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Sterling ProCharge Ultra PCU1210 Teardown & Repair

The Sterling charger we’ve had on board nb Tanya Louise since Feb 2014 has bitten the dust, with 31220 hours on it’s internal clock. Since we’re a liveaboard boat, this charger has had a lot of use while we’re on the mooring during winter, when the solar bank isn’t outputting it’s full rate. First, a bit of a teardown to explore the unit, then onto the repair:


Active PFC Section
Active PFC Section

There’s the usual mains input filtering on the left, with the bridge rectifier on it’s heatsink.
Underneath the centre massive heatsinks is the main transformer (not visible here) & active PFC circuit. The device peeking out from underneath is the huge inductor needed for PFC. It’s associated switching MOSFET is to the right.

Logic PSU Section
Logic PSU Section

On the other side of the PFC section is the main DC rail filter electrolytic, a 450v 150µF part. Here some evidence of long-term heating can be seen in the adhesive around the base, it’s nearly completely turned black! It’s not a decent brand either, a Chinese CapXon.
The PCB fuse just behind it is in the DC feed to the main switching supply, so the input fuse only protects the filter & Active PFC circuitry. Luckily this fuse didn’t blow during the failure, telling me the fault was earlier in the power chain.
The logic circuits are powered by an independent switching supply in the centre, providing a +5v rail to the microcontroller. The fan header & control components are not populated in this 10A model, but I may end up retrofitting a fan anyway as this unit has always run a little too warm. The entire board is heavily conformal coated on both sides, to help with water resistance associated with being in a marine environment. This has worked well, as there isn’t a single trace of moisture anywhere, only dust from years of use.
There is some thermal protection for the main SMPS switching MOSFETS with the Klixon thermal fuse clipped to the heatsink.

DC Output Section
DC Output Section

The DC output rectifiers are on the large heatsink in the centre, with a small bodge board fitted. Due to the heavy conformal coating on the board I can’t get the ID from this small 8-pin IC, but from the fact that the output rectifiers are in fact IRF1010E MOSFETS, rated at 84A a piece, this is an synchronous rectifier controller.
Oddly, the output filter electrolytics are a mix of Nichicon (nice), and CapXon (shite). A bit of penny pinching here, which if a little naff since these chargers are anything but cheap. (£244.80 at the time of writing).
Hiding just behind the electrolytics is a large choke, and a reverse-polarity protection diode, which is wired crowbar-style. Reversing the polarity here will blow the 15A DC bus fuse instantly, and may destroy this diode if it doesn’t blow quick enough.

DC Outputs
DC Outputs

Right on the output end are a pair of large Ixys DSSK38 TO220 Dual 20A dual Schottky diodes, isolating the two outputs from each other, a nice margin on these for a 10A charger, since the diodes are paralleled each channel is capable of 40A. This prevents one bank discharging into another & allows the charger logic to monitor the voltages individually. The only issue here is the 400mV drop of these diodes introduce a little bit of inefficiency. To increase current capacity of the PCB, the aluminium heatsink is being used as the main positive busbar. From the sizing of the power components here, I would think that the same PCB & component load is used for all the chargers up to 40A, since both the PFC inductor & main power transformer are massive for a 10A output. There are unpopulated output components on this low-end model, to reduce the cost since they aren’t needed.

Front Panel Control Connections
Front Panel Control Connections

A trio of headers connect all the control & sense signals to the front panel PCB, which contains all the control logic. This unit is sensing all output voltages, output current & PSU rail voltages.

Front Panel LEDs
Front Panel LEDs

The front panel is stuffed with LEDs & 7-segment displays to show the current mode, charging voltage & current. There’s 2 tactile switches for adjustments.

Front Panel Reverse
Front Panel Reverse

The reverse of the board has the main microcontroller – again identifying this is impossible due to the heavy conformal coat. The LEDs are being driven through a 74HC245D CMOS Octal Bus Transceiver.


Now on to the repair! I’m not particularly impressed with only getting 4 years from this unit, they are very expensive as already mentioned, so I would expect a longer lifespan. The input fuse had blown in this case, leaving me with a totally dead charger. A quick multimeter test on the input stage of the unit showed a dead short – the main AC input bridge rectifier has gone short circuit.

