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gavino200

Questions about the "Kato" EM13 decoder

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Please forgive that this post relates to a non Japanese engine. Our layout used to be nonspecific before we decided to go Japanese. We still run all our engines. 

 

I recently had a problem with a GS-4 (Morning Daylight) engine. My son managed to get the wheels out of alignment. The wheels were FUBAR and I had to replace them. That was difficult but fun. But I had it slightly wrong at first and fried the decoder. 

 

So that makes two decoders fried. I tested the motor in DC. It works and the wheels are turning perfectly again. I'd like to make sure this doesn't happen again. So I have a few questions.

 

1. It seems like the EM13 fries very easily. It's a super simple install,  but is there another decoder that would work in this engine that would be more fry resistant?

 

2. Is there any way to test a DCC decoder to see if it's working, other than installing it and trying it in an engine. I don't know for a fact that the second decoder was fried or if it was a dud. I'm assuming I fried it, but it didn't make the same godawful burning diode smell like the first one. Also, I turned off the system within a millisecond of seeing that the wheels weren't turning. So who knows. In future I'd like to know for sure.

 

I'm planning on checking mechanical problems first in DC in future. I could've bought something nice for the price of this mistake.

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Hello,

 

I am not familiar with the engine, but does the EM13 fit in a slot, or do you wire it in?

 

It's a KatoUSA engine. The EM13 fits in a pre-designed slot. No wiring. 

Edited by gavino200

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kvp   

There are decoder tester boards though. Some have screw terminals too, so you can build a custom Kato decoder socket for testing the two decoders types that are made for Kato. On the other hand, the only way to really fry a Kato decoder is to mix the input and output legs, as the outputs are good against shorts, but if the output gets a track signal, then only your central's short circuit limiting can save it. Some programming tracks have current limiters for this reason, so testing there might help.

 

For decoders, i would suggest Digitrax, but you have to build the two connector plates that go into the Kato socket. You can probably saw them off from the burnt decoder and wire a small Digitrax decoder onto the two legs. Just make sure they are held there somehow.

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Hello,

 

So sorry, but the shape is proprietary to Kato and there is no substitute.

 

Yes,there's no other drop in. But it fits in the tender. There's a fair bit of extra space.

Edited by gavino200

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There are decoder tester boards though. Some have screw terminals too, so you can build a custom Kato decoder socket for testing the two decoders types that are made for Kato. On the other hand, the only way to really fry a Kato decoder is to mix the input and output legs, as the outputs are good against shorts, but if the output gets a track signal, then only your central's short circuit limiting can save it. Some programming tracks have current limiters for this reason, so testing there might help.

 

For decoders, i would suggest Digitrax, but you have to build the two connector plates that go into the Kato socket. You can probably saw them off from the burnt decoder and wire a small Digitrax decoder onto the two legs. Just make sure they are held there somehow.

 

A decoder tester is something I'd like to get at some stage. In the meantime, testing on the program track would work. I wish I had done that. 

 

I don't think the input and output were mixed. The engine was trying to move but the wheel struts (clappers?) were jammed so it couldn't move. It just started to make the burning decoder stench and stopped working. I'm assuming it drew too high a current and melted itself. I vaguely remember a physics teacher when I was a kid, explaining that electric motors take a higher current to start than is needed to keep them running. I remember I could once do the math and demonstrate this. Now I just remember the concept. Please tell me if I'm wrong about this. I'm no expert.

 

I like your idea of piggy backing on to the kato decoder. I was planning to just solder directly onto the copper pickups. 

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inobu   

Naw, you have something else going on. The linkage maybe bad.

 

Run it DC for a while before doing another one.

 

 

 

 

Inobu

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Thanks Inobu. It may well be the drawbar wires. They were also bent out of shape. I thought I had repaired them but perhaps there is a short there. 

 

I'll run it in DC as you suggest. 

