Thursday, March 29, 2012

Yaesu G5500 Rotator Motor Repair

As described in an earlier post, a few weeks ago I burnt out the azimuth portion of my Yaesu G-5500 rotator (similar to a G-5400) after the antenna array accidentally hit the rooftop. Yaesu USA parts currently (March 2012) has no replacement motors in stock (typically around $130), and a professional motor rewinding company quoted $360 to rewind the motor.

I decided to rewind the motor myself. The whole process was actually very straighforward, if somewhat tedious and time-consuming (about 10 hours work), but it was a lot of fun taking the motor apart then rebuilding it. The following photos show the steps in the process.

Here's the disassembled motor, with the end-caps and rotor removed:

The rear of the motor board, with the circuit board attached. The wires normally go though an insulated hole in the end-caps:

The front of the motor, note how the red/green/black wires wrap around the coils:

The circuit board:

With the circuit board removed, it's easy to directly measure the individual coil resistance:

0.4 ohms -- yep, it's certainly shorted!!

In order to get the coils out, the individual motor laminations need to be removed one-by-one. It's a tedious process, and took about 2 hours. There are 58 laminations. I marked diagonal lines on the outside of the stack to aid in reassembly, and also numbered each lamination as it was removed. They're on there pretty tight, and each one needs to be pried off:

Close to having all the laminations removed -- you can see the individual coils clearly now:

Yay! All 58 laminations removed and stacked separately:

The coils are protected by black tape which is easily removed:

And the four coils easily pull off the star-shaped inner lamination stack.

Each coil is about 2" x 1", and contains 158 turns of a single wire 620" long:

The wire from each coil weighs 22.0 grams. This equates to 0.932 lb / 1000', or about 25-gauge. I also measured the resistance of the wire (about 1.8 ohms), which also equates to around 25-gauge. Finally I measured the wire with a micrometer, and the diameter (about 0.0179") confirmed it's 25-gauge wire.

Here's my master drawing of the circuit board and wiring connections. It was very important for being able to connect the coils and power cables back correctly:

My winding jig was ugly but practical -- it consisted of a variable-speed drill controlled by a home-made foot pedal:

The drill chuck held a wooden form that neatly fit inside the center of the square coil windings. One one side of the form is a spring clamp that holds a magnet:

The empty coil housing shown here slips over the top of the wooden form. Two of the four coils were shorted, and the overheating had fused the insulation in the windings. The wire still pulled off of the housing fairly easily, and the housing itself was not damaged at all:

To count the turns, I used a digital event counter, triggered by a magnetic reed switch salvaged from a bicycle odometer. Every revolution of the form (and the magnet on the spring clamp) triggered the switch and would be counted. Crude but effective:

I purchased the magnet wire from Magnetic Sensor Systems in Van Nuys, CA. It's 25-gauge with nylon (SPN) insulation, rated to 155C, about $30 for 1000 feet. I had seen some cheaper 25-gauge magnet wire on the internet, but closer investigation revealed the insulation temp was only 105C -- and I didn't want to risk another thermal failure!

With a little care, it was easy to wind the coils using the motorized jig:

I kept an eye on the turns counter and stopped when it reached 158:

Here's one of the KB5WIA-wound coils next to one of the original Yaesu-wound coils. Not quite as beautiful as the one from the factory, but fully functional:

A quick QC check of coil resistance showed it to be 1.9 ohms, in the right ballpark:

Here are the four completed coils. In the background is the new magnet wire (red), and the spool of discarded Yaesu wire (gold):

The new coils slipped right onto the inner star-shaped lamination stack:

After all four coils were attached, I wrapped them in a half-width of Scotch 3M 33+ electrical tape:

Next it was time to begin re-stacking the laminations. Took about an hour to put the laminations back on, taking care to press each one down firmly and lock it into the one below.

I wondered how many laminations I'd be able to get back on to the motor -- since they were stacked so tightly to begin with, I was worried that deformations / air gaps would make the reassembled motor pretty ugly. In fact, all but one of the laminations (57 of 58 total) stacked on nicely:

I loosely threaded new red / green / black wire through the motor in the same manner as it was originally wound:

And then connected each of the four coils, and the three power wires, to the circuit board:

The next QC check was to measure the resistance of the four combined series windings, between the red and the green wires. I would expect around 7.5 ohms:

Testing showed the four coils measured out at 7.8 ohms -- close enough!