Bridge Rectifier Removed
Bridge Rectifier Removed

Here the defective bridge has been desoldered from the board. It’s a KBU1008 10A 800v part. Once this was removed I confirmed there was no longer an input short, on either the AC side or the DC output side to the PFC circuit.

Testing The Rectifier
Testing The Rectifier

Time to stick the desoldered bridge on the milliohm meter & see how badly it has failed.

Yep, Definitely Shorted
Yep, Definitely Shorted

I’d say 31mΩ would qualify as a short. It’s no wonder the 4A input fuse blew instantly. There is no sign of excessive heat around the rectifier, so I’m not sure why this would have failed, it’s certainly over-rated for the 10A charger.

Testing Without Rectifier
Testing Without Rectifier

Now the defective diode bridge has been removed from the circuit, it’s time to apply some controlled power to see if anything else has failed. For this I used a module from one of my previous teardowns – the inverter from a portable TV.

Test Inverter
Test Inverter

This neat little unit outputs 330v DC at a few dozen watts, plenty enough to power up the charger with a small load for testing purposes. The charger does pull the voltage of this converter down significantly, to about 100v, but it still provides just enough to get things going.

It's Alive!
It’s Alive!

After applying some direct DC power to the input, it’s ALIVE! Certainly makes a change from the usual SMPS failures I come across, where a single component causes a chain reaction that writes off everything.

Replacement Rectifier
Replacement Rectifier

Unfortunately I couldn’t find the exact same rectifier to replace the shorted one, so I had to go for the KBU1010, which is rated for 1000v instead of 800v, but the Vf rating (Forward Voltage), is the same, so it won’t dissipate any more power.

Soldered In
Soldered In

Here’s the new rectifier soldered into place on the PCB & bolted to it’s heatsink, with some decent thermal compound in between.

Input Board
Input Board

Here is the factory fuse, a soldered in device. I’ll be replacing this with standard clips for 20x5mm fuses to make replacement in the future easier, the required hole pattern in the PCB is already present. Most of the mains input filtering is also on this little daughterboard.

Fuse Replaced
Fuse Replaced

Now the fuse has been replaced with a standard one, which is much more easily replaceable. This fuse shouldn’t blow however, unless another fault develops.

Full Load Test
Full Load Test

Now everything is back together, a full load test charging a 200Ah 12v battery for a few hours will tell me if the fix is good. This charger won’t be going back into service onboard the boat, it’s being replaced anyway with a new 50A charger, to better suit the larger loads we have now. It won’t be a Sterling though, as they are far too expensive. I’ll report back if anything fails!

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Wheelchair Motor Service Part 1: Teardown & Inspection

Trolley Propulsion System: Wheelchair Motor Units

So it’s time to get the propulsion system underway for the trolley, a pair of wheelchair motors were sourced for this, from HacMan. Since I don’t know how many hours are on these units, or how they’ve been treated in the past, I’m going to do a full service on them to ensure reliability. I decided on wheelchair motors due to their extreme ruggedness & heavily built components – this project when complete is going to weigh in at about 150kg!
I suspected something was amiss with one of the motors from running them under no load: the left hand wheelchair motor was heating up to the point of being too hot to touch, so this one at the very least needed some investigation.

Motor Disassembly & Assessment

Rear Cover Removed
Rear Cover Removed

With the back cover removed from the motor the electromagnetic brake is revealed. This engages when power is removed to stop the motor freewheeling, which even though it’s a wormdrive box, it will do readily if backdriven.

Electromagnetic Brake Assembly
Electromagnetic Brake Assembly

The brake is rated 6.7W at 24v DC.

Brake Disc
Brake Disc

The brake disc is just visible between the plates of the brake here, with some green dust worn off the disc. When power is applied, the top disc, just under the magnet on top, is pulled upward against spring pressure away from the brake disc, which is attached to the motor armature.

Brake Disc
Brake Disc

Here’s the brake disc, removed from the motor. There’s only a little wear here, as I’d expect – these brakes don’t engage until the motors have come to a complete stop.

Brake Actuator
Brake Actuator

The steel disc above the magnet acts as one of the friction surfaces of the brake.

Brake Solenoid
Brake Solenoid

Finally, the solenoid is at the back, partially potted in resin. The strong coil spring in the centre applies the brakes when power is disconnected.