Edited by gavino200

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beakaboy   

The first GS4 locos had a DCC issue if I recall correctly. Not sure how it was rectified. A part was replaced???

I had an early DCC Athearn challenger which cooked a couple of decoders. turned out to be intermittent binding in the front set of drive wheels. Going around curves was the problem! I fitted a PSX circuit breaker to my DCC system after that. The challenger was fine on the  programing track as it was not moving.  

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The GS4 has had other issues as well, seems quality control wasn't quite up to normal Kato standards.

 

My GS4 doesn't fry decoders, but it just runs pretty bad and shakes all over the place. About 99.99% certain the wheels aren't installed correctly, but I haven't actually touched them myself, so I didn't do something to mess it up. The whole cab also looks like it doesn't actually fit like it should. The Morning Daylight car set as well is giving me some issues, especially the 3-part articulated car likes to derail after a curve, because it doesn't straighten out like it should.

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The first GS4 locos had a DCC issue if I recall correctly. Not sure how it was rectified. A part was replaced???

I had an early DCC Athearn challenger which cooked a couple of decoders. turned out to be intermittent binding in the front set of drive wheels. Going around curves was the problem! I fitted a PSX circuit breaker to my DCC system after that. The challenger was fine on the  programing track as it was not moving.  

 

 

Thanks. I looked this up. You're right. The first release had a mysterious fault that caused DCC decoders to randomly fry. Apparently acknowledged it but couldn't work out what it was for a while. According to one thread I read, it turned out to be the drawbar.

 

Looking at my engine, it's box, and package insert, there's no way to tell if it's a first release or not. It was an ebay purchase. I have noticed that one of the wires on the upper drawbar tends to become dislodged. I've had to feed it back into the engine housing with a pair of tweezers a few times. 

 

I'll call Kato on Monday and ask them if it's a Gen 1. I have the serial number. I'm just curious. I'll either ask if they have a new draw bar or I'll wire in a decoder and bypass the drawbar wire. I'm itching to try sound anyway.

 

I haven't had time to look at it today. Tomorrow I'll run it in DC and take a look at how easy it will be to pass wires.

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The GS4 has had other issues as well, seems quality control wasn't quite up to normal Kato standards.

 

My GS4 doesn't fry decoders, but it just runs pretty bad and shakes all over the place. About 99.99% certain the wheels aren't installed correctly, but I haven't actually touched them myself, so I didn't do something to mess it up. The whole cab also looks like it doesn't actually fit like it should. The Morning Daylight car set as well is giving me some issues, especially the 3-part articulated car likes to derail after a curve, because it doesn't straighten out like it should.

 

 

I agree. The train has issues. 

 

I may have some insight into your wheel set issue. When my GS-4 is actually running it's incredible. Smooth, fast, and powerful. However.....it's not very solid. My son got overzealous showing off his trains to a friend last week and screwed up the wheels, so I've gotten to know them quite well. The wheel set is very flimsy. 

 

Here's how it goes together.

 

Two small black plastic spoked wheels on a small metal axle. These are offset by about a quarter turn. It takes very little force to turn each wheel independently on the axle. Once they start moving they stay loose and are difficult to reallign.

 

More importantly each plastic wheel snaps into a outer metal flanged hoop. They don't stay in the hoop very well. Two of the four replacement axles weren't properly snapped in, straight out of the packed. If you roll them like that, they wobble. I wonder if at least one of your wheels isn't properly snapped in.

 

Replacing the wheel set is tricky. I'd advise having a bunch of close up pictures of how the side bars should be set close at hand. Magnification and fine tweezers are helpful.

 

Yes, the cars are an issue too. The close links are a chore at the best of times. The unfixed trucks on the articulating double cars are a pain to set up.

 

I also, have never been able to get my triple car to stay railed. I actually just received a full set of replacement trucks (fixed and non-fixed) in the mail this morning. I'm going to change out all the wheels and look at the articulation system, as a last ditch attempt. If it doesn't work then, I'll get rid of it and replace it with another double car.

