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LOCATING FAQs

Troubleshooting Locating Problems

Nothing spoils a good day of line or tank hunting like failing to find what you’re looking for. Is it an equipment failure? Operator error? How can you tell? And is it the transmitter or the receiver that’s letting you down? Here are some things to check before firing your best man or sending your equipment in for repair. It might be neither one’s fault.

Some things to always check before you start a locate, and again if you have trouble:

  • Make sure the batteries in both your transmitter and receiver are fresh. If any doubt, put new ones in both. A weak transmitter battery reduces its range, weak batteries in a receiver can make it act brain damaged, as well as reducing the range.
  • Always test your transmitter and receiver above ground, for operation and range, before sending the transmitter down the line. Every time.
  • 512 Hz equipment is especially vulnerable to interference from nearby underground or overhead power lines.  Before turning on your transmitter, walk around the area where you will be locating, with your receiver set to maximum sensitivity, to discover the presence of interference in the area so you can take it into account when you are locating your transmitter.

The transmitter isn't where my receiver said it was - it's several feet off to one side

The most common source of errors in precise locating is failure to follow all of the locating steps in the operating instructions. It’s easy to think when you find a peak signal that your job is done. The LF Series receivers will show you a sonde image on the Sonde screen at many different places, but only one of them is the actual location of the sonde. Pay particular attention to the Crossing screen on the LF receiver, where you walk in a circle around the peak signal to locate the crossing nulls and from there a line through the sonde. If you haven’t established that line, you can’t accurately determine the location of the sonde or its depth (see our training videos for a demonstration). The same thing applies to locating with the analog receivers (Ardy or Ferris) – pay attention to all of the locating steps.

The signal from my transmitter suddenly quit, I was following it fine then it disappeared

Aside from checking batteries, determine whether it is possible that the pipe material changed at some point, or you reached a steel tank. If you’re using an Ardy system at 223 KHz, it will disappear when it goes inside any metal pipe. 512 Hz equipment will penetrate cast iron, but not steel, ductile iron or other metal.

A sudden loss of signal may also mean you have encountered a null, which is a normal part of locating. If the signal drop-off is at a particular spot, and the signal returns when you move the receiver a little ways away, then it is most likely a null.

My transmitter and receiver seem to work, but I can't get more than a couple feet away before the signal dies

A big reduction in range often means a broken antenna, on an Ardy or a Ferris receiver. It won’t look broken, but even a hairline crack in the ferrite core inside the antenna tube can destroy its sensitivity. It’s easy for us to fix, but you have to send it in. A word to the wise: never use the antenna rod for prying or digging or anything but locating. A hard case is a good investment for preventing antenna damage.

My system doesn't seem to be working, but I can't tell if the problem is my transmitter or receiver

One obvious thing to try is a different transmitter (of the same type) with your receiver, or a different receiver with the transmitter, but this may not be an available option if you don’t own a lot of equipment. Replace the batteries in both before you go further.

An Ardy (AT-12 or ATP-12) flushable transmitter can be tested by holding it near an AM radio tuned to a dead spot (no station) on the dial. If the transmitter is working, you’ll hear its raspy “beep-beep” from the radio.

A receiver can be tested in a rudimentary way by turning it up and holding it near sources of electronic radiation – like a computer, a cell phone, a dimmer switch. You should hear some noise. If it remains silent, the receiver is probably malfunctioning.

The definitive test of a 512 Hz receiver (a Ferris or an LF Series receiver) is to call Prototek and have us perform the Famous Phone Test. We’ll play a 512 Hz tone over the phone, which you hold up to the receiver’s antenna. If the receiver is working, the signal strength shown on the receiver will be strong.

So how expensive is it to fix? Should I just buy a new one?

Receiver repairs are usually pretty straightforward, and it’s rare that a receiver is in such bad shape that it’s not worth repairing. However, we no longer have spare parts for older receivers, so certain problems with them would not be repairable. Send it to us and we’ll let you know quickly what it needs, and you can decide then. And don’t forget that we can offer you a loaner receiver for an AR-1 or FR-1 if you’re stuck with lots of work and no tools while yours is being repaired.

Transmitters can be a different story. Since the electronics are cast in urethane resin, there is not much accessibility to repairable parts. But it’s worth trying, so feel free to send it in. Transmitters that have been damaged in pipes by being taped to power snakes, or having cuts in the urethane due to clumsy knife work, are not warrantable nor repairable.

Often, an FV or HV transmitter stops working because the electrical contacts get dirty. The threads on the cap, the threads in the body of the transmitter, and the battery contact button at the bottom of the battery tube are all important parts of the circuitry, and should be clean and shiny. You may find that taking care of this makes your transmitter work again.

Tip: to prolong the life of a taped-on transmitter, cut the tape between the transmitter body and the cable, rod or jetter it is attached to, to avoid cutting into the transmitter itself.