Skip to main content

Or another way of asking this question would be why would a DCS remote only work with brand new batteries?

I have a newer DCS remote (50-1002) purchased 3-4 years ago that I just started using (6.10 version) and it will only power up with brand new batteries and function for about 3-4 weeks; and this is only from running trains around an hour per day x 4 days per week, so that's roughly 12 hours per set of new Energizer batteries. But, in fact, the batteries are not totally depleted; and they will power other DCS remotes, including another newer one and my older DCS remote. Thus, this problem remote either has something wrong with it; or, is from a batch of DCS remotes some years ago with a known problem. That's my speculation at any rate. Does anyone have a clue to what is going on?

FWIW: after the 3-4 weeks upon loading new batteries, the remote will no longer power up. And yes, I've ensured the batteries are seated well with foam cushion ensuring good contact. I've had older DCS remotes that will work with weak batteries.

Just when you think you have things settled with DCS a new problem crops up. I had all my Milw. Road engines and lashups programmed into this remote...they're still there of course but if there's a problem that I cannot fix then this remote will be delegated for emergencies only.

Last edited by Paul Kallus
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

Don't know why the remote is doing that, but you can do a backup of that remote and restore the configuration to another working remote.

My guess is it's discharging them when it's not in use, that's something that occasionally happens with stuff that doesn't have a physical power interruption with the power key at times.

I'd try a factory reset on the remote after the backup and see if that stops the behavior.

Test your batteries when you put them in and when they come out, and state here what the voltage is.

Something is odd.

I believe the remote acts up when they get below something like 1.2 volts (each)? I forget exactly but I have tested mine for reference.

I've gotten stale batteries that did not last.

If your batteries going in aren't really fresh, they maybe have you searching for a problem.

Last edited by Engineer-Joe

anytime your remote is not acting normally the FIRST THING to do is replace the batteries immediately the remote starts getting erratic and not consistent when battery voltage start to drop off, always put in a fresh set if not acting normally. There was a test rig that a ASC techs built to test batteries and also charge remote batteries if you choose to use rechargeable  batteries in remote. search on this forum you might find the test rig A ASC tech built many year ago !

Last edited by Alan Mancus

Joe, I just tested the batteries...all four AAA Energizers that came out of the remote are testing around 1.4 volts DC. I also tested brand new batteries out of the Energizer package and they come in around 1.55 to 1.59 volts DC. So, something is amiss in this remote...it apparently needs batteries at the full brand-new voltage just to power on.

BTW: I also tested the batteries in my original DCS remote...they're registering around 1.1 volts DC, and that remote (older vintage) operates just dandy.

Am puzzled at this...I suppose I need to amend the title of this thread...but am at a loss of what to say?!

fwiw: I only buy new packages of Energizer batteries at Walmart or Lowes. I gave up Duracell a couple of years ago due to leakage in TV/Cable remotes.

I would reload the remote software.

My main remote had so many old consists built under older DCS versions, that I reset it and started over. I did house cleaning inside a few times but I think there were missing addresses and other weird things going on. It was full and I was using all the addresses available.

Now, I also moved all G scale to a dedicated remote helping to free up those used addresses.

I also noticed a brief time that new batteries went dead on me. Because I was resetting and changing remotes, I wasn't sure what exactly happened. I attributed it to all the moving and work with the remote. Batteries seem to be fine now.

Last edited by Engineer-Joe

measure DCS remote battery current

This may be more hassle than you bargained for but when I've run across similar problems, I'd measure the battery current (in milliAmps) under different operating conditions.  For example, measure current when: supposedly turned OFF, on doing "nothing", back-light on/off, etc. Then compare to a different remote that doesn't pre-maturely drain the batteries.

The trick is you need to break a connection in the battery circuit to insert the meter leads.  In the photo, I show a thin piece of 2-sided copper circuit board.  There is a thin insulating layer so the two outer conducting layers are electrically isolated.  Wires are attached to the two outer layers.  This piece is inserted in the battery pack.  This allows you to measure the DC current using any meter so-equipped.  Obviously if you simply "short" the two wires then it's normal operation.

Most guys don't have scrap thin two layer circuit board material lying around...but I've made similar test "fixtures" using adhesive copper-foil on a thin piece of cardstock (insulating layer)...or even aluminum foil if you can make the electrical connection to the meter probes.

