Troubleshooting Guide – Retro Radio Farm

Troubleshooting Guide

Thank you for your purchase!

Recommended Use:

Please refer to online listing for specific information for your particular radio. Depending on the particular product you purchased, some or all of the information below may or may not apply.

 

Troubleshooting:

Safety:

 Shock Your old radio may shock you if you accidentally touch the metal chassis or any exposed metal (i.e. exposed volume or tuning knob). Make sure you re-install knobs if they have been removed or fallen off
Hazards

Do not put radio near water or submerge your radio while it's plugged in or turned on.

If your radio gets wet or submerged while plugged in or turned on, you may experience an electrical shock.

This electrical shock is just as hazardous as any modern electrical device but not more so. These radios are typically 30 watts and operate on no more than 120 V. Vacuum tubes generate heat but not necessarily more voltage.

Heat If the radio is working, the tubes will be hot. The tubes will not get hotter than they were design to operate. If there is a short circuit, at most, the tube may burn out. In other words, they will not over heat and explode.
Too Hot The tubes will not run too hot unless there is something misplaced inside the radio that can burn. The tubes will not explode unless they are submerged. If the radio is working, the tubes are not operating too hot although it may feel like it's too hot.

Bakelite radios can run at very high temperatures without melting or cracking. 

Plastic radios were designed to dissipate internal heat through vents, internal heat sinks, or both. Do not attempt to re-engineer your radio with contrived heat abatement solutions.

Avoid putting fabric, doilies, coverings over an operating radio to help dissipate heat.

 

Appearance Care and Maintenance:

 Polish

For plastic, use a dry cloth towel, Swiffer duster, or feather duster or chamois.

For unpainted Bakelite, dry cloth towel, Swiffer, feather duster, or paper towel, or chamois

For wood, cloth towel, Swiffer duster, feather duster, or chamois.

 

Orange oil or furniture polish is acceptance in small amounts. Avoid getting polish or liquid in the crevices. Avoid detergents, excessive amounts of soap. Avoid Turtle Wax or similar wax polishes

Crud in grooves of knobs

Use an old tooth brush dipped in warm soapy water and lightly brush grooves clean.

Avoid removing the knobs. Too much of removing and installing knobs could cause the knobs to get loose 

Scratches Light scratches can be removed with Novus 1,2 and 3 plastic polish
Deep scratches and flaking Will require repaint and re-polish. 
Discoloration Your old radio color is relatively stable after 50 years of exposure to ultra violet light. While it's best to keep molded color plastic away from bright sunlight to avoid further discoloration, the pigments in the molded plastic and chemical reactions from when the radio was new is relatively stable after 50 or so years. Whatever discoloration that may have affected the color, would have happened already, for the most part.
Moisture If your radio gets wet, allow to room dry before plugging back in. Do not blow dry, disassemble to dry, or use desiccants.
Contamination  If you spilled something on the radio, use a warm cloth that's a little wet and soapy to clean. Avoid getting soapy solution in the grill, cracks or grooves of the radio cabinet.

 

Radio Related

Issue

Resolution

Won’t turn on

Make sure the outlet power is on. Some outlets are wired to the wall switch. The power to the outlet is not on until you turn on the wall switch. Test outlet with a household lamp

 

Tubes are loose or have come out of socket. Unplug power cord and inspect all sockets. There should be 5 tubes. If you remove tubes, you must be sure to put tubes back into the correct socket. It does not matter what order you put tubes back into sockets. However, if you put tubes back in wrong sockets you may burn out one or more tubes and destroy your radio.

The power plug is not making a connection with the outlet. Bend tangs slightly, turn radio on, see if tubes glow orange.

If your system is a clock radio, the little clock knobs on/off operate on a mechanical cam. The cam is worn over the years and the on/off positions are not factory specifications. You will need to 'find' true on position by 'jiggling' the switch or 'fidgeting' with the on/off switch until it actually turns on. You will need to find this exact position moving forward to turn the radio on. The switch actuator was restored at RRF on a best effort basis. In order to fully reburbish the switching mechanism, the components would require replacement with a digital technology. No mechnical based technology was replaced at RRF during our restoration and repair process for the sake of originality.

The power cord has an internal break and wires are not connected. This usually happens at the interconnect junction where mechanical fatigue of back and forth mtion causes cable to break inside the plastic cord sheath. The power cord will need to be replaced.

Tubes glow but no sound

May need longer to warm up.

 

One of the tubes may be defective, burned out.

 

One of the speaker wires has been disconnected.

One of the tubes is not properly seated or not making a connection.
If someone has replaced the tubes and put them back in incorrectly, your tubes could be damaged irreparably. One of the tubes might be blown now. Ebay has tubes plenty at $5-20 each. Be sure to get the tube codes that matches yours exactly. The tube diagrams are always tops down. Make sure you have correct orientation 0 to 180 deg. Most tube diagrams reference orientation of 5 tubes like a keyed pattern. The pattern is only correctly sense one way. 

