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Tuesday
May072013

Replacement Parts for NuTone Intercom Systems

I receive a lot of emails from people who are looking for replacement parts for their NuTone Intercom Systems.  Most of the requests fall into two categories, replacement cosmetic parts like face plates for NuTone Master Stations and grills for Remote Speakers and replacement electronic circuit boards.

Cosmetic Parts:

The sad truth is that for the most part NuTone does not stock or manufacture any cosmetic parts after a model is discontinued.

Also, NuTone does not redesign or remanufacture any parts once a model is discontinued.  If you have a Faux Walnut IM303 you cannot buy a newly redesigned White face plate to modernize it's looks.  The same is true for Remote Speaker Grills.  

Cosmetic parts for outdoor equipment is even more difficult. This is  because outdoor equipment tends to become unsightly more quickly than inside equipment.  Since this happens to everyone's outdoor equipment, the demand for outdoor parts is high and the remaining stock vanishes quickly.

 

The second most common request is for electronic parts and replacement circuit boards.

 

Electronic Circuit Boards:

Just like cosmetic parts, NuTone does not produce electronic circuit boards after a model is discontinued.  They do maintain a stock of circuit boards for about a 2 year period to cover any in-warranty repairs, but after that, the supply will typically be exhausted.  These circuit boards are not availabe to purchase by anyone, they are strickly for use at NuTone.

NuTone used to have a program where defective boards could be sent to the Factory and they would be exchanged for rebuilt boards.  This program ended in the early 1990's and from that time on NuTone's stock of replacement boards has become depleted.

Some models like the IMA3303 and IMA4406 never had boards available for exchange or purchase.

Unfortunately when I get requests from someone looking to buy a circuit board, the answer usually has to be no.  While I may have a stock of boards, I have to be very conservative in how they are used.

The parts from one intercom Master Station or one circuit board can often be used to repair 5 or 6 different intercoms.  Selling a complete board to replace a repairable board would be wasteful and our stock would be qickly depleated.

 

 

 

Monday
Apr292013

What happens when painters come to your house

Last week I had a call from a long time customer who reported that his IM4006 Intercom System was not working.  When I asked him to describe what was and was not working, he gave me a long list of problems that defiantly were not on the "10 most common problems" list.

The clock and display were dead, the radio power LED would light up but the radio would not play, the door chime did not work, the intercom did not work and the cassette player would turn the tape but no sound came out.

As I questioned him about what may have transpired at his home that were related to the sudden failure of this IM4006, he mentioned that he had just had the inside of the house repainted, including the kitchen.

I asked if the kitchen had wallpaper that was removed by the painters, he answered yes.  I knew exactly what had happened.

When the painters were stripping the wallpaper off the walls, they used a water based solution on the wallpaper to soften the glue.  This solution ran down the wall and got into the inside of the IM4006 Master Station.

My suspicion was confirmed a few days later at the house.

The Main Control Board and the AM/FM Tuner Board were caked with drywall dust and water mixed together.  This wet paste like substance covered almost one-half of the board.

When water gets into and puddles up on the circuit boards of any intercom it can create lots of damage.  This IM4006 had only been this way for about 3 weeks and the Main Control Board was ruined.

Sometimes to amount of cleaning will bring a board with so much damage back to life, and even if cleaning does solve the problem there is no guarantee that the corrosion hasn't taken hold and the problems will return in the future.

The two damaged boadrs were replaced with donor boards form another IM4006.

When you have people working around your Intercom Equipment, be sure to have it protected so this type of dame does not happen to your system. 

 

Wednesday
Apr172013

Why I Do Repairs The Way That I Do

I've been working with NuTone products since 1981 when I went to work for one of the largest NuTone distributors in the Bay Area. Back in those days, NuTone provided training for Service Centers, especially on all of the products that contained electronics.

All NuTone Authorized Service Centers were independent businesses that were contracted by NuTone to represent the Factory on Warranty and Service related issues. Since Service Centers were the face of NuTone to the consumer, they were expected to be the very best.

We were trained and coached to wave the NuTone banner proudly, and for that effort we were treated well, and we were given the authority and respect to represent NuTone in our communities.

I started my own business as an Authorized NuTone Service Center in 1988, after being approached by NuTone. For new Service Centers there were never any promises made beyond the support that would be given by the local NuTone representatives. How successful I would be was all up to the amount of effort I put into my business.

In the early years, I relied on a few other Service Centers to repair Intercoms that I had no experience with. This is where I learned about doing proper and complete repairs for customers.