In any case, I'd be really curious about the "OFF" current as was suggested by someone earlier.  When shut off, a circuit like this should draw less than 1 uA (microAmp).

-----

Separately, if your only measuring tool is a voltmeter, I suppose one could concoct some scheme to get a crude quantitative measure of what's going on.  For example, you could measure the same battery in the suspect remote and a known-good remote under the same conditions.  The idea is the measured battery voltage will be lower if the current draw is higher...due to the internal resistance of the battery.  Again, it's crude and arguably bordering on a snipe hunt (a.k.a. wild-goose chase), but like they say - if your only tool is a hammer, all problems look like nails!

Attachments

Images (1)
  • measure DCS remote battery current

Joe, reloading software is a major PITA for me...what is the logic behind re-loading 6.10? Gunrunnerjohn has been helping with this as I cannot use my laptop for such purposes...but it is not doable for the foreseeable future and I don't know if GRJ is even hosting visitors yet.

Stan: I can try to check the voltage and amperage...if I understand right when in the "off" position the reading should be < 1 uamp? Would there be an expected voltage when in the "off" position?

I do want reiterate that it appears the batteries are not being drained per se, but that they need to be brand new (>=1.5 volts DC) in order for the remote to power up.

It has to be one or the other. Hardware or software. If the remote's hardware is working correctly, then it has to be software related, right?

You do what you can at your end. I only suggested what I would(, and I can) do. If you can't, as you now stated, I understand.

Maybe the remote needs to go to someone for a closer look if this doesn't get resolved.

I'm out.

Last edited by Engineer-Joe

John, I believe you loaded 6.10 into the TIUs and the remotes last year...but if you think reloading 6.10 into the remote is worth a try we can give it a go as they say...would just have to coordinate a time.

Joe and John, so I am clear, should a software "reload" go first, or should I do a remote reset first and wait a few weeks to see if it keeps working? Obviously, I can do a remote reset myself.

@Paul Kallus posted:

...

Stan: I can try to check the voltage and amperage...if I understand right when in the "off" position the reading should be < 1 uamp? Would there be an expected voltage when in the "off" position?

I do want reiterate that it appears the batteries are not being drained per se, but that they need to be brand new (>=1.5 volts DC) in order for the remote to power up.

If practical, can you measure the 4x battery voltage of the remote when OFF and when ON?

dcs remote voltage 4 x AAA

Example above shows the 4x batteries reading 6.0V.

For the SAME 4 batteries in two different remotes (the 'bad' one and a known-good one).  What is the voltage measurement when the remote is "OFF" and when the remote has been turned "ON"?

Obviously the "OFF" measurements should be the same for same set of 4 batteries placed in either remote.

I only suggest this because I figure it only takes a few minutes to try.  Ideally, I'd want to measure the current of the different remotes but cobbling together a current measuring widget as I described earlier can take more than a few minutes.

My suspicion is the 'bad' remote is drawing an unusually large amount of current though not clear under what circumstances it does so.  And to be clear, when you refer to measured battery voltage is this with connected to a generic multimeter...or a multimeter with a Battery-Test mode that puts a LOAD on the battery when measuring voltage?

Addendum: by way of example, in above remote with power OFF the battery voltage measured 6.0V.  Turning on the remote and waiting a few seconds for the screen to display version number, scan for TIU's, etc. and reach a "stable" screen the voltage dropped to 5.9V.  Turning on the back light (B/L button) further dropped the voltage to 5.3V.

Attachments

Images (1)
  • dcs remote voltage 4 x AAA
Last edited by stan2004

I'm sure this is not the problem with Paul's DCS Remote, but I'd like to share anyway.

I was having an issue with the thumbwheel having sporadic problems. Some days one press would select an engine or set speed. Other days I would have to press the thumbwheel several times to select an engine, etc.

I finally decided to open the remote's case and low and behold, one of the wires from the battery box (the Red I believe) was pinched between the remote case and the thumbwheel bracket. It was pinched to the point were bare wire was showing through the insulation!

After rerouting the wire away from the thumbwheel mechanics and reassembling the case, the thumbwheel/remote works like a champ.

My point with all this is.....you never know what you're gonna find inside a troublesome piece of equipment!

