My Hotspot is Back From the Dead

While trying mobile DMR last month, my (relatively) cheap hotspot experienced an untimely death. I set the hotspot aside as a future troubleshooting project.

While the Pi-Zero board appeared to be working, the MMDVM board was dead as a doornail. The OLED display was blank, and the RF side of the hotspot was non-responsive. It also wasn’t interacting with the Internet at all.

The other day, I came across a posting on a Facebook MMDVM page that shed some light on my problem. Some users reported shorts between the internal boards and the aluminum case. This tidbit of information prompted some further investigation.

I removed the top of the case, reinstalled the antenna, and applied power. To my surprise, the hotspot booted up and came back to life.
I let it run for a while without the case to verify that all was well. It was.

I noticed a solder connection that extended a little beyond the edge of the MMDVM board. It appeared to be a power connection, so I suspect that might have been what shorted. I also noticed that a single screw and the header pins are all that secure the top board. I’m guessing the board shifted a small amount while mobile causing the short.

My disassembled hotspot. If you look closely, you can see the electrical tape I added inside the top cover.
My disassembled hotspot. If you look closely, you can see the electrical tape I added inside the top cover.

To remedy this, I applied electrical tape inside the top cover of the hotspot. Not being 100 percent certain where the problem was, I covered everything except the vent openings. I used a razor blade to trim the tape around the OLED display and antenna jack openings. I also took a file to the little solder blob I had noticed. (I exercised extreme caution in doing this since I’m sometimes prone to creating new problems.)

I reassembled the case and powered it up. Voila! It still worked. Hopefully, this fix will avoid any reoccurrences and make it withstand the vibrations of mobile use.

Although you’re far more likely to find me on CW on the HF bands, I do monitor Brandmeister TG-3142 (Pennsylvania State-wide) on DMR. And, on occasion, I listen to D-Star REF20A.

73, Craig WB3GCK

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