Tubes glow but volume very low

One of the tubes is weak

 

Antenna wire has been disconnected. You can open the back fiber board panel and check the two wires are connected to the antenna coil. Inside the radio, the two antenna wires are connected to the tuning capacitor which is the component with metal plates that turns when you adjust the tuning knob. One antenna wire always connects to one of the tuning tangs on the top of the tuning capacitor. The other antenna wire connects to the metal block housing of the tuning capacitor.

Bad reception

AM radio stations turn their transmitter down past 8PM nationwide in the USA. You will hear a loud buzzing or humming noise. If the radio is close to a TV, cable box, computer, or modern day appliance.

 

Re-orient the radio facing a different direction and try different locations in your house.

 

Radio may need an external antenna wire. Most of these old radios were fitted with an external antenna attachment on the backing board. It will be a flathead screw and may even be labeled for external antenna.

If you have other old radios and they receive stations but one does not, the radio may need to be re-aligned. If this radio receives some stations clearly but not others, this radio may not have the same sensitivity as other radios. All these old radios have different circuit design to some extent and will behave differently. Even radios having the same circuit will behave differently.

Scratchy noises

Dirty electrical contacts. All components have been thoroughly cleaned when your radio was serviced. However, exposure to dust, particles, and moisture even with normal use and care can result in scratchy sounds when you turn the volume and tuning knobs. A good way to clean these contacts is with electrical cleaner found at most auto supply stores. Always make sure the radio is not plugged in when you clean your radio with any kind of cleaner. Makes sure the cleaner has thoroughly dried before turning radio back on.

Humming Modern electronic device is causing interference. Sounds like steady loud hum that varies with volume. May be louder in between radio stations. May be louder on the high and low ends of the frequency spectrum. Turn off household halogen lights, move to an electrically quiet area. An AC adapter, laptop, electric motor, or digitial clock may be the source of the interference.
The humming does not vary with volume. A capacitor may have failed. No stations come in clearly. The hum is consistent across the radio frequency spectrum. No stations are heard.

Warbly sounding, motorboating, pulsing sound

Your radio will need service from an experienced repair person.

Your vintage radio was expected to be 'routinely' maintained by a service professional. Back in the day, TV and electronics service professionals drove around like cable guys of today. The symptom here is an alignment issue. The components in your radio have 'drifted' from factory and RRF service calibration which is expected after continued use in which your radio has been subject to normal cycles of heat and cooling, power on and power off. 

Radio plays fine but stops playing completely after a while

One or more tubes may be weak. Vacuum tubes are a consumable and by design were intended to be replaced by the consumer from time to time.

 

There is an issue with an electrical connection and will need service from an experienced repair person

One of the circuit connections has opened. The age and handling of your radio over the years has caused one of the circuit connections to open. This is not something an untrained person can find. It will take reflowing the solder points and inspection under magnificiation to remedy.

Radio plays but stops playing and a crashing sound is heard

Your radio will need service from an experienced repair person.

Over time, the intermediate frequency transformers (IFT) of your radio will stop working. The continued current flow causes the mica capacitors in IFTs to 'bridge' forming a connection. The only remedy is to replace these IFTs with replacement 455Hz IFT. You can try rewindinf these IFTs but it's not for the weak of stomach or those with poor eyesight. You will need to re-align afterwards. One of the most satisfying moments of antique radio repair, however, is one on the moments when an IFT is repaired or replaced, and it gets 'tuned' to 455Hz. The volume get loud and clear with a turn of a screw!

Ghost transmissions are heard. Hear two radio stations one over the other.

Your radio will need service from an experienced repair person.

 Radio smokes!

Turn radio off immediately. Short circuit. Moisture contamination. Blown tube causing capacitors to fry. 

 

I need the tune layout diagram

Here are sources for tube diagrams:

Nostalgiaair.com

radiomuseum.com

I'm not sure I put the tubes back in the right sockets

There are sites that have schematics for your radio:

radiomuseum.com

techpreservation.com

nostalgiaair.com

Your radio may need new tubes if all the tubes do not go back into their correct sockets and you turned the radio on.

 

If you did not turn the radio on, your tubes are still fine. Put back into correct sockets before turning on

 

 

Clock Related:

