loss of signal range on my garage door openers

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Old 12-12-10, 09:10 AM
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loss of signal range on my garage door openers

Hi all,

I'm cross-posting this from the garage and carport forum, as I'm not getting any response there... hoping someone with electronics repair / component replacement knowledge can give me some feedback:

I have an Allister Century 710 garage door opener that's about 21 years old. It works fine, but the trouble is that in the past few years the remotes have become very intermittent where the range they operate from is greatly reduced or do not open or close the garage door at all. This only happens when it is cold, or cold and damp.

When the weather is warm(er) or drier, the openers will work as much as 150 feet away. When the weather gets cold, the remotes don't work (and I have two different types, and the built-in remote on a car had the same issue), even if I hold the remote inches from the antenna wire. New batteries in both remotes have not made a difference. (Note this opener unit is sufficiently old enough that there are no sensors near the bottom of the tracks.)

Yesterday I came back from breakfast, and the remote would not open the door. I opened the door from the pushbutton on the wall and put the car in. The hard-wired pushbutton works every time. Then with the car parked inside, I decided to try the remote again, and then the door went down! Very frustrating!

Last winter when this started I took down the circuit board on the back of the door opener to inspect it. The only thing I noticed was that the two copper leads used to attach the pc board to the housing of the opener were loose, like cold solder joints. I resoldered the two runners and put the board back. That has not improved the situation. The unit works just fine from April to November, its only in the cold and damp that it acts up like this.

Has anyone seen this problem before? Is there a way to repair this board? I've read about the military taking over the 433 MHz frequencies, but don't think I have that issue, given that the remotes work just fine for seven or eight months of the year. It's truly a temp and humidity thing.

I'm not in financial position to buy a new board, nor am I sure it's a smart move to buy a board for a 21 year old opener, and don't have the scratch to buy a new opener either.

Are there components on the pc board I could replace that might have a bearing on the effective range of my remotes?

Thanks in advance!
 
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Old 12-12-10, 09:29 AM
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The fact it is cold related would tell me that either some electronic components are changing their values enough to cause the malfunction. Another possibility is if there is a edge type or plug in connector that the contacts expand and contract a bit...causing the issue.

I would imagine that by using the push button..just enough heat or vibration is generated from the motor and lights to simulate warmer temps.

Do you have a way to attach, say, a 40W lamp somewhere below the motor housing to try and warm it to see if the slight temp increase makes a diff?
 
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Old 12-12-10, 11:47 AM
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Hi Gunguy45,

Thanks for the response. I can certainly give the light a try, and see how that works. Given that the problem is intermittent I'll test for a week or so with a light, and see what happens.

there are no edge or push button connections. the PC board is connected to the housing by two copper buss bars (thin flexible strips). One end of each strip is soldered to the pc board, and the other end of each is held to the housing (on a terminal strip) by use of a screw. The hardwired pushbutton also is wired to those same two terminals, so it's an OR condition, either the remote input through the buss strip or the hardwired PB triggers the opener motor to actuate.

From the techie side of things, what I am fishing for is if anyone can give me an idea whether RC networks or the eight pin bug might be more prone to this type of cold-related intermittent failure, so I have a plan of attack vs. going through and replacing every component one by one.

Thanks again for getting back to me! I'll confirm in a few days or week if a 40W appliance bulb keeping the board warm makes a difference or not.

mowerman

ps.. luv the username ;-)
 
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Old 12-12-10, 01:01 PM
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Don't overlook the remotes. They are subject to more extreme temperature changes than the receiver. Check for fresh batteries, clean contacts, and possible cracks in the circuit board.
 
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Old 12-12-10, 03:46 PM
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Hi goldstar,

Thanks for the info on the remotes. I'd pay more attention to them, but, here's the skinny on the remotes. They are of two different makes. One remote may be in my car and in the garage for 2-3 days (out of work at the moment) and the garage temp is around 50 degrees or so. My wife comes home from work and that remote has been in a cold car all day. Neither work. I also swapped them between the cars, and that made no difference. I have also tried to keep one in the house for a day or two, to see if that made a difference, but no change in symptoms. Once the weather turns wet and cold, the remotes become very intermittent. I should add that if the weather stays very cold, but the humidity drops, then the remotes do work fine again. It's only when it's cold and wet that this happens (I may have misstated that previously, sorry about that).

We also had the same situation with our Ford Explorer, which had the opener in the sun visor... that would not work either, whether the car was out and about or in the garage for an extended period.

Given that I am having the same problem with three separate and different remotes, but the opener still exhibits the same characteristics, I tend to believe that they are not common, and so looking at the common demoninator; something on the circuit board.

Am I overlooking something or overthinking the possibility of something with two remotes and a third factory automobile opener doing the same exact thing, and only in the same circumstances?
 
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Old 12-12-10, 07:58 PM
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While the amount of expansion / contraction is small, it may be a part of your problem. I would be checking all the traces on the board with a magnifier to see if there are any hairline cracks, solder bridges, or loose connections. If the board plugs into a connector, I would also be cleaning up all the contact points on the board and on the connector. Sometimes just vibrating (shaking/ tapping) components will cause an intermittent problem to clear up long enough to give you a localized search area.
 
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Old 12-14-10, 11:04 PM
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Since this only seems to be a problem during colder weather AND (relatively) high humidity I would suspect that you are getting very slight condensation on part of the drive unit's control board.

If so, then Gunguy's suggestion of a 40 watt lamp under the housing for the control board may help to diagnose the problem. If the attached light on the unit is near the control board and you have the option of having the light on continuously you can try just leaving that light on for a couple of days. Understand this is NOT a cure but just a method of diagnosing the problem.

