proto 1000 gp15 pulsing lights synced with erratic running

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blue92rs

Cheaper than therapy!
Hello. Hoping for some insight. Recently installed MRC drop-in sound decoder into my Proto 1000 GP15. It doesn't run smoothly. For example if it is going forward, it jerks or pauses. The front headlight is on solid, but the rear light pulses faintly in sync with its jerky movement. This happens in both directions. The sound works fine. Any thoughts?
 

Cjcrescent

Master Mechanic
First, I don't know much about these decoders except they can be a PITA.

I would first check to make sure that the wheels and track were very clean. If that doesn't help I would try a factory reset on the decoder. These are just some simple things that can be done without rechecking all the connections.

Lastly, since these decoders aren't known for good quality, and do not support read back of the CV's, all you can do here is just set the CV's individually, and see how this change affected the locomotive. IOW, it might be best to program in OPS mode, which is programming on the main. You can go here, and see exactly which CV's you may need to change; http://www.jmri.org/xml/XSLT/pages/MRC_Athearn_MP15.xml.html
The link is a listing from JMRI, specific to the MRC Athearn MP-15 decoder, of the CV's and what they do, giving you a choice of what may need changing. I would print the page to have it in front of you as you change the CV's.

Given the low quality of these decoders, if none of the above helps, I would remove it, then install a regular decoder until I could afford a quality sound unit like Tsunami, QSI, or Loksound, (ESU).
 

blue92rs

Cheaper than therapy!
Hello Cary. Thank you for your suggestions. I am starting to learn that these decoders are not the greatest. Especially since my recent purchase of a Athearn Genesis GP9 with DCC and sound. Wow. What a difference! Not only that, I get a buzzing sound from the speaker on the last MRC drop in I did in my RTR Athearn GP40. :/ I keep the track pretty clean and give all my loco wheels a once over on a regular basis. Also, I solder all the connections to the decoder board. Those little plastic clips are a pain anyway :) I will give the decoder reset a try. Also, I am going to take the trucks apart and clean all the electrical contacts there. I will let you know how it works out.
 

blue92rs

Cheaper than therapy!
Hey Micheal. Unfortunately I just spent $110 on 2 of these things. Its almost like throwing the cash directly into the trash. Maybe MRC will warranty them.
 

RCShadow

Member
Get MRC to stand by the warranty...get them back and eBay them and get the Tsunami. That's what I'd do :)

EDIT:

I just read your posts more carefully and read you soldered them. Not sure how you or MRC would feel to do a warranty thing having done that.

I feel your pain about the soldering. I wrestle with those clips too. It makes me want to solder all my loco's decoders. It seems the intermittant connections can drive one nuts. Don't ask me how I know <sigh>. It's one of my biggest complaints.
 
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Bruette

Well-Known Member
Hey everyone,

Considering the headlight is constant and bright my first thought was a bad connection for the other components.

Back in the late 70's when I was doing communications electronics repair there was a thing known in our shop as a "solder joint" it was when the only electrical connection was through the solder rather then the components themselves. Solder is not as good as a conductor as copper is. I know a solder joint would give you fits with RF signals.

My soldering iron has not been used professionally for many years and I have no real world experience with this problem as it relates to DCC. Considering how sensitive DCC is to a loss of signal maybe this could be the problem.

What do you think?
 

RCShadow

Member
"solder joint"
My father taught me to solder and he said that was a "Cold Joint/Join". It's when you heat the solder only and not the piece being soldered if I recall.

I just looked it up on Wikipedia to make sure my info is good and this is what I found:

"A heat sink may be used on the leads of heat sensitive components to reduce heat transfer to the component. This is especially applicable to germanium parts. (Note the heat sink will mean the use of more heat to complete the joint.) If all metal surfaces are not properly fluxed and brought above the melting temperature of the solder in use, the result will be an unreliable 'cold solder joint'."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soldering
 
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Bruette

Well-Known Member
Good morning RCShadow,

What ever it was called, I can't remember and the friends I had that worked there have left us.

I did not stay long at that job long because it was too low pay for me. I got a job doing draught beer service at old Memorial Stadium, not much more by the hour but lots of overtime!

What do you think, could this be the problem?
 

RCShadow

Member
I have no idea on the RF stuff, I guess it sounds plausable I suppose :confused:

I have been reluctant to solder my loco's just yet fearing the manufacturer would void my warranty if I needed to send it in. I would certainly like to though. Several of my loco's went "loco" and it turned out to be a wire shorting where the plastic retainer cap held the wire. Frustrating for sure. Grrrrr lol.

My main fear when this happens is the decoder. If it gets a really good short with a five amp system (10 would be worse) it could fry the decoder completely. All because of the manufacturing process and cutting corners with the clips. There are pro's and con's to it I guess.