 

When the whole train (minus triple car) is functioning and being pulled by the GS-4, it looks amazing. Alas, those times were recent and brief. 

 

Overall, this train has been my biggest frustration and disappointment. Maybe that's my it's such a joy when I actually do have it running.

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Naw, you have something else going on. The linkage maybe bad.

 

 

 

I agree. And I'm pretty sure I've got your meaning. Likely, I fried my decoder because of a short in the drawbar, while the wheelset misalignment was a red herring - a second non-causal mechanical issue.

 

No just to clarify - you would not fry a decoder by giving the loco power when the wheels are locked. That makes sense. I've never had this issue with any other loco. 

 

My local train guy supported the "wheeljam causing decoder fry" theory. He was probably just humoring me. Customer is always right, etc...

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Oh man, I'm really excited about the re-release for the GS-4 but now a little less so after reading about the different issues with it. I'm hoping those issues have been resolved as I've been spoiled with great running Kato Locos.

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I agree. The train has issues. 

 

I may have some insight into your wheel set issue. When my GS-4 is actually running it's incredible. Smooth, fast, and powerful. However.....it's not very solid. My son got overzealous showing off his trains to a friend last week and screwed up the wheels, so I've gotten to know them quite well. The wheel set is very flimsy. 

 

Here's how it goes together.

 

Two small black plastic spoked wheels on a small metal axle. These are offset by about a quarter turn. It takes very little force to turn each wheel independently on the axle. Once they start moving they stay loose and are difficult to reallign.

 

More importantly each plastic wheel snaps into a outer metal flanged hoop. They don't stay in the hoop very well. Two of the four replacement axles weren't properly snapped in, straight out of the packed. If you roll them like that, they wobble. I wonder if at least one of your wheels isn't properly snapped in.

 

Replacing the wheel set is tricky. I'd advise having a bunch of close up pictures of how the side bars should be set close at hand. Magnification and fine tweezers are helpful.

 

Yes, the cars are an issue too. The close links are a chore at the best of times. The unfixed trucks on the articulating double cars are a pain to set up.

 

I also, have never been able to get my triple car to stay railed. I actually just received a full set of replacement trucks (fixed and non-fixed) in the mail this morning. I'm going to change out all the wheels and look at the articulation system, as a last ditch attempt. If it doesn't work then, I'll get rid of it and replace it with another double car.

 

When the whole train (minus triple car) is functioning and being pulled by the GS-4, it looks amazing. Alas, those times were recent and brief. 

 

Overall, this train has been my biggest frustration and disappointment. Maybe that's my it's such a joy when I actually do have it running.

The full set is definitely something else seeing it go on a layout. I haven't really looked into the issues I'm having with it up close, haven't really had the time for it, nor did I have much of a layout to run it on, so I wasn't in much of a hurry :)

 

I'll have a look at the GS4's wheels one of these days. I do also have a D51 with misaligned wheels, but that was my own fault, decoder install didn't go quite as planned. I did manage to get that one back to running well, but it's not 100%. Not an easy task aligning wheels with drive rods. (Apparently it's difficult enough for even manufacturers to get it wrong. I have a Minitrix steamer that has never run well either, wheels are binding once in a while. Has been sent back to the factory twice now, still not good :))

 

The articulated cars sounds like they're binding somewhere. When they derail, they're pretty much stuck, and trying to get them to turn in the other direction takes a bit of effort, and there's an audible snap. So I think it's just a matter of figuring out where it's binding, and then probably remove some plastic here and there. In my case it doesn't derail all the time, so it sounds like a fixable issue.

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Oh man, I'm really excited about the re-release for the GS-4 but now a little less so after reading about the different issues with it. I'm hoping those issues have been resolved as I've been spoiled with great running Kato Locos.

 

It's really a great loco. I'd recommend not letting two eight year olds run it without you, though.

