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Quality of antenna rotators ??

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Old 10-08-2009, 07:55 AM   #1
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Default Quality of antenna rotators ??

I'm wondering if there's any difference in quality in rotators, when purchased at the consumer price level, i.e. $80 and less.

I installed two new antenna systems here at my farm recently. Both have new rotators. One is digital control, one is manual - but they both look equally rugged (or weak). The digital is the Channel Master 9521 and the manual is an Antenna Craft TDP2.

Both are 30 feet up in the air, one holding a Winegard 8200 VHF/UHF and the other a Winegard 9032 UHF only antenna. Mast from rotator up is only 3 feet on each.

We started getting our first Fall winds yesterday, and it will get much worse, especially in early spring. One rotator that's got the smaller 9032 antenna but is higher up on the hill with more wind, already "skipped" a bit and is 30 degrees off. The other was shaking around like it was going to break off. So, I'm a little disgusted with the qualitly of these things.

So, first, I'm wondering if there is anything else out there that is better quality in this price range??

Two, I'm wondering why a ball-bearing block cannot be installed up near the antenna with guy-wires attached. Seems logical to me. This way the antenna can still spin, but it will have guy wire support so it won't shuck back and forth all over the place when the wind blows.

I thinking now, that the only chance of making these antenna hookups work through the winter will be to install a ball-bearing support with guy wires above the rotator motor near the antenna - or - just get rid of the rotators, install multiple antennas with fixed mounts, and install guy wires.

Any other ideas?

One other comment about wind. It looks to me that the Winegard 8200 is a pretty flimsy antenna, and I suspect the antenna itself isn't going to handle wind very well. On the other hand, the 9032 UHF only antenna appears to have little wind resistance and will be fine.
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Old 10-08-2009, 08:31 AM   #2
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One of the differences between just being able to put up a antenna and knowing what you are doing - is experiencing what you just experienced.

Usually the antenna rotor housing is made out of aluminum and is strong enough that you can measure down from top to bottom and divide that in half and then measure side to side and divide that in half and then drill a #7 or 13/64ths hole. Usually in the inside of the rotor housing there is a web there that strengthens the housing without adding extra weight.

If you hit that web dead center, you can then tap that hole with a 1/4 20 tap. I do it while the mast pipe is already mounted to the rotor.
I then clearance drill the pipe to accept a 1/4 - 20 bolt and I put that through the mast pipe with a flat washer on the end of the bolt and I put a nylon lock nut and another flat washer on the outside of the rotor housing.

That should be all the more you should have to do to keep the orientation of the rotor in a exact position.

Usually the mounts on the side of the rotor are strong enough that all you need to do is put a wooden dowel in the mast pipe going up to the rotor to keep it from crushing when you tighten the clamp to keep it from rotating on the pipe.

I then cover the top of the pipe with a piece of Polyken 226 tape and tape that with some Scotch brand 3 M electrical tape to keep the water out.

The problem with the mast pipe, can usually be solved by using a better quality pipe.

As I advised before, if you have access to someplace that builds racecars or a steel shop that sells race tubing. You can get some chrome moly or DOM tubing - .125 wall 1 1/2 or even .095 wall - 2 inch tubing.

The problem then becomes - is the mount strong enough to take the wind load the antenna gives it.

Putting a thrust bearing above the rotor will solve some of your flex problems, but sometimes the contricity or eccentricity of the cheaper tubing - causes binding problems and does not solve the problem - it only causes more problems. That is why I stay away from electric weld and only use seamless tubing.

DOM - drawn over mandral - extrudes the pipe and takes out some of the kinks - while making the pipe straighter and stronger. But with a cheap rotor, there is usually so much slop in the rotor bearings that it does not matter much.

The real problem in the rust belt areas is freezing in the wintertime.

Usually the good thrust bearing costs more then the rotor its self.
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Old 10-08-2009, 08:31 AM   #3
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1. ASAIK, none of these cheaper consumer rotors are made here anymore,
2. Most, if not all are Channel Master clones (rip offs),
3. AFAIC, they are all about the same as far as quality.

But,
When the Eagle Aspen DiSEqC rotor becomes available again, that is the one exception. Completely different design.
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Old 10-08-2009, 08:51 AM   #4
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I've seen quite a few bad reviews on the CM 9521, but so far-so good for over 1 1/2 years with mine.(It get's a good bit of use) The only complaint is that the syncronization does seem to drift a bit more in colder weather.
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Old 10-08-2009, 08:54 AM   #5
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That's why I bought a EA.
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Old 10-08-2009, 09:11 AM   #6
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The NTE Electronics U-105 is a heavy duty rotor that can handle a lot of weight and has wind resistance. A lot of Ham radio operators use these for their Ham antennas and TV antennas.
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Old 10-08-2009, 09:55 AM   #7
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I visited this site one day and sent a link to a family member that does communications work and used those rotors - back in the day and his first comment was wow - so you can still purchase a U 100.

So I replied and asked if he ever used them before. This is what he had to say - "I had a couple that I used on the CB antenna.... The U-100 was just too light for the antenna size. The wind would back turn the motor through the gears.. I rigged up a solenoid and a lever that would "lock" the motor when it was not turning... the main gear was made of pot metal. The wind loading just cracked it in half."

That got me to thinking and I looked again on the site and saw that the factory did the same thing for higher end models - for about $600 - $1000.00

http://www.rotorservice.com/prod1%20rotor%20sales.htm
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Old 10-08-2009, 10:00 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JB Antennaman View Post
I visited this site one day and sent a link to a family member that does communications work and used those rotors - back in the day and his first comment was wow - so you can still purchase a U 100.