 Issue Resolution
Clock is 4 hours behind every 24 hrs Clock motor is designed to run at 60hz in order to keep accurate time. You will need a 50Hz to 60Hz converter. They are more expensive than the $40 USD power converters typically found. A 220V 50Hz to 110V 60Hz converter might cost $150 USD.
Clock is noisy Your clock runs on a motor that is not perfectly silent like modern digital technology. There will always be some sound associated with your clock design. Your clock runs on a sealed motor that is not serviceable by the user. The clock mechanism must be replaced if it is inoperable or excessively noisy. 
Can't set alarm Depending on your clock mechanism, you may need to push or pull the clock time set knob to adjust alarm time
Cant's set time Depending on your clock mechanism, you may need to push or pull the clock time set knob to adjust clock time
What is auto? Auto setting is the alarm setting for clock alarms that don't say 'Alarm'
What is manual? Some manufacturers refer to "manual" as the alarm function
What is on? Most manufacturers refer to this function as turning on the radio, and not alarm.
What is off? Almost all clock radio manufacturers refer to this function as radio off, also alarm is off. If your radio is playing while the onn/off switch is set to 'off,' check the sleep function is set to 0.
What is sleep? With radio set off, 'Sleep' function turns radio on for 0 to 60 minutes before turning off.
How do I use the appliance timer Plug appliance into the outlet on the back of your clock radio. Set the alarm. When the alarm time is reached, your appliance will turn on or off depending how you have set your appliance.
The little clock knobs slip or fall off These little clock knobs are attached by friction on a split brass post. The little clock knobs are prevented from slipping  by an internal raised notch that fits into the notch of the brass shaft. Over repeated use, the shaft may not provide enough friction to prevent the knobs from slipping or prevent the knob from falling off entirely. Moreover, the raised notch in the plastic knob gets worn smooth causing the knob to rotate freely on the brass shaft. The brass shaft has an extremely low threshold for back and forth bending fatigue. It is fairly easy to break one of these two tangs off. Repair of these broken tangs requires a new clock mechanism. Missing clock knobs is the most prevalent of all missing pieces with these old clock radios. Thereused to be a separate active industry for replacement clock knobs for Telechron clock movements.
Alarm does not go off at the time set.  The internal alarm cam is mechanical so alarms are approximate at best to within 15 mins of alarm time set. If your alarm goes off at a time more than 15-30 mins difference from what you set, there may have been a power outage in your area. 
Clock loses a few minutes every day or does not keep time accurately. These clock movements run on 60Hz cycle time. Some power utility companies are not as consistent with their power generation frequency although it's usually very consistent. Otherwise, your internal clock motor has become unreliable and needs replacement. The replacement of a clock motor requires a knowledgeable experienced service person.
One of the clock arms has fallen off the mounting post and hangs straight down The clock arms are pressed onto the clock motor shaft. To re-install requires a qualified and experienced service person.

 

Bluetooth Related:

 Issue  Resolution
Reset Bluetooth. On your player source device, turn Bluetooth ON then OFF then ON again.
Bluetooth won't pair Bluetooth is already paired with another device. You must unpair with the other device. Bluetooth receivers can only pair with one other device.
Try pairing with another device
Bluetooth receiver is faulty
Audio quality is poor through the Bluetooth receiver but plays fine when connected directly to source

The Bluetooth receiver battery is weak or near End of Life.

One of the tubes is weak

Bluetooth receiver stops working 

The rechargeable battery inside is end of life.

Inexpensive replacements are readily available on Amazon or Ebay. 

Search for Taotronics, MPow, or any 4.0 Bluetooth MP3 Receiver

Bluetooth receiver turns off incessantly. Won't hold charge. The battery in the Bluetooth receiver is End Of Life. Inexpensive replacements can be found on EBay and Amazon. Search for 'Bluetooth Receiver H166.' White or black is compatible. 
Bluetooth receiver won't charge Cable is defective. Try using cable to charge another device.
Smart charger is defective
Bluetooth paired, fully charged, but still no sound or low volume Switch needs to be switch to Phono
3.5mm cable needs to be fully inserted into Bluetooth receiver
Volume needs to be adjusted on your source playing device or on the radio
Bluetooth receiver light blinks blue Receiver is paired
Bluetooth receiver blinks red and blue Receiver is trying to pair
Bluetooth receiver light stays red Receiver is charging
Bluetooth receiver has no light Receiver is off or is fully charged

 

WARRANTIES AND DISCLAIMERS:

 

MAY CAUSE ELECTRIC SHOCK AND SERIOUS OR FATAL INJURY. KEEP AWAY FROM CHILDREN. USE THIS DEVICE AT YOUR OWN RISK. RETRORADIOFARM.COM, ITS OWNERS, OFFICERS, AND AFFILIATES ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE OR LIABLE FOR INJURIES, DEATH, OR DEATH RESULTING FROM INJURIES SUSTAINED FROM THE UNINTENDED AND INTENDED USE OF THIS ELECTRONIC DEVICE. RETRORADIOFARM.COM HAS NOT REFURBISHED OR REENGINEERED THIS DEVICE FROM MANUFACTURER ORIGINAL SPECIFICATIONS. ALL TRADEMARKS AND COPYRIGHTS ARE THE PROPERTY OF THEIR RESPECTIVE OWNERS. RETRORADIOFARM.COM IS NOT AN AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE, DEALER, OR REPAIR CENTER FOR ANY OF THE MANUFACTURERS OF THE RADIOS IT SELLS OR REPAIRS. NO WARRANTIES EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED ARE MADE BY RETRORADIOFARM.COM REGARDING THE MANUFACTURE, DESIGN, OR SERVICE OF THIS ELECTRONIC DEVICE.

 

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