If it is condensation on the board you can probably cure it by first bringing the board in the house and getting it extremely dry. You can do this by gently warming the board with a hair dryer or just leaving it near a light bulb until the board is just slightly warm to the touch. At that time you would spray a "conformal coating" on both sides of the board. You should be able to get a clear spray insulating coating at the local Radio Shack store. You want to keep the board warm until the coating hardens and use at least two or three coats.
 
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Old 12-15-10, 04:51 AM
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Hi Furd,

Good to hear from you again. The conformal spray sounds like a great idea. I've not had a chance to try applying heat to the control board with a light bulb yet, but this suggestion seems simple enough that I'm going to try it today. I'm out later today anyway, will pick up the conformal spray, and treat the board overnight.

I should know in the next day or so if it works or not. If it doesn't, I guess I'm going to try the replacement Liftmaster control board with new transmitters.

Thanks!
 
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Old 12-15-10, 08:03 AM
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If you ask for a conformal coating at the Radio Shack the clerk will probably look at you like you double parked your UFO outside so be sure to ask for a clear insulating spray.

If there are any "open" relays or switches do NOT spray them with the coating.
 
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Old 12-15-10, 02:15 PM
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Found your post during my search for a similar problem. Thanks to all for inputs as it aided me in resolving my poor signal range problem. Turns out I had an RF interference problem. I have an older CRT TV w/ digital tuner, supplimented by a powered (amplified) antenna, located in the garage. When the powerstrip w/ the digital tuner/ amp was on, the GDO, keypad, and auto remotes lost range. The problem was exaserbated by a poor coaxial connection. Very repeatable, very suprising. Just a good technical nugget worth noting.
 
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Old 12-15-10, 02:32 PM
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Mech...Welcome to the Forums and thanks for that tidbit...sometimes we forget about possible issues.
 
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Old 12-15-10, 05:35 PM
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@ Mechadvantage: Interesting tidbit indeed; thanks for that. I have not one but two amplifiers connected back-to-back in order to get the hi def signal to my TV in the living room. Makes me wonder if that might be an issue, although, not sure why the problem only manifests when it is both cold and wet out.

@ Furd: I went to not one but two Radio Shack stores in my travels today. I asked for insulating spray at both, and they still looked at me as if I had just parked my UFO, lol! A friend who worked in pc board manufacture decades ago commented to me that conformal spray is basically just clear lacquer. Is that correct? If so I may have some, and / or can pick that up at the local home repair store.

Funny one on the insulating spray; the guy at the second Radio Shack thought I was talking about the Great Stuff wall insulating expanding foam product, and told me I should be shopping at Home Depot! I said no, that the product I was looking for was for insulating PC Boards... He scrunched up his face, thought for a moment and said nahhhh, he'd never heard of the stuff. I just chuckled, thanked him for his time, and left. It was too easy, so I left well enough alone, hehe!
 
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Old 12-15-10, 10:03 PM
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Clear lacquer might work but it might also destroy the board, I wouldn't try it.

Here is a search for conformal coating at Allied Electronics. The stuff isn't cheap and I don't know if this would help you find any locally. Allied does sell to experimenters and hobbyists and I have been a satisfied customer for decades.

Conformal Coatings

I would still first try the experiment of mounting a small lamp near the board while it is in place to see if that (temporarily) solves the problem. I don't want you to spend a pile of money for something that won't help.
 
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Old 12-16-10, 04:11 AM
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Even with two amps back to back a closed cable TV system should not have any egress of its RF signals into free air, unless there is an open port very close to the receiver. If the cable itself is damaged a temp change could affect it, but usually this will also manifest as erratic reception.

Some alarm system devices transmit RF. When it's wet & cold the range of your neighbor's system could be increased.

Do you know or can you find out the RF frequency of the opener?
 
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Old 12-19-10, 11:26 AM
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Thanks all, seems to be fixed and working

Hi everyone that responded to me.

I ended up biting the bullet and installing a new universal receiver kit earlier today. I didn't want to mess with touching each solder point on the external receiver pc board to resolve any cold solder joints (a friend thought this could also be a problem), and with no local outlet for the conformal spray (as well as being told it was expensive), and not wanting to rig up the lamp for a temperature test (figuring all it would do is confirm my suspicisions which I felt were already 99% correct) I felt this was the best and most direct course of action.


I ended up getting a receiver kit locally from Home Depot. I got the Genie universal Dual Frequency Kit, as seen here:

Genie GIRUD-1T Universal Dual Frequency Conversion Kit

As this kit only came with one remote I had to buy a second remote as well (and that part was a real rip-off, I know), but my reasoning was that I was able to get it right away, and if there were any issues with it or not the actual problem, I could return it with less hassle than trying to return it via an online merchandiser.

After seeing the ease of installation and etc. I probably could have saved myself about $30 by buying a similar kit from LiftMaster for $54 which came with two transmitters, but it's over and done with, and working, and as long as my wife is happy with it, so am I, LOL! In the for what it's worth department, I have it operating on the 315MHz setting, and the door is operating as far as 200 feet away now.

Thanks again to everyone for all of the timely info, and Happy Holidays and New Year to you and your loved ones,

mowerman
 
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Old 12-19-10, 03:49 PM
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Cheater! Yer supposed to try all sorts of odd things...THEN wind up doing the simplest solution...lol...j/k. Glad you found your solution.
 
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Old 12-20-10, 04:43 AM
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"vita brevis"... "fo sho!"

LOL, gunguy45/Vic!!


The operative part of my decision was in making sure mama was happy, cuz when mama ain't happy, ain't no one happy!!!

Seriously tho... more time for beer this way..


Thanks again everyone!

Les
 
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