Issues/Precaution if buying Loco with PS2 5v Board

Are there any issues or precautions to know if considering a purchase of a loco with the 5v board?  My understanding is that they had issues, just not sure what and why along with how serious and how concerned I should be if looking to purchase one.

Original Post

The main issue with 5v boards is that the processor and power boards are soldered together making repair next to impossible.  The 3v boards can be separated, are available individually, and in a majority of cases, can be repaired.  If buying a 5v equipped loco, be sure it works, or you are just buying a running chassis suitable for an upgrade.

Jon G TCA 95-41020

Independent Lionel Service Tech

MTH Service Technician at MTH

My take on the 5V boards is I buy those locomotives with the thought that I have to replace the board.  While some 5V boards will run for a long time, there have been so many random failures of those boards I wouldn't assume that to be the case.  Many people recount stories of taking the locomotive out of storage and having it dead when they put it on the tracks.  The motor drivers run fairly hot on the 5V boards, my sense is they're running pretty close to design limits with a lot of components on those boards.  I have some 5V boards in my parts box that I keep just to replace any of mine that fail.  I've had one of those turn up dead while living in an anti-static bag in the parts box, I put it on the tester and it was dead!

I knock at least $100 off the price I'm willing to pay for the locomotive vs. the 3V board for that reason.

The boards are 15 years old, and it was the first PS/2 design.  There is no "explanation" of the issue, but it didn't take long for them to come out with the PS/2 3V boards.

docsavage posted:

I am astonished that the failure rate is so very high. Does MTH offer an explanation for this or is it just the consumers tough luck?

Like GRJ said, these boards can sometimes run a long time, and other times be dead in a just a few years after they were installed.  MTH didn't really give hard reason behind this but I wouldn't put all of the blame on them as some other areas of the electronics industry (computer motherboards) suffered from the same problems as these 5v boards during this manufacturing period.  The biggest point of failure were cheap capacitors that failed prematurely.  The 3v boards were built after this time of these bad capacitors.

I've been extremely lucky with my 5v board equipped engines (about 10 in my fleet) and haven't had a bad one yet, But I do expect them to go someday and depending on the engine, I may upgrade the board or just replace the whole unit.

H1000

gunrunnerjohn posted:

The boards are 15 years old, and it was the first PS/2 design.  There is no "explanation" of the issue, but it didn't take long for them to come out with the PS/2 3V boards.

Thank you gunrunnerjohn. I'm a big MTH fan. In my opinion an "explanation" is in order. Are we to expect that all electronics are going to expire or fail within a 2 year period? 5 years? 10 years? I appreciate the facts stated here about bad components on Ps2/5 volt boards. That's an explanation I can understand. New replacement boards are relatively expensive in relation to the cost of the engine. I respect your opinion, while I believe there should be a better path to longevity, I'm not sure what that would look like. I am reluctant to buy Ps2/5volt engines and new Ps3 engines as they also seem to have a high failure rate.

Again thanks to gunruinnerjohn and all for your feedback and explanations. We all benefit from the OGR forum.

An explanation might be in order, but I don't know if one is forthcoming.   Truthfully, I'm a fan of the 3V PS/2 board as well, I've had the best luck with those.  I have a PS/3 steam upgrade board that failed right out of the box, I have to see if MTH is going to replace it.  I've installed probably 30-35 of the PS/2 upgrades, never had a bad board.  Out of half a dozen of the PS/3 upgrades, I'm already up to two bad boards.  Not a record I actually was inspired to attaining!  

Before the peanut gallery chimes in, these are brand new sealed upgrade kits, and I take them out using proper static precautions.  My first step is to connect them to the MTH test set and load sound files, so bad wiring is not possible, they're just bad from the get-go!  That hasn't inspired confidence for me in the PS/3 system.

I don't think it's reasonable for a 15 year old plus board to be covered under any kind of warranty or have expectation that they should all work under all conditions and usage.  My main inquiry was to gauge the risk and how to approach the buy, which is summed up nicely by several posters.  I will go into any of these with the expectation of having to replace.

GRJ, your knowledge is always valued as I know you have quite a bit of experience with this.  When looking for electronics info I always pay attention to your posts.  Not to take away from many others who post with their experience as well.

