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I have a Z4000 transformer that I’ve owned since new in 2005 and 3 TIUs of various ages.

Fixed input 1 on my first TIU stopped working for controlling or adding engines. I purchased a second used TIU to take its place, and one day, while running trains, the train using fixed channel 2 suddenly stopped and the channel no longer worked after that.

I thoroughly checked my wiring and found no shorts. I’ve had no major derailments or any sparks occur recently either.

I purchased a third brand new TIU from TrainWorld around December 2020, thinking I was having bad luck with old TIUs. I sent out the other two to be fixed by a tech. The tech said the two older TIUs had burned up diodes on the channels that stopped working. I just received the two older ones back today and they work just fine. I had plans to possibly sell them or at least one.

However, I was using my brand new TIU today, and I suddenly had no control over my engines. Sometimes I would, sometimes they would not respond. I tried this with multiple engines, same problem. I tried cleaning the track and using a small test track, same thing. I reset the remote and TIU and tried to add an engine, but got the “No engine to add!” I tried using every channel on the TIU with my test track and got the same result. I also tried tethering the remote with a phone cord and using a different remote all together. I tried this with and without an external power supply. Nothing made a difference. I also tried reloading the TIU software and that also made no difference. I then tried with the just fixed, older TIUs and they both worked fine.

This new TIU is acting just like how the bad channels on the other two acted, except on every channel. The one thing they’ve all had in common is they were using my Z4000 for track power when they failed, which has never been serviced since new. I have also occasionally seen voltage spikes on the Z4000 screen recently which also has me concerned. I run both the external TIU power supply and transformer off a surge protector power strip. Until I figure out what’s going on, I’m not going to use the Z4000 for fear of damaging my two now good TIUs.

Is there something I may be doing wrong, or is my Z4000 likely to blame? Also, if the new TIU needs repair, will it be covered by the warranty?

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Yes , your in coming line voltage is probably spiking from voltage surges coming into your house! I wold contact your power company and have a meter put on your line. And have them monitor your incoming power for voltage surges I seriously doubt there is any thing wrong with our Z4000! Also I would suggest you purchase an UPS power supply which will not let a spikes go thru to your Z4000 ! I recently had to repair a tiu which was damaged from surges coming into the house and told him to do the same thing ! He purchased a UPS switching power supply which runs off of a battery to create AC from a DC and the incoming power keeps the battery charged and when you loose power momentarily there is no spikes created because the AC is developed from the doc battery! You can buy battery powered UPS at many stores such as staples, etc even seen them on eBay ! Good luck. Keep us informed how you make out ! Sac Tech Alan

Last edited by Alan Mancus
@GGG posted:

How high are the voltage spikes on the Z-4000?  Any capacitive loads on the layout, like post war motor or solenoid accessories?  I would not rule out the Z-4000.  They can have failures.  G

It’s hard to tell for sure because the voltage spikes appear on the screen so fast, maybe for less than half a second, but one appeared to have been over 30 volts at one point. I’ve also seen the amps flash random numbers in the same way, not sure of the numbers for that though. I’m only using the z4000 for track power currently, and everything is modern era.

How about substituting another transformer for the Z4000 you have been using?

The Z4000 I have is my main transformer.

I have a Lionel CW-40 that my younger brother got in a train set, but it doesn’t seem to provide sufficient power, especially for older 5 volt PS2 engines. I also have a Z500 brick and barrel jack adapter that I can run one track with, but I prefer the Z4000 so I can control conventional engines as well.

That also makes me want to ask another question. The last thing I was doing with my brand new TIU was passing power through it to run an older PS1 engine. I had the fixed channels turned off in DCS setup to avoid interference. Could this possibly have caused the failure?

Do both channels do this or just one?  If your using channel 1 of Z-4000, try channel 2.  If both are jumping, you need to find out why.  30V is high and something is wrong.  Not sure this is a house thing unless your seeing you lighting go bright too.

PS-1 should not hurt system.  Normally folks use var channel for running conventional.  Otherwise you are using the Z to regulate power via Fix channels.

Are you sure you do not have a phasing issue in your layout where you are some how out of phase and as the train cross the intersection it is bridging out of phase voltage causing the spike.   The burned up Diodes are the spike suppression TVS.  So there is a problem.  You need to isolate to figure it out.

Run your conventional eng without TIU and just Z-4000.  Does it spike?  Build a single smaller loop on the floor,  try conventional no tiu with Z-4000.  If it still spikes, Z-4000 may be the issue.  If it does not, look closer at your layout.   

If you have one loop on one channel red to center rail and some how the other loop on channel 2 black to center, and the train transisitoned across you would have a good voltage spike that the meter may be reading and blowing TIU components.  G

My understanding is that the Z-4000 can put out more than 18VAC. I never trusted it after I read that on this forum. Ultimately I got rid of it and replaced it with Lionel 180W bricks. But I don't run any conventional so it was an easy decision. Still, an awful lot of folks are running the Z-4000 with no issues. Did MTH ever publish any service bulletins for that transformer?

More generally, the recommendation above about buying a UPS to isolate your gear from your power line is a good one. Just make sure the UPS you get is in fact one of the kind that isolate the incoming power--not all of them do that. Failing that, a good line filter is the right choice. Truthfully, everything that is sensitive in your house should be plugged into a line filter--audio gear, flat screen TVs, DCS trains--all of it. I found a well-documented 60A line filter and my entire layout is running through it with no issues. But I'm in the city and we have pretty stable power here.

Over the years, the power companies have been steadily increasing our line voltage to get more power out of the same wiring. 25 years ago, house power was 117V. 10 years before that it was 110V. Today it is usually a whopping 127V. Never assume that the power they are selling you is clean and well-regulated. Because you know what happens when you assume...

Don Merz

@GGG posted:

Do both channels do this or just one?  If your using channel 1 of Z-4000, try channel 2.  If both are jumping, you need to find out why.  30V is high and something is wrong.  Not sure this is a house thing unless your seeing you lighting go bright too.

PS-1 should not hurt system.  Normally folks use var channel for running conventional.  Otherwise you are using the Z to regulate power via Fix channels.

Are you sure you do not have a phasing issue in your layout where you are some how out of phase and as the train cross the intersection it is bridging out of phase voltage causing the spike.   The burned up Diodes are the spike suppression TVS.  So there is a problem.  You need to isolate to figure it out.

Run your conventional eng without TIU and just Z-4000.  Does it spike?  Build a single smaller loop on the floor,  try conventional no tiu with Z-4000.  If it still spikes, Z-4000 may be the issue.  If it does not, look closer at your layout.   

If you have one loop on one channel red to center rail and some how the other loop on channel 2 black to center, and the train transisitoned across you would have a good voltage spike that the meter may be reading and blowing TIU components.  G

My layout is pretty simple. Double loop with crossovers that are isolated at the joint. One track on fixed channel 1, the other on fixed channel 2. One lever to each input. Red to center on both, black to outer. The spikes I only noticed when the Z4000 was at idle, meaning no power applied to either track.

I do not know if these spikes have occurred while powering either track, but the idle spikes have merely made me suspicious.

The 30 is a shot in the dark guess based on what can barely be made out in half a second.

I should also mention, the second TIU failed during a thunderstorm and I was without a surge protector at that time. I was in the basement with the train’s sounds on and did not realize it was storming. After that, I promptly bought a surge protector. Is it possible that damaged the Z4000? The house lights did not get any brighter or dimmer during that time, nor do they normally.

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