Gearbox Grok
Gearbox Grok

Removing the top of the gearbox reveals the state of the internals – There’s no wear at all on the gearset, but the lubricant is totally manky. The external oil seals have been leaking for some time, letting water in and grease out. The emulsified result is revolting! These gearboxes have a wormdrive first stage, the worm gear is underneath the left hand gearset. Steel spur gears then do the final gearing to the output shaft. The output gear is splined onto the output, and can slide along the shaft out of mesh – this is the freewheel clutch mechanism. At the moment it’s all obscured by the disgusting lubricant.

Input Shaft Seal
Input Shaft Seal

Here’s the failed seal on the left hand gearbox, the face damage was done by petrol immersion to clean everything up. (The seal is already compromised, so I’m not fussed about solvents eating the remaining rubber). The motor shaft is joined to the gearbox input by a rubber coupling.

Output Shaft Seal
Output Shaft Seal

The output shaft seals seem to be still OK, there has been some seepage past the collar that the shaft rides in, but nothing more. This can be resealed with some Loctite bearing sealant. The sleeve is held into the gearbox by the wheel hub when in operation, but this doesn’t seal the gap unfortunately. I don’t know why the manufacturer didn’t just machine the shaft to that larger diameter, instead of using an extra sleeve to accommodate the seal.

Bore Seals
Bore Seals

The bore seals covering the ends of the shafts are also fine, which is a good thing, since I can’t seem to find replacements for these anywhere. The input shaft seals will be replaced on both gearboxes though.

Motor Contamination
Motor Contamination

The oil seal must have been leaking for a long while! This is the gearbox end of the wheelchair motor frame, completely clogged with grease. Luckily only a small amount has made it down past the armature to the brushgear.

Damaged Commutator
Damaged Commutator

The commutator of this motor is badly damaged, and the brushes are very worn. This has been caused by the gearbox oil seal failing, and contaminating the motor internals with lubricant. The undercut between the segments is all but gone – filled with an abrasive mixture of brush dust, copper dust & old lubricant. Some repair work will be required here.

Second Motor
Second Motor

Here’s the brushgear removed from the second wheelchair motor, this one looks much more normal, and there’s not as much wear on the brushes or the commutator. Just the usual coating of brush dust.

Armatures
Armatures

Here’s both armatures together, with the contaminated one on the right, after some cleaning to remove most of the greasy old grok & brush dust from everything. The windings on the damaged left hand wheelchair motor haven’t darkened, which I would expect from severe overheating damage, so I’m hoping this armature is OK, and won’t require a rewind. Using an ohmmeter on these windings doesn’t tell me much – there’s only 7 turns of 0.86mm (20AWG) magnet wire in each coil, so they read as a dead short anyway. There was some leakage between the windings and the core before I cleaned things up – this was in the high (28+) megohms range, but this seems to have cleared now I’ve given things a real good cleaning.

More to come when new bearings & seals arrive!

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nb Tanya Louise – Gas Locker Corrosion Part 1 – Removing The Old Locker & Replacing the Deck Plate

Severe Corrosion
Severe Corrosion

This is a part of the boat that hasn’t really had much TLC since we moved aboard, and finally it’s completely succumbed to corrosion, opening a rusty hole into the engine space below. I’ve already used a grinder to remove the rest of the locker – and even this had corroded to the point of failure all around the bottom just above the welds. The bulkhead forming the rear of the locker has also corroded fairly severely, so this will be getting cut out & replaced with a new piece of steel.
This was originally a 1/8″ plate, but now it’s as thin as foil in some places, with just the paint hiding the holes.

Replacement Steel
Replacement Steel

I’ve cut out as much of the corroded deck plate as possible –  it’s supported underneath by many struts made of angle iron, and got the new 3mm replacement tacked in place with the MIG. I’ve not yet cut out the rotten section on the bulkhead, this will come after we’ve got the steel cut to replace it, as electrical distribution is behind this plate – I’d rather not have weather exposure to the electrical systems for long! Unfortunately more corrosion has showed itself around the edges of the old locker:

Thin Steel
Thin Steel

Around the corner the steel has pretty much totally failed from corrosion coming from underneath – applying welding heat here has simply blown large holes in the steel as there’s nothing more than foil thickness to support anything.

Some more extensive deck replacement is going to happen to fix this issue, more to come when the steel comes in!