03 October 2012

Does your IC-E92D have any loose screws?

"It's the loose screws in my head!"
The IC-E92D is a very well constructed handheld transceiver, with a really solid feel of quality. I bought mine in 2008, in order to wet my feet in the new D-Star ocean. I also have the external speaker - microphone adaptor, which I think makes the rig a lot more pleasant to use.
The transceiver performed flawlessly, no problems at all, up to a few days ago, when I noticed that when I keyed the transceiver in medium and high power output on UHF using the provided rubber antenna, the display backlight would consistently and magically turn itself on and strange beeps and noises would emanate from the external speaker. The phenomenon was absent in the low and super-low power settings, so I reasoned that some kind of RF intrusion into the logic circuits was to be blamed. Removing the external speaker/mic cables changed things a bit (only full power produced the strange effects), but the goblin was surely still there. A quick search on the Internet revealed that other users have also reported similar problems with the display going blank or even getting inverted (!), so I was not alone out there. 
But what had changed to produce those effects? I hadn't changed anyhthing, the rig functioned with exactly the same accessories from day one. So, it was logical to think that the reason was internal.
Before opening the case, I studied the service manual a bit. I observed that the screws holding the transceiver together also had another very important mission: (especially the top two) pressed the main printed circuit board grounding spring contacts on the chassis. So these (and of course the other internal screws) are cleverly forming RF-tight enclosures within the transceiver. Could it be that some of those screws had gone loose, compromising this important function?
So, to take a first shot at it, I proceeded to carefully tighten the six screws that hold the transceiver together (they are at the back side, two of them near the top and four of them under the battery - you have to remove the battery to see them). Indeed, they took about 1/4 turn to feel nicely tight again (BUT DON'T OVERDO IT WITH THAT SCREWDRIVER, PLEASE!).
I am happy to report that the problem vanished immediately. I loosened the screws a bit again to see if it would come back, but it didn't, obviously because the contacts were not disturbed enough this way. My theory is that the screws gradually become a bit loose with normal use and thermal cycling, making the shielding / grounding contacts unreliable and "leaky". A bit of tightening and everything is back to normal again. Perhaps some day I will also have to open the case and tighten the internal screws, too. If the problem doesn't go away by tightening the externally accessible screws (especially the two ones at the top), that's the next logical step. This reasoning may also hold for other transceivers with the same shielding method. I must say I have certainly seen a lot of strange problems in other modern VHF/UHF transceivers go away when I tighten the screws that hold the printed circuit boards on the cast aluminum chassis!! They have a tendency of coming loose, mainly due to thermal cycling action.
Enjoy your IC-E92D and see you on D-Star!