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A Cushcraft R5 vertical half wave antenna mid-life repair

Or why it is not a good idea to let Americans especially Californians built antennas

Some day, our clubhouse antenna system just stopped working. As it isn t often used, nobody can tell how and when it happened, but it was dead, completely dead.

On a windy day we took it down at our own life risk, but the first inspection showed no physical damage, apart from the braid connection between the 4 radials and the matching unit, but that could not have caused such a catastrophic failure.

Inspection using an ohmmeter showed that there was no contact any more between the main antenna tube and the hot end of the grounding choke in the matching unit. Even more strange, as all was well assembled together. I had previously seen R5 s with a broken L-shaped connection that made the box contact the tube, but this was definitely not the case. The screwdriver below points at the culprit

not the case. The screwdriver below points at the culprit Further dismantling showed the problem. The

Further dismantling showed the problem. The strip connecting the PCB holding the toroidal matching transformer was connected to the stainless steel bolt towards the L-shaped piece by a copper strip. The bolt was completely covered with Aluminium-Oxide, a well known insulator. The idiots of Cushcraft have been using the most extreme dissimilar metals like Copper, stainless steel and aluminium together in open air, causing horrendous electrolytic reactions, resulting in a complete insulation of the bolt from the rest, as seen in the picture below (watch the white powder).

Apart from that the glass fibre insulator between mount and antenna tube had become green
Apart from that the glass fibre insulator between mount and antenna tube had become green

Apart from that the glass fibre insulator between mount and antenna tube had become green from moss. This had been another failure in other similar antennas, especially when excited with kilowatts.

So I started my restoration: I used a Karcher High-Pressure washer to get rid of the moss.

I removed the oxidised bolts, and cleaned the copper strips, replaced the bolts by galvanised ones, used grease between all parts before screwing them together, and after mounting I covered them with several layers of plastic spray.

I covered them with several layers of plastic spray. I also cleaned the PCB with the
I covered them with several layers of plastic spray. I also cleaned the PCB with the

I also cleaned the PCB with the Karcher pressure washer to get rid of the hundreds of dead

flies and other insects that housed in the box, and after drying the board I used plastic spray

to protect the PCB for the next decade.

insects that housed in the box, and after drying the board I used plastic spray to
insects that housed in the box, and after drying the board I used plastic spray to
Did I tell you I had to rape the box cover to get access to

Did I tell you I had to rape the box cover to get access to the interior, as all 4 screws were completely rusted. I cut off the 4 corners of the box to get it open and used silicone to seal it again afterwards.

After this Saturday morning exercise I did put up the restored antenna on a tripod in my garden and checked VSWR performance that was back as new, perfect on all 4 bands.

Lessons learned: constructions like this Cushcraft might work in all-year-summer California but are worthless in aggressive climates like industrial Europe or near-sea areas. NEVER mix copper, stainless steel and Aluminium without preventive anti-corrosive measures like immersing in epoxy or whatever might help. And a braid in open air disappears when not protected against the elements.

This article may be freely distributed and copied, as long as integrity is kept, as well as credit is given to the author, Pedro M.J. WYNS ON7WP AA9HX

If this info was useful to you please drop a line to pedro.wyns@gmail.com

This keeps me motivated to write technical articles like this. And if you were more than pleased by the results, you may always send me a bottle of good local wine of yours to my address info on qrz.com