The motor is now ready for the assembly of the rotor and the end caps. There are around 5 flat washers on the rear end of the motor, and one flat washer on the front (drive) end of the motor:

Applying just 12VAC to the motor, it spun up nicely! Power to black+green spins one direction, black+red spins the other. The motor was very smooth and quiet:

Next it was time to reassemble the motor header and gear. The motor drives a wing secured with an allen screw, which then pushes against a thin steel spring riding in a nylon circle (the brake). On the other side of the spring tabs is a tang from the drive gear. Here are the components:

The wing was secured to the motor shaft. Correct position was a little of trial-and-error (adjusted so that the lock washer would snugly fit on the end of the drive shaft with the gear installed):

White lithium grease was added to the inside of the brake assembly:

And here is the motor attached to the header plate, with the wing secured to the shaft, and the brake assembly surrounding it. You can barely see the steel spring inside the white nylon circle that acts as the brake:

The drive gear was then attached to the shaft, between the two tabs of the brake spring. In this manner, the motor loosens the spring as it spins against the drive gear, but if the drive gear tries to turn the motor, it expands the spring and acts as a brake:

The motor header plate could then be attached to the gear cluster. Here is the gear cluster before the header is attached:

And here is the motor after affixing to the gear cluster:

Next step was to add the thermal protection switch and reconnect the wires to the limit switches, the run capacitor, and the power entry. The thermal switch is rated at 75C (so it will trip long before the wire insulation breaks down at 155C). The switch is in-line with the black (common) lead:

Here is the assembled motor and gear cluster with the thermal switch attached:

The motor and gear cluster is then reinserted into the lower rotator housing:

And the connector break-out allowed me to apply power to the motor for testing (right side, yellow leads) while monitoring the resistance of the 0-500 ohms position sensor (left side, red+black leads):

The system works nicely!

The next steps in reassembly are to re-grease the bearing races and ball bearings (using marine-grade grease), and the reassemble as shown in my previous post.

Overall, the motor repair was an interesting project, it was a lot of fun to take the totally non-functional unit apart and then reassemble it into something that works again!

For anyone interested in more rotator repair information, read on to see the assembly in the next post, or check out the following web links:

General Yaesu G-5500 rotator repair:

Yaesu G-5500 elevation rotator repair:


  1. GREAT job!
    You should post this to the AMSAT-BB list. I'm sure others would love seeing it.
    Did you find the burned coil, and how 'toasty' was it?

  2. Thanks!! I just posted it to the -BB list, hopefully the information will help some others. I know there are a few out there with similar burnt Yaesu rotator motors.

    Two of the coils were shorted, but you wouldn't be able to tell visually -- there wasn't even any discoloration. The only way I could tell was the resistance, and when unwinding the shorted coils, the wire was all "stuck" to itself so it took a good amount of force to pull it off the form.

    73! Dave KB5WIA

  3. That's real interesting. I've read on the BB where some are obviously burned up, and then there's yours.
    I haven't had any of mine fail (knock on wood!), but then I have them where I can see the antennas, and if one were to stall, I'd spot it pretty quick.
    And I've got four 'basket cases' in the garage that I want to rebuild this summer!
    People keep giving me G-5400 and G-5500 units, which I GLADLY accept!
    73, Jim KQ6EA

  4. Thought I replied to you last night, but guess it didn't "take".
    I have four 'basket cases' in the garage to rebuild this summer. people keep giving me G-5400 and G-5500 rotors not knowing what they are, and since they appear to be "Too Small" for Ham use with HF antennas, they toss them my way!
    None of them have bad motors that I know of, but if they do, I now know how to fix them, thanks to you.
    I think they all just need cleaning, greasing, and probably bearing ball replacements, as some of them look pretty weathered.
    Thanks again for posting this!
    73, Jim KQ6EA

  5. Good rebuild Dave, I'm sure it will help others in the future... Mike wa6ara

  6. Yes, hope it helps ... there's not much information about the azimuth rotators out there, so maybe the text and photos can help some others in similar situations!

  7. This is really a great post an informative one..You explain it very well keep it up..

  8. Great job Dave! You have more patience than I. Mike W0PD W0PD@ELP.RR.COM

  9. My G-5500 rotates, but neither the elevation control meter, or the direction control meter,show the turn. The wiring is correct, at least as far as the color code, and assuming that #1 wire goes to the connector labeled #1.
    Any suggestions, or reading for the various connections.