So I replied and asked if he ever used them before. This is what he had to say - "I had a couple that I used on the CB antenna.... The U-100 was just too light for the antenna size. The wind would back turn the motor through the gears.. I rigged up a solenoid and a lever that would "lock" the motor when it was not turning... the main gear was made of pot metal. The wind loading just cracked it in half."

That got me to thinking and I looked again on the site and saw that the factory did the same thing - for about $1000.00

http://www.rotorservice.com/prod1%20rotor%20sales.htm
I don't believe the U-100 is the same model as the U-105. The U-100 is no longer made by Alliance and I don't believe that Alliance is in any way affiliated with NTE Electronics of Bloomfield, New Joisey.

That being said, I own a U-105 and while I am not using it currently, I did use it when I lived in rural Maine and it easily handled the Antennacraft CS-1100 VHF antenna that was mounted on it. I did not use a UHF antenna at that location because there were no UHF signals in the region.
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Old 10-08-2009, 10:13 AM   #9
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if you need a really rugged rotator for HD TV use, look at the Hy-Gain AR-40, which is a much more heavily built rotator than any of the Channel master-Crown models. Norm's Rotor Service sells them: rotorservice.com.
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Old 10-08-2009, 10:38 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JB Antennaman View Post
One of the differences between just being able to put up a antenna and knowing what you are doing - is experiencing what you just experienced.

Usually the good thrust bearing costs more then the rotor its self.

Yeah, I'm sure there is a difference between someone that, as you say, " is just able to put up an antenna" and someone that "knows what he/she's doing."

I'll add though, that are areas between those two stated levels of skill and knowledge.
I've worked 40 years as a metal fabricator, welder, diesel and heavy equipment mechanic, housebuilder, and electrician. My point is, I'm not clueless to things electrical or mechanical. I can do more than just bolt an antenna to a wall and hope for the best.

That being said, I don't take apart a new antenna rotator to see what's inside. I bought them hoping they were reasonably suited for the job intended, and now think that perhaps they are not. If I was in the business, doing this stuff everyday, then I'd probably be more aware of what products are inferior, and what products are superior. It's one reason why I use this forum.

I don't have any problems with mast strength nor any problems with mounts. I use HD electical 2" EMT galvanized pipe, not cheap 1 1/4" thin-wall antenna mast tubes. All my mounts are extremely HD, and not cheap out-of-the-box deals. The only weak points I'm having problems with are as already stated. #1 - the rotator assemblies themselves, and #2 the flimsy construction of the Winegard 8200 antenna.

In regard to the what you stated about drilling, and tapping for installing a bolt. Unless I'm not understanding you correctly, aren't you decribing the installation of a lock bolt? If so, it defeats the purpose of having the rotator. Maybe I don't fully understand as you described? Maybe it's just to take up extra side-thrust?

In regard to the installation of an upper support bearing? I have no idea why you think it would be expensive. I can buy a good sealed 2" ID (or 1.25" ID) ball bearing assembly, with dual lock collars, and a cast-iron pillow block for $15. The pillow block has four holes to attach guy wires, and that sealed ball bearing would probably last forever if installed properly, with no freeze-ups. The $15 cost is not an issue to me, but the work of taking down the antenna and installing it IS something I'm not in the mood to do right now.
On the same subject, I just came back from Canada and saw many tripod antenna roof mounts with upper support bearings which looked like a really good idea. Bearing on top near the antenna, and the rotator below.

On the subject of DOM tubing metal, I use it often and an well aware of it. Very commonly used for making large bushings in metal fabrication with bucket loaders, backhoe buckets , assorted heavy equipment, etc.
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Old 10-08-2009, 10:59 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tigerbangs View Post
if you need a really rugged rotator for HD TV use, look at the Hy-Gain AR-40, which is a much more heavily built rotator than any of the Channel master-Crown models. Norm's Rotor Service sells them: rotorservice.com.
Thanks for the info. I think I priced the AR-40 once and it was somewhere around $350 - $400. At the time, I'd figured a $70 rotator made more sense if it could actually do the job. But, now I'm thinking perhaps not, considering the high winds we get here.
The higher price might be well worth it.

I'm now wondering if having a rotator is worth the bother and expense. I have two separate antenna setups, and each has a rotator. On each, there are really only two different directions we use. So, I could just install dual fixed antennas for much less money than buying two better rotators. A Winegard 9032 only costs around $35 and the Winegard 8200 around $130. It would just mean running more wire, more amps, and more coax-switch boxes. So, it's all kind of a toss-up. In some ways, the rotator makes a simpler setup. One is 500 feet from my house and I've got 14 gauge UF cable running to it. I'll have to check and see if this HD AR-40 has higher current demands. 500 feet is a long run when it comes to voltage drop.

Around 25-30 years ago, I built my own 14' satellite dish and had similar problems with a dish positioner. The factory made units kept breaking on me. I finally converted a HD gear-box and winch setup to move my dish around. It was extremely heavy duty and extremely crude, but worked great. At that time, I think there were 14 different positions I needed, to move that huge wooden 14" dish. We used a kitchen timer to guess where it was and where it was going. I wrote down how many seconds between each satellite position and then counted seconds when running the winch.
Obvioulsy, nothing quite that convoluted is needed for a TV antenna rotator.
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