MTH and other hobbies like this in general can never know how someone uses their loco and blanket warranty for long periods.  Even with MTH diagnostics of time and scale mileage only show so much.  Someone could have 10 hours usage with 100 scale miles and that seems good, but if they constantly pulled 12+ car consists up 3% grades several hours per day it's likely more taxing than a loco with 500 scale miles and 80 hours usage pulling a 6 car consist across level grades for an hour per day.

TexasSP posted:

Are there any issues or precautions to know if considering a purchase of a loco with the 5v board?  My understanding is that they had issues, just not sure what and why along with how serious and how concerned I should be if looking to purchase one.

When I was at a train show the best advice I was given was only buy the 3 volt PS2 locomotives... anything earlier are just good for parts.

I have had no problems with my 3 MTH 3 volt board locomotives.

TCA Number 16-71884

I've bought a couple of 5v boards and haven't had an issue, yet, but I haven't run the heck out of them either.  I ensure property battery charge before running.  MTH made thousands of 5v boards.  I don't know what the actual fail rate is and I haven't seen any hard data on fail rate other than anecdotal stories here on the forum.  As we all know, anecdotal stories provide no sound evidentiary basis to form a scientific conclusion.  While certainly they provide a cautionary tale, they do not tell the whole story about the 5v board.  I would imagine more than 100,000 5v boards were produced.  How many have failed?  I do get a sense many still operate. They are constantly for sale here and on the Bay and advertised as operational.  I've seen far more advertised as functional than non-functional.  But, that's just another anecdotal story.  Without real numbers, we are all just relying on personal experience and stories from others.  

I struggled with this very issue on a recent purchase.  A forum member was selling a set of locos that I really wanted.  I knew the powered unit was a 5v board and had a good discussion with the member on the subject.  Thankfully, the loco had pretty light use.  Nonetheless, I knew making the purchase included accepting the risk of the board failing either when I first put it on the track or some day in the future or never at all.  I chose to accept the risk because I wanted the locos as they had meaning to me and what I'm modeling.  I know if the board fails while GRJ is still around and doing upgrades it'll end up on his bench.  To me, the ownership of the models outweighed my concern for the risk involved.  I'm glad they are part of my railroad and I intend to keep them running for years to come--even if that involves more money for a new board.

Hello guys and gals

I thought the Ps-2 systems is better than the Ps-1's ?  From what I read here seems to be not so.  I have a railking NW-2 with the PS-1, it is still working good and being 17 years old.  I Bought my first BCR for it but was defective and replaced with second BCR.   The stock number is 30-2157-1 made in 1999 which I purchased new in the box last August.   I been expecting the Ps-1 boards to fail but never did !!

The earth is violently broken, The earth is split open, The earth is shaken exceedingly. Isaiah 24:19 NKJV

Tiffany

 

H1000 posted:

GRJ,

Are the PS3 boards as easily repairable as the PS2 3v boards?

Currently, there is very little information on what is on the PS/3 boards, and other than perhaps a lighting or coupler FET, I doubt anything is repairable on them at the tech level.

That's one of my problems with them...

Basil posted:

I've bought a couple of 5v boards and haven't had an issue, yet, but I haven't run the heck out of them either.  I ensure property battery charge before running.  MTH made thousands of 5v boards.  I don't know what the actual fail rate is and I haven't seen any hard data on fail rate other than anecdotal stories here on the forum.  As we all know, anecdotal stories provide no sound evidentiary basis to form a scientific conclusion.  While certainly they provide a cautionary tale, they do not tell the whole story about the 5v board.  I would imagine more than 100,000 5v boards were produced.  How many have failed?

All true, but remember that techs see a lot of locomotives, and the quantity of 5V boards that are dead vs the 3V boards that are dead is telling.  I am fairly certain in the ten year run of 3V boards there were a lot more of them produced than 5V boards in their roughly three year run, but I've replaced a bunch of 5V boards, and not that many 3V boards.  Also, since the 3V board set is separately replaceable, many times you're only replacing half the boards or individual components.

