After more than 2 years of flawless service, the inevitable has happened and the 6 year old truck batteries at the site have finally given up the ghost. These batteries were removed from their original service due to them not being able to start the vehicle they were in. Then they were moved to the repeater site to power it. The cabinet fell over in the wind causing acid to leak out. As they are technically sealed, more could not be added. That was over 18 months ago. I am surprised they lasted this long.
Unfortunately, when the batteries have died, they had taken the solar regulator with them.
On Monday 24th Feb 2020, after work, I made the drive up to the site with a new (re-purposed - left over from a job about 10 years ago) regulator and some tools. At this point I did not know that the regulator had died, it was just a hunch.
I got up to the site, Opened the cabinet, chased the spiders out, checked the batteries, and 0.5V. bugger. The low voltage cutout was not working as it was controlled by the telemetry unit, and it was removed 18 months ago due to being beat up by lightning. A new and improved version is still being worked on, on my bench.
In typical Auto electrician fashion, We jump started the repeater (literally). With this. the repeater fired up straight away, yet no charge from the solar controller, even though it could see the battery voltage there now. I started my vehicle, and found the batteries sucking nearly 60A, meaning one of them is more or less a dead short.
Unfortunately, the jump starting and quick charge didnt help. Time for new batteries.
On the weekend of the 29th Feb, I grabbed a couple of truck batteries (new ones this time), and made the trek up the hill.
For those who think maintaining a repeater site is a walk in the park, you need to have a look at this video. I have recorded the main section of the track going to the site to show that it is not for the faint hearted (or bad hearted). The video however does not do the drive up there justice.
Almost at the top of the hill, my front wheel kicked up a rock about the size of a football, and threw it into the transfer case. No damage done, I am driving the vehicle effectionally known as “the tank” (watch the video, you will hear it)!.
With the help of my youngest daughter, we changed the batteries, gave the panel a wipe down and checked the voltages. As the batteries were full, the controller was only float charging (13V). When in full sunlight, the panel/regulator can power the 50W transmitter on its own without any discharge of the batteries.
My 9 year old daughter has taken these photos with her Christmas Present!
And back down the hill we came:
For all intent and purposes, These batteries have been dying for quite some time. the repeater is definitely stronger now than it has been for some time. I wouldn't be surprised if the PA was only outputting 0.5W.
ARV (Amateur radio victoria) needs to take notice of this. From finding out the repeater had died, to checking what is needed, to repairing the repeater and having it back on air, has taken 1 WEEK. not 2 weeks, not 1 month, not 1 year, not 11 years, 1 WEEK, and I work a full time job.
Thats right CE, 1 entire WEEK.