Last edited by Junior

Stan, using my voltage meter on the suspect "bad" remote I get 5.7 volts powered off; and 5.6 volts when powered on. Does that tell you anything, or what else do I need to do?

Junior: that is interesting. Both of my newer DCS remotes (less than 2 years old) have what I think they call "lazy thumbwheel" - means that the speed increments don't change as they should when rolling thumbwheel. How do you get the remote apart? I am now wondering if its a defective on/off button?

Last edited by Paul Kallus

You may not have seen my addendum from my post above where I saw a similar 0.1V drop from OFF to ON (6.0V to 5.9V).  Then when I pressed the Backlight B/L button (and the backlight turned on), the voltage dropped to 5.3V.  So as an additional data point I suggest measuring the B/L ON voltage.

And one other measurement.

open circuit battery voltage

Measure the 4x AAA batteries as shown - with the leftmost battery not plugged in to the remote but making contact on the spring-end.  This measures the so-called open-circuit voltage of the battery.  It should be exactly the same as the "OFF" voltage with the battery plugged in (i.e., 5.7V powered-off to use your example).  Again, it's worth confirming since it should only take a few seconds.

THEN, move the same set of 4 batteries to a known-good remote and repeat the measurements.  So the table would be something like:

                                  Bad             Known-good

Open-circuit             ?                  ?             

OFF                            5.7              ?

ON                             5.6              ?

ON w/backlight         ?                 ?

If you are using a digital meter that can be set to a voltage range that gives another digit after the decimal point, that would be useful...for example measuring 5.72 V vs. just 5.7 V.

Again, I only suggest these since they should only take a few minutes total.

Attachments

Images (1)
  • open circuit battery voltage

Stan, here's my results:

                                 Bad           Known-good

Open-circuit             5.65             5.66             

OFF                            5.7              5.67

ON                             5.6              5.60

ON w/backlight         5.3              5.12

If I can get the remote apart without voiding warranty I'd like to see if there's anything amiss with the power button...not that I may be able to discern with the naked eye. Could it be that new remote buttons take time to wear in, or possible loose connection? With all this on and off this evening at one point it wouldn't power down - had to press and hold three times before it finally went off! Other times it went off on the first try! Crazy stuff this DCS.

BTW: I amended title of post since the subsequent battery testing revealed they're in decent charge.

Last edited by Paul Kallus

FWIW: If I came across as terse at any point in this thread it was unintentional. I've had some adventures updating my remotes...holding the power button down for minutes on end was quite the comedy...fail, fail, fail ad nauseum...yes and used clamps...and one of my original remotes bit the dust during the process...on/off button died in action. Uploading latest software to remotes is not easy...it's painful in my opinion.

from my limited experience, the remote keeps trying to do things until it gets a response, or reaches some conclusion like a time out.

So all I can add here, is that this remote maybe trying to accomplish something that you do not know it's doing. That of course eats up power to some extent. Nothing that should kill batteries unless it's just cycling over and over?

The post far above about the Lionel address adds interest to my point.

The very reason that you should always use common DCS versions in all equipment. Otherwise the remote doesn't understand why it's getting or not getting proper responses. It may keep trying and waste power. It may just lock up or slow down severely.

Like when you try to add engines to higher number TIUs (when running multiple TIUs). DCS has gotten more complex and software patches seem to tax the remote's memory capabilities.

I am not a tech and bow out to the techs here and if GRJ is helping you, I only intended to extend extra thoughts to his, and other posts. I follow Stan for ideas too.

I don't take any posts here to heart so no need to post any thoughts towards me. I intend to lend ideas in the way the masters who were here on this very forum helped me over and over. Now they (some of them) are gone.

So again, sorry for any interruptions.

You did exactly what I asked!   Do you realize how rare that is?

Anyway, the numbers look "good".   I agree that it's not looking like a battery issue per se.

I suppose we could continue playing the game "20 questions" but if pressed to make a diagnosis with only what's on the table, I'm proposing there might indeed be an issue with the power button.  Now this is going to get techno-geeky so buckle-up!

I have not opened up the remote to confirm, but based on how the power button "feels" I'm pretty sure it's an elastomeric keypad based on the spongy-squishy feel.  We all know about "metal" contact switches where you get either no connection or "perfect" connections when metal touches metal.  Elastomer keypads are essentially rubber with impregnated carbon that provides an imperfect connection (weak conduction) when you press the button.