I have a large box of dead boards, I just toss one in when I get it.  It has a few 3V board pieces and about 30 or more 5V boards.  That may not tell you anything, but it sure tells me something!  I've actually experienced a spontaneous failure of 5V boards twice in my limited selection of 5V locomotives.  The only 3V board failures I've personally had on my locomotives had in the same period were easily fixed, usually caused by shorted lighting or coupler wires taking out the associated FET.

You can draw any conclusion from that anecdotal story you like, I know what conclusion I draw from it.

TexasSP posted:

I don't think it's reasonable for a 15 year old plus board to be covered under any kind of warranty or have expectation that they should all work under all conditions and usage.  My main inquiry was to gauge the risk and how to approach the buy, which is summed up nicely by several posters.  I will go into any of these with the expectation of having to replace.

GRJ, your knowledge is always valued as I know you have quite a bit of experience with this.  When looking for electronics info I always pay attention to your posts.  Not to take away from many others who post with their experience as well.

MTH and other hobbies like this in general can never know how someone uses their loco and blanket warranty for long periods.  Even with MTH diagnostics of time and scale mileage only show so much.  Someone could have 10 hours usage with 100 scale miles and that seems good, but if they constantly pulled 12+ car consists up 3% grades several hours per day it's likely more taxing than a loco with 500 scale miles and 80 hours usage pulling a 6 car consist across level grades for an hour per day.

IIRC here these failures have been occurring for a long time and some on near new in the box engines.

gunrunnerjohn posted

An explanation might be in order, but I don't know if one is forthcoming.   Truthfully, I'm a fan of the 3V PS/2 board as well, I've had the best luck with those.  I have a PS/3 steam upgrade board that failed right out of the box, I have to see if MTH is going to replace it.  I've installed probably 30-35 of the PS/2 upgrades, never had a bad board.  Out of half a dozen of the PS/3 upgrades, I'm already up to two bad boards.  Not a record I actually was inspired to attaining!  

Before the peanut gallery chimes in, these are brand new sealed upgrade kits, and I take them out using proper static precautions.  My first step is to connect them to the MTH test set and load sound files, so bad wiring is not possible, they're just bad from the get-go!  That hasn't inspired confidence for me in the PS/3 system.

All our PS/2 5V units run fine. (So far:-) Your PS/3 failure rate is not confidence building John!!

The boards are old.  How many of us have a 15 year old computer that still runs?  Buy the PS3-2 replacement board and you will be in good shape.    The boards are old and nobody should be astonished.  I have many in a box and will not sell one because the thing will usually come back and bite me.  Over the years I have had George (GGG) Galyo rebuild many PS2  3V boards and I replaced the 5 V boards with the newer better board.  Today we have available the PS3-2 board that will replace the old 5V board.  That is also the hot set up.

 

I tell people who find a 5V board to use a new fully charged green MTH battery.  NEVER and I mean NEVER try to get it done with an old white battery.

 

 

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Yep, I'm hoping it's just that I'm living under a dark cloud, but it's not really a confidence booster.

gunrunnerjohn posted:

All true, but remember that techs see a lot of locomotives, and the quantity of 5V boards that are dead vs the 3V boards that are dead is telling.  I am fairly certain in the ten year run of 3V boards there were a lot more of them produced than 5V boards in their roughly three year run, but I've replaced a bunch of 5V boards, and not that many 3V boards.  Also, since the 3V board set is separately replaceable, many times you're only replacing half the boards or individual components.

I have a large box of dead boards, I just toss one in when I get it.  It has a few 3V board pieces and about 30 or more 5V boards.  That may not tell you anything, but it sure tells me something!  I've actually experienced a spontaneous failure of 5V boards twice in my limited selection of 5V locomotives.  The only 3V board failures I've personally had on my locomotives had in the same period were easily fixed, usually caused by shorted lighting or coupler wires taking out the associated triac.

You can draw any conclusion from that anecdotal story you like, I know what conclusion I draw from it.

You didn't quote the part about my failed boards ending up on your bench!  I completely trust in your opinion and experience, John.  It's what makes me cautiously approach 5v boards.

Marty Fitzhenry posted:

Today we have available the PS3-2 board that will replace the old 5V board.  That is also the hot set up.