Good morning Louis :)
 
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blue92rs

Cheaper than therapy!
Hey fellas. Thanks for all the feedback! I had thought about cold solder joints, but the locomotive ran fairly well at first. This problem came on suddenly after the fifth or sixth operating session. Now the erratic running is consistent every time I try to run it. I would assume if it was a poor connection, the problem would be intermittent? Hopefully I will get down to the layout tonight and give it a good cleaning and a reset. I will also check my connections while its apart. As a side note, I just ordered a Tsunami drop in style for my next conversion. I am so impressed with how my new Athearn Genesis GP9 sounds and runs
 

RCShadow

Member
Hey fellas. Thanks for all the feedback! I had thought about cold solder joints, but the locomotive ran fairly well at first. This problem came on suddenly after the fifth or sixth operating session. Now the erratic running is consistent every time I try to run it. I would assume if it was a poor connection, the problem would be intermittent? Hopefully I will get down to the layout tonight and give it a good cleaning and a reset. I will also check my connections while its apart. As a side note, I just ordered a Tsunami drop in style for my next conversion. I am so impressed with how my new Athearn Genesis GP9 sounds and runs
If it were me, I'd reset the loco and the command station.

Just a thought :)
 

bnsf971

Gomez Addams
Staff member
It's called "infant mortality". These decoders will tend to fail within the first couple of hours of use. If they make it through that, there is a good chance they will continue to operate for a long time. By "long time", I mean a couple of years. Then, they'll start to have failures again.
I had an MRC sound decoder the motor drivers failed on. It would run okay in one direction, but not move at all in the other direction. I ended up installing a Digitrax motor decoder to run the engine, and left the MRC decoder to make the noises. It worked for over a year like that, and was still working when I traded off the engine a year or so ago. A $20 motor decoder is cheaper than buying another sound/motor decoder.
In order to do this, simply snip the motor leads off the MRC, and solder them to the replacement motor decoder. Solder the pickup wires from the motor decoder to the power pickup wires on the locomotive. There should be room in the roof of the cab for an N scale motor decoder.
 

blue92rs

Cheaper than therapy!
Infant mortality. That's a good way to put it lol. With 20 years in the installation field of consumer automotive electronics, I have seen this many times. I really should have done more research before buying 4 of these things. IOW I should have asked you guys. If i was asked if one should purchase the direct fit Rosen navigation or the Pioneer with a mounting kit, I could provide a wealth of info. Not so with decoders and DCC Out of 4 only one of these things work quite well... a 25 percentile on quality control is shameful. I like your idea of adding a motor decoder and letting the MRC do the sounds. One other thing about these decoders... I made sure I purchased the ones preloaded with the appropriate sounds to my specific locomotive. They all sound the same!
 
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RCShadow

Member
Infant mortality. That's a good way to put it lol. With 20 years in the installation field of consumer automotive electronics, I have seen this many times. I really should have done more research before buying 4 of these things. IOW I should have asked you guys. If i was asked if one should purchase the direct fit Rosen navigation or the Pioneer with a mounting kit, I could provide a wealth of info. Only one of these things work quite well... a 25 percentile on quality control is shameful. I like your idea of adding a motor decoder and letting the MRC do the sounds. One other thing about these decoders... I made sure I purchased the ones preloaded with the appropriate sounds to my specific locomotive. They all sound the same!
I have read that you can download sounds from the net for some decoders. Not sure if you could do this with these or not but it might be worth looking into if you are not satisfied (??).
 

blue92rs

Cheaper than therapy!
It's called "infant mortality". These decoders will tend to fail within the first couple of hours of use. If they make it through that, there is a good chance they will continue to operate for a long time. By "long time", I mean a couple of years. Then, they'll start to have failures again.
I had an MRC sound decoder the motor drivers failed on. It would run okay in one direction, but not move at all in the other direction. I ended up installing a Digitrax motor decoder to run the engine, and left the MRC decoder to make the noises. It worked for over a year like that, and was still working when I traded off the engine a year or so ago. A $20 motor decoder is cheaper than buying another sound/motor decoder.
In order to do this, simply snip the motor leads off the MRC, and solder them to the replacement motor decoder. Solder the pickup wires from the motor decoder to the power pickup wires on the locomotive. There should be room in the roof of the cab for an N scale motor decoder.
Well, I am waiting to hear back from MRC to find out if I voided any warranty by soldering the wires to the boards. In the meantime, I want to go ahead with your idea Terry, and piggyback a N scale decoder to one of the defective MRC ones for motor control. I experimented with a old Digitrax 121 that came installed in one of my EBAY scores and I got it to work. What decoders would you suggest? I looked at the Digitrax DN135D. Is that a good choice? I found it for $14.49 with a online dealer called Yankee Dabbler.com
BTW, I previously stated that one out of the four I purchased work quite well... now that one is acting up. GRRRR :mad:
 




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