  10. With both meters not reading, it sounds like either a cabling issue or a problem with the controller.

    The wire numbers should be consistent (#1 to #1), but double-check the manual for the proper configuration of the wires to the rotator connector and terminals on the rear of the unit.

    Assuming the cabling is OK, next check the resistance of the feedback pots in the rotors -- this can be done with an ohmmeter on the outside pins, based on the schematic in the manual. Rotate the rotor slightly and measure again to confirm that the pots are OK.

    Next check the output on the controller -- as per the schematic, A1 should be +6V, A3 should be ground. A2 is the sense (varying 0 to +6V swings needle full scale).

    Hope this helps, KB5WIA

  11. Good Job on the rewind. Just count ,pay attention and put it all back. Great JOB.

    Gayland Grant

  12. Dave, Great post and information.
    I have a G-450A rotator that the motor will not run. The motor looks identical to the 1000. I have taken ohm readings and get 2.2 ohms on each winding and a total of 7.4 ohms but it still will not run. It tries but just wont go. I am getting 32VAC out of the controller and have tried a 24VAC power supply also.
    Do you have any suggestion of what I could try to troubleshoot it further???

  13. Nice information! Its useful for all. Thanks for sharing your information.
    Electric Motor Rewinding Repair Services,Alternator Repair Services

  14. Hi, I have the same problem as oldvettedrvr with a G400RC, that the motor was working but had to take the controller apart and wash with petrol and re-grease as the rotator got full of water and was starting to oxidise inside, maybe some got in the motor, but after testing I seem to have the same problem that it tries but just wont turn even when trying to spin it . Coil resistance is all good and totalled as you have after rewinding. Could the armature be damaged in this was, anyone know? Thanks Lawrence

  15. Hi Dave many thanks and in response to my original post above: I have the G 400RC which looks the same as your controller and rotator, and was doing the same. I must say that it was working before I pulled it apart, but wanted to test everything before I put it together again. First make sure the motor turns freely. What I have found is that you MUST have all 3 wires connected for the motor to turn. I nearly thought mine was stuffed and thanks to Dave for the advise, who was a huge help in solving my problem. The motor is easily removed from the rotator, held by 4 screws (part of the motor, no small parts fall out) and a circlip if its the same as mine, on top of the break wheel. There is glue pasted there, but just remove this gunk. If you look at the G 400 RC schematic you will see the capacitor across the two coils, which does not seem to do anything but it sure does need it in the circuit. Another thing I found out afterwards is that if your screws are lose for your wire connections and you are clipping croc clips to the screw heads for testing the motor will not run, make sure those screws are tight or un screw the wire connector and clip behind the screw on the solder connection. One thing to also note is that the motor armature is pushed out when applying power and working properly. This is so the motor break is released. The motor is too weak to overcome the break in normal working conditions (too little torque. Hope this helps someone.

  16. Hi Dave...and thanks for your EXCELLENT post. I have a G-5500 with what I think to be an azimuth issue, and your pictures were a huge help. On my G-5500 is the M2 SatPack 144CP and 430CP yagis. I am bothered by the excessive lateral "play" when making azimuth changes. After the rotor stops, I get 2-3 seconds of back-and-forth bouncing before everything comes to rest. Elevation movement is smooth as glass. At first I thought it was a mast/tripod issue, so I was able to stiffen it up quite a bit, but it seems to be mostly from the rotor.

    This can't be normal behavior and I'm concerned I'm doing more damage using it this ways. Plus with the narrow beamwidth of the yagis, signal quality bounces too. Is there a particular (nylon) gear to be suspected? Any suggestions greatly appreciated...and again, thanks for a very professional article! 73 de Darrell, W4CX.

  17. awesome post - having just dismantled my G5500 azimuth rotator - it appears I got lucky and its just the wing appears to have become loose - I will be adding a thermo switch before reassembling , and park the knowledge how to rewind the motor for another day - ham radio at its best 73 Rich G6HKS

  18. More than Excellent post! Thank you for the great pictures and documentation! 73 Jim KM5YV

  19. Used excellent information and repaired my azimuth motor last week. Did not rewind the coils myself but got it done by a local re-winder very economically. Thanks for the very detailed information
    Gopal VU2GMN

  20. With your fantastic doc I was able to repair my G400RC !!
    Thank you !!!!!!

    73 de IZ4FTD

    1. Oh, that's great! Glad the article helped!


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