There was a Service Center owner named Jerry who specialized in repairing NuTone Intercoms from the early days. These vacuum tube models were a mystery to me at that time and it was better to send them to Jerry for repair.

Most of these units were really crusty and dirty and many of them hadn't worked in years. I would pack them up and send them to Jerry with a description of the problems. A few weeks later, these Master Stations would be returned from Jerry's shop.

Opening one of Jerry's packages was always fantastic. Inside would be this clean and shiny Intercom Master Station that worked perfectly the very first time it was plugged in.

Jerry had the magic touch. He knew that a first impression was very important, and he took pride in the work he did. Every unit would be dismantled and cleaned and repaired before it was put back together. Missing items like knobs and name plates would be replaced and every unit would be tested to make sure it worked properly. All of this work and effort was done for $88.00.

As time went on, I learned more about older intercoms and fewer units were sent to Jerry, but I never forgot what I had learned from him. This is why I repair intercoms the way that I do.

The repairs I do are thorough repairs, not minimal repairs. When someone makes the effort to ship their Master Station across the country for repair, the repair work needs to be done completely.

The difference between a minimal repair and a thorough repair is about 1 hour. The time it takes to replace 24 components instead of 6 is nothing. The master has already been taken apart, so lets take the service one step further and clean everything and make it really shine.

My goal it to return every Master Station in as close-to-new condition as possible, with a repair and rebuild that should last for another 10-12 years.

Friday
Mar292013

What happens when you take your Intercom to the wrong shop for repair

I had a customer bring his IM5006 Master Station to the shop today to see if I could repair it for him.

He had recently taken it to another "repair shop" that told him they were qualified to fix it.  The original problem was the typical Power Supply Failure that I have written about before.  The other "repair shop" had the IM5006 for 4 weeks and told the owner that after several attempts they could not fix it any more than they had, and if it needed more repair it would have to be sent to another shop.

What I found when I dismantled the IM5006 was appaling.  The other "repair shop" only replaced six of the capaciotrs in the power supply circuit (the 6 easy ones) and in their attempt to "fix" the IM5006 they managed to mangle the circuit board.

The IM5006 has 2-sided circuit boards which have "through-plate" vias that connect circuit traces from one side of the board to the other.

Inside these vias there are metal sleeves which the component lead passes through and are filled with solder.  If the original component is not desoldered correctly, with tools specifically designed for this type of work, the via will remain solder to the component lead and it will be ripped from the circuit board when the component is removed.  This essentially ruins the circuit board.

By looking at the "workmanship" for the other shop, it easy to see that they have no business working on this type of board.  

When you see scratches all over the conformal coating and on the solder mask, caused by their attempt to desolder the pad, you know that something is very wrong.

With any luck the damage to this board is not as bad as I fear.  If the vias have been pulled through the board, it will be necessary to re-sleeve the vias (not a fun job).

When you see big blobs of solder on a solder pad, you can tell that person doing the work has no business using a soldering iron.

 

More to come. . . 

 

 

Tuesday
Mar192013

Waiting to have your Intercom repaired will cost you more money - sometimes -

Last week I had a customer send in her IM3003 for repair.  It had failed about 4 years ago and because she couldn't find anyone to repair it all of the volume controls were turned down to mask the loud hum on the speakers.

When I received the IM3003 I verified that it had a failed power supply and set off to rebuild it.  My method of repairing any intercom Master Station is to verify all of its problems, once the master works well enough to properly evaluate it.

Once I had the power supply rebuilt, I reconnected this IM3003 to my bench "system" which consists of 3 remote inside station and a entry door speaker.  What I found were the following problems:

1.  There were no intercom functions, at all.

2.  The IA29 chime module did not work.

3.  The clock display was not as brightly lit as it should have been and it flickered somewhat.

4.  The radio would play for about 10 minutes then slowly fade away.

There was obviously a lot more wrong than a failed power supply.  

What typically happens is when the power supply fails and the master is left in that condition for a long time (years) it progressively gets worse and worse.  The damage (from incorrect voltages) spreads throughout the master and more and more things will need to be repaired.  I have seen some masters where the amplifier IC needs to be replaced because it has completely failed from being run so very hot.

So, waiting will cost you more money in the end when you decided to finally get your intercom repaired.  This IM3003 repair cost and additional $30.00 in parts and labor to sort all of the problems.

In the end everything worked well and the customer was happy to have her intercom back.