the smaller RG-8X;

2. buy several extra PL-259 connectors and practice with a short length of RG-213 before attempting the "real" ones again;

3. it's advisable to solder all four holes as well as the tip; before doing so, the barrel of the connector should be "screwed onto" the outer jacket of the coax, to help make a solid connection;

4. use good light and, if necessary, a magnifying glass to ensure that there are no stray strands to short out;

5. TEST the finished product for both shorts and opens, using a simple multimeter with the buzzer.

6. finish by sealing the connection with 5/8" adhesive heat shrink tubing slipped over the coax and at least 1/2" of the barrel of the connector itself; be sure to put the heat shrink on the coax beforehand, as well as the rotating part of the PL-259.

Putting on a new PL-259 from a bosun's chair is not something I wanna do; it may be necessary in your case, but take your time and try to do it right.

Bill
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Old 02-05-2013, 06:03   #7
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Re: Coax Connector Failure

Even better , try to avoid the PL-259 if at possible. I realize it is not so easy but I try to source antennas with N type connectors and then use crimp type N's.
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Old 02-05-2013, 06:31   #8
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Re: Coax Connector Failure

Consider getting a crimping tool and crimp PL259 connectors at a ham supply place. My first crimps were about as successful as my soldering. As Bill says be very careful that the braid strands stay where you want them to be - I find that if I use my DMM continuity tester before crimping (actually a couple of times during process) that I'm in good shape when I crimp - then some good heat shrink. Depending on the connector, I will usually solder the center conductor/pin. Mainesail has a crimp tutorial on his website.
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Old 02-05-2013, 06:58   #9
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I suspect Dockhead you got some stray braid shorting to the core. It's easily done

Dave
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Old 02-05-2013, 07:47   #10
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Re: Coax Connector Failure

As a service tech, Iv'e been installing these connectors for over 37 years. It has been a very rare occassion to find one done properly by the typical diy'er, the number one problem in VHF/HF installations. Here's a web page I made long ago to give you an idea of how to install them. It's going to be difficult to solder the braid at the top of a mast. For that, I usually either use crimp type, clamp type and have even used conductive epoxy, expensive but easy.

Eric

Epoxied connector:

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Old 02-05-2013, 08:12   #11
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Re: Coax Connector Failure

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Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post

Putting on a new PL-259 from a bosun's chair is not something I wanna do; it may be necessary in your case, but take your time and try to do it right.

Bill
WA6CCA
This is why I am using more and more crimp/solder PL-259's.... The tip is soldered, easy, but the braid is crimped then sealed with adhesive lined heat shrink and the the whole lot with self amalgamating tape. This may help some....

Easy VHF Connections

P.S. If you want to go solder/solder Eric's page above is the way to go! Course this can be very tough at the top of a spar...
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Old 02-05-2013, 08:13   #12
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Re: Coax Connector Failure

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Originally Posted by fairbank56 View Post
As a service tech, Iv'e been installing these connectors for over 37 years. It has been a very rare occassion to find one done properly by the typical diy'er, the number one problem in VHF/HF installations. Here's a web page I made long ago to give you an idea of how to install them. It's going to be difficult to solder the braid at the top of a mast. For that, I usually either use crimp type, clamp type and have even used conductive epoxy, expensive but easy.

Eric

Epoxied connector:

AWESOME web page Eric!!

Top notch tutorial from a master...

Thanks!
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Old 03-05-2013, 05:20   #13
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Re: Coax Connector Failure

Quote:
Originally Posted by fairbank56 View Post
As a service tech, Iv'e been installing these connectors for over 37 years. It has been a very rare occassion to find one done properly by the typical diy'er, the number one problem in VHF/HF installations. Here's a web page I made long ago to give you an idea of how to install them. It's going to be difficult to solder the braid at the top of a mast. For that, I usually either use crimp type, clamp type and have even used conductive epoxy, expensive but easy.

Eric
It is difficult to solder these connectors properly but these are very good instructions.

If you want to do this yourself, I suggest practicing on a few on a bench until you get the hang of it.

On top of a mast, swinging in the breeze, I would consider using crimp connectors instead.

Another option, of course, is to hire an experienced pro to re-do your work.
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Old 03-05-2013, 05:59   #14
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Re: Coax Connector Failure

Redo/check the chart table connections first,MAYBE the masthead ones are ok !!
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Old 03-05-2013, 06:26   #15
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I would not recommend soldering braid , its very difficult to get right and dry joints are common . It needs significant heat added and removed quickly.

As Maine sail said crimp the braid and solder the core. I've been using crimp n and pl types for years , I've yet to have one fail.

I do have some SWR meters and can verify my connections ( and the crappy ones others make up)

Dave
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