Again, I'm merely speculating but the overwhelming majority of digital microcontroller circuit designs for remote controls place the microcontroller into a "sleep" state when OFF.  The sleep state draws minimal current (less than 1 uA...and if designed correctly much less than 1 uA).  These circuits only take a minimal amount of current from the elastomeric key to wake it up.  In other words you don't need the solid circuit connection from a metal-to-metal contact but just a weak connection from impregnated rubber...which is measured in the thousands of Ohms.

What if the rubber pad in the power switch has flaked, chipped, cracked, or whatever so that it is not providing enough weak current to wake up the digital circuit?  Since current thru a resistor (i.e., the elastomeric switch) is proportional to voltage this would explain why you need MORE voltage in the bad unit.  Again, this is the best I can come up with given the information provided.

So.  If you do open up the remote, very carefully examine the power switch.  There are no doubt zillions of photos of what an elastomeric key looks like.

Last edited by stan2004

I had a very similar issue with the last available run of DCS systems.  I would put new batteries in the remote and would run my trains for 30 minutes.  The next day I would get either an "RF out of range" or "Engine not on track" error on the remote.  Putting in fresh batteries was a surefire guarantee to resolve the issue.  That is until I went to run trains again the next day.

I took the remote apart to see if anything was amiss, but found nothing.  The issue persisted until I took my layout down to finish my basement.  I wound up selling 90% of my collection including the DCS system, so never resolved it.

I know that isn't helping you resolve your issue, but you certainly aren't alone.  My system was a Rev L TIU running version 6.10 software.

Last edited by drelo

Hi Paul....

Below is a YouTube link that walks you through the process needed to open up the remote. The video was originally created to demonstrate how to reseat a loose transceiver circuit board; which requires opening the remote.

https://youtu.be/8pv8X5D_j7Y

But be forewarned....opening up the remote is a real PILL! So, I highly recommend you watch the video a time or two to understand the process before you attempt anything and take your time.

I also want to let you know there's a lot of electronics packed into the remote. So proceed carefully.

Good Luck!

Thanks everyone...drelo, I don't think you're alone in abandoning DCS...I came very close over the years...and I have to say it was engines such as the Triplex and BiPolar that kept me in the DCS game, to coin a phrase, as well as this forum...so many people working together to make this system work, albeit with required software and TIU revisions...with Barry leading the charge. FWIW: I only run PS2 and PS3 engines with the DCS remote...all my Lionel engines I run with Legacy Cab II remote.

What is mind boggling here is that the remote is working again using the semi-used batteries, whereas it did not work last weekend with these same batteries...and this was the 3rd batch of batteries in as many months...so why would it work with brand new batteries...not work after a month...work with another set of brand new...not work after about a month...and then work with a 3rd set of brand new batteries...frankly, until you guys suggested testing the batteries I would've kept doing this like a dunderhead...and the testing revealed the latest batch of batteries were only slightly drained ~ 1.4 volts DC as compared to brand new ones at 1.55 volts DC.

My dealer told me that he has no replacement remotes and cannot fix them...but it is under warranty...so if this issue comes back one more time then perhaps a trip to GRJ's place and obtain a first-hand view of the layout progress

A couple of remaining questions: is a remote reset worth doing should the issue happen again? And, when do you guys replace batteries, at what voltage...for my older remotes I would replace when the screen started to fade...but it may be that the newer DCS remotes require higher voltages to function? What voltage should we expect them to run? And, has anyone come up with a plug-in DC adaptor for the remote - kind of defeats the wireless feature but my basement isn't that big anyway...I could walk around with a 20 ft. cord plugged into it. I don't want to go to the rechargeable type of batteries.

Last edited by Paul Kallus

I probably average an hour or more a day running trains. I use rechargeable batteries and change them out when the BAT shows up on the remote. Not sure why you prefer regular batteries, but these usually last over a month. I have a charged set ready to swap when that happens. I haven't bought  batteries in years, and haven't sent any to the landfill, either.

Add Reply

Post
This forum is sponsored by MTH Electric Trains
OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
330-757-3020

www.ogaugerr.com
×
×
×
×
Link copied to your clipboard.
×
×