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The full set is definitely something else seeing it go on a layout. I haven't really looked into the issues I'm having with it up close, haven't really had the time for it, nor did I have much of a layout to run it on, so I wasn't in much of a hurry :)

 

I'll have a look at the GS4's wheels one of these days. I do also have a D51 with misaligned wheels, but that was my own fault, decoder install didn't go quite as planned. I did manage to get that one back to running well, but it's not 100%. Not an easy task aligning wheels with drive rods. (Apparently it's difficult enough for even manufacturers to get it wrong. I have a Minitrix steamer that has never run well either, wheels are binding once in a while. Has been sent back to the factory twice now, still not good :))

 

The articulated cars sounds like they're binding somewhere. When they derail, they're pretty much stuck, and trying to get them to turn in the other direction takes a bit of effort, and there's an audible snap. So I think it's just a matter of figuring out where it's binding, and then probably remove some plastic here and there. In my case it doesn't derail all the time, so it sounds like a fixable issue.

 

Agree. removing the rods, and getting them back right again is very tough. But it's doable. 

 

I wonder if some graphite powder would make the triple car turn better. If I learn anything that helps, when I work on it, I'll let you know.

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Kiha66   

The first GS4 locos had a DCC issue if I recall correctly. Not sure how it was rectified. A part was replaced???

I had an early DCC Athearn challenger which cooked a couple of decoders. turned out to be intermittent binding in the front set of drive wheels. Going around curves was the problem! I fitted a PSX circuit breaker to my DCC system after that. The challenger was fine on the  programing track as it was not moving.  

If I recall correctly the first run GS-4s had the third and fourth drivers shorting the track power directly to the motor intermittently (only a problem during DCC operation).  The later runs included a spacer to fix this, and it should be available as a kit from kato to fix the earlier models.  Might be worth checking if your loco has the spacers installed.  

http://www.katousa.com/N/GS-4/maint/GS-4spacer.html

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If I recall correctly the first run GS-4s had the third and fourth drivers shorting the track power directly to the motor intermittently (only a problem during DCC operation).  The later runs included a spacer to fix this, and it should be available as a kit from kato to fix the earlier models.  Might be worth checking if your loco has the spacers installed.  

http://www.katousa.com/N/GS-4/maint/GS-4spacer.html

 

Mystery solved. My GS-4 does NOT have the spacer. I'll be calling Monday for a retrofit kit.

 

You rock Kiha!

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I have the 2010 release, so that shouldn't be the first run. Mine also doesn't short or fry the decoder, it just doesn't run very well :)

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I have the 2010 release, so that shouldn't be the first run. Mine also doesn't short or fry the decoder, it just doesn't run very well :)

 

When mine is running it runs amazingly well. Fast and surprisingly powerful. You might want to send yours back to Kato, for them to have a look at. When I get mine running I can take some video if you want.

 

I just got off the phone with Kato. Mine is a later run. They checked the issue #. I thought it must be a first run because it didn't have the spacers. But apparently spacers are only needed for the first run. Later runs had an adjustment made to the body to solve the problem.

 

The Kato guy (I should have asked his name. It was the older one who is very knowledgeable) thinks that jammed wheels are enough to cause a decoder burnout. Higher current drawn when the motor isn't turning.

 

He also thinks any problem with the drawbar could do it. Like others above he suggests giving it a prolonged DCC run before installing another decoder. I might just bypass the drawbar weakness problem by passing wires instead. I have that setup on another engine. When painted black they are not very noticeable. I'm waiting for some wiring supplies to arrive in the mail. I should get to this in the next couple of  weeks. I'll let you know how it goes.

 

Spare drawbars are not available currently btw. Not until the new release is rolled out.

Edited by gavino200

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I'll probably take mine apart, get the motor out, and then manually push the frame and wheels around. See if that gives me a better idea of what's wrong with the wheels (if anything)

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