Marty, my confidence in the PS32 style board is not up to my confidence in the 3V PS/2 boards.  I've had two upgrade kits experience bad boards out of six steam kits I've installed so far.  I'm hoping that a 33% failure rate is not the norm!

John, I have never had a bad one and have done a large number of upgrades using them.  I am on board with you with the PS2  3V boards.  I am a huge fan of that board and have many.  Up until about three years ago I still had several 5V boards running around on the layout and now I am down to two GG-1 and my NYC Niagara.  I want to keep the Niagara as it has the big motor in it.   I Get to see many dead 5V engines and the people will always say the white battery looked good.  Yes, the old white battery is very pretty and looks great.  Myself, I am old school and use my Fluke meter to tell me if it is good or not.  That has never lied to me.  

 

 

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Marty Fitzhenry posted:

The boards are old.  How many of us have a 15 year old computer that still runs?

Actually, I still have my first PC purchased in 1984 that is still working!

Intel 8088 @ 4.77MHz with 640KB of ram, 20MB hard drive and a 5.25 inch floppy. 
It cost $5500 back in the day, I think computers were built to last at that time due to the high price tag. 

Fast forward to the late 90's and early 2000's (MTH PS2 5v era), I replaced so many computer motherboards from blown caps that I could have built a house out of them. Around 2007, it seems like my blown cap motherboard problems slowed quite a bit.

H1000

What make  computer kept blowing motherboards?  I should have purchased your Intel with a record that good.  I feel computers are like old cars, some are out there working and some are in the bone yard.

 

Look for the battery charging port.  The 5V board has a round charging port and the 3V has a 2 pin port.

 

 

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Member Mid America 3 Railers and NJ HiRailers

 

 

 

Bossman284 posted:

So how do I tell a 5 vol engine from a 3 vol engine without opening it up?  Is it solely based on year of production?  

Check the bottom, if the engine has a port that looks like an phone plug (circular plug with sliver pin) it's a 5v. A square plug with two pins it's a 3v. 

Matt 

Bossman284 posted:

So how do I tell a 5 vol engine from a 3 vol engine without opening it up?  Is it solely based on year of production?  

Not sure how without opening it up as the manual may not be correct. I believe if it takes the 9V style rectangular battery it is a 5V unit.

What make  computer kept blowing motherboards?  I should have purchased your Intel with a record that good.  I feel computers are like old cars, some are out there working and some are in the bone yard.

Saw a lot of ACER and DELL from the early Pentium 4 generation through the the CORE 2 generation CPUs that had problems. Always blown caps. The company I worked for at the time also sold computers from a vendor that built their own systems, and again various motherboard manufactures. MSI, BIOSTAR, & ASUS were the biggest offenders, and had hundreds of warranty claims because many of them didn't make it 2 years.

I agree with you on the old computers statement 100%. Anything with electronics will only last so long. My old PC is kept for the mere fact that it still runs and for nostalgic value to me.

H1000

I worked on a ton of stuff in the early 2000 timeframe that had the bad capacitors, it was a very common sight.  I actually rescued a couple of computers with the bad caps, I just replaced all the electrolytic caps.

I think most everyone associated with electronics heard about the Capacitor Plague back then.   Remember these sights?

 

Others will disagree, but I suspect that this is at least some of the reason that the old 5V boards have failed.  I've noticed in particular one capacitor brand is frequently bulged and bad, WinCap.

I have at least a dozen dead boards with that cap leaking/bulged, all the WinCap brand.  It's certainly not the only reason they fail, but I strongly suspect it's one of them.

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BobbyD, the battery is an 8.4 volt and looks like the 9V battery.  The charging port is round.  The 3V 2 pin is not square.  By saying a board is a 5V board, that relates to the components in the board and has nothing to do with the battery.

 

 

TCA-79-13758

T.T.O.S.-3057

LCCA-28444

LOTS-RM-4833

MTH DCS and Wi-Fi  Beta Tester

MTH Factory  Certified Technician-6 schools

LIONEL Factory Trained certified  repair Technician #10140

Member Mid America 3 Railers and NJ HiRailers

 

 

 

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