Sunday, July 09, 2006

My Broken Antenna Rotor

My Broken Rotor
By: Jack Demaree WB9OTX

One Sunday morning I hit the main switch to activate my Ham Radio station. All the equipment had lighted with a nice glow including the computer and monitor. I like to work DX on my favorite band 20 meters so the band switch was set there and the frequency readout was 14.195. I tuned up the band and there was a 5T5 working stateside stations, I looked at the rotor control readout to see if my tri-bander was pointed East But the pointer read South, so I pressed the buttons on the control and nothing, nothing at all.

I made trip outside to see if I could find the problem, I looked and looked but I could see anything wrong at all. I had my wife move the rotor as I looked up, but all looked as it should. The rotor was rotating the antennas but the directional indicator just was not working. I climbed the tower to the height of the rotor and checked to see if I could see a wire off but I couldn’t see under the bottom were the control wires hook to the terminal strip. From what I could see it all looked OK.

For about 2 weeks I would move the antenna and then go outside to see what direction the antenna was pointed. It seemed I always wanted it in another direction from where it was. I am not a good tower climber so I knew this was going to be a lot of hassle to fix. I have a Ham friend that has always helped with my antenna work and he was contacted but he was working second shift and overtime as well. He said he would help but it would be sometime before he could do it.

I was at the rig when the door bell range, I spun around to look at the TV to see who was at the door. You see I have a Radio Shack camera* piped into a TV set in the shack as I sometimes have the headphones on and can’t hear the doorbell ring.

WOW! A big light bulb lit in my head. I would remount the camera to the antenna mast to see the direction of the antenna. I mounted the camera on a small piece of plywood and drilled two holes for a U-bolt. I measured the wire from the camera control box to the camera it’s self and found it to be about 65 feet. This would work out just fine as my tower is mounted next to a small utility shed. I drilled a hole in the side of the shed just under the eave to run the camera wire through.

And now for the hard part. I checked my climbing safety belt and ropes to find them OK. Up I went with knocking knees. I reached the point where the antenna hooked to the mast and I hooked the safety belt on to secure myself to the tower. I pulled the camera out of the bag attached to my belt and bolted it with the U-bolt to the mast just above the tri-bander making sure it was in plain with the boom. Down I climbed.

And now for the big test. I ran the camera wire through the hole I had drilled in the shed and hooked it to the control box, plugged in the 12-volt power cube. I had to also run another 50 foot shielded wire to the shack to hook to the monitor, when this was finished I turned on the TV and Oh boy what a sight. It was working perfect; I could see the boom and director and all the way out to the horizon. As a bonus I could see a full view of the driveway, so when not using the beam I can see if someone drives in. When turning the antenna rotor I just pick out a land mark seen on the TV to know where the antenna is pointed, it works great.

My Ham friend did come to fix the rotor a few weeks later, but I left the “Tower Cam” as I call it, in place.
I now pipe out a still photo every 15 minutes to the Internet so all can see how in sane I am.

*Radio Shack Indoor/Outdoor CCD Camera

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