Source4 Problems

Hopefully some of our resident experts will have some input.

I have been having a lot of problems recently with some of our older source4s. They seem to be having problems with the sockets where they will work sometimes and not others. The lamps appear to be seated properly and upon disassembly there isnt any visible problems with the socket.
funny, we've had a simmilar proble. do they work at higher percentages but flicker/pulse at lower ones, say 20%?
I've had a similar problem with a few of my older Source4's as well.

1) change lamps, who knows, it could be a dead lamp
2) try to turn on new lamp
3) cross patch to make sure power is going to the outlet your using
4) unplug
5) pull out cap, pull out lamp, and look at the socket. The holes should be shinny and copper. I had some fixtures that one of the holes got black and nasty, thusly not conducting electricity.
6) Call supplier (I use Production Advantage) and order a new cap piece to wire into the cap. Easy to wire in, never did it, figured it out in like 10 minutes.
7) Use Source4 happily for ever and always
8) buy a pizza
9) figure out why it got broken in the first place so you cna prevent it from happening again
10) go back to the drawing board
Since it was asked.

I believe that this happens when the lamp base is just slightly not touching the lamp housing. Because of this, the power needs to spark and jump the however small distance to the lamp. This causes carbon? buildup and builds resistance.

You may be able to take a metal pipe cleaner and stick it in the hole and try to clean the build-up.

I'm also not 100% sure this is right. I know this can be true of Stage Pin connectors, and I am applying the same concept.
when you pull out the lamps see if the base is carbonized (grey color instead of copper) if so you need to clean out the bases.
We've had the same problem, so, if it is arcing to make contact, would that explain the buzzing fizzing noise it makes? Half of our broken instruments make that noise.
If the connection has been subjected to arcing for and extended period of time, it will build up resistance. So, it would follow that it will appear dimmer in comparison to a lamp of the same age that has not been arcing to make the connection.

The suggestion of using a metal pipe cleaner is an interesting one. These comments apply not only to a lamp base connection, but to any other connection that you might think of cleaning in this way. You use a pipe cleaner and you clean off the carbon buildup. You are also likely to remove some of the conductor so in fact there is less copper. Now less copper can lead to a higher resistance and the loss of metal may also mean that the tension that should be holding the connection together is reduced, making it more vulnerable to unwanted disconnection. The replacement of both components would be the best option. I recall that in the past Ship has said that putting a bad lamp into a good socket will destroy the socket and vice versa.
Beyond this and in trouble shooting, always doing the simple first, have you isolated the problem specific to these individual fixtures?
it could be a short in the cable too.
Do the simple and easy first to locate the problem by way of process of elimination.

First verify it’s the fixture and not the circuit.
Install this fixture in another circuit and another known to be working fixture in this circuit.

Second, Inspect the plug.
Does it if stage pin show any oxidation or melting on the pins? If stage pin, are the slots in the pin parallel or pushed together. Shake the plug and listen for rattles within it. Rattling of plugs on especially other than stage pin means loose terminals within it.

Third, Inspect the cord for damage.
Any rips or tears in it? Any crushing or anything else that draws your attention? Inspect especially where the cable enters both plug and fixture strain relief. This area especially less flexible by way of stranding heat wire conductors will and do break down on in time. Less strands and less flexible ones at that located in an area where it’s clamped down yet can from that location rotate and bend 180 degrees. Flex at this point enough and the strands will break. Flex the cable than in a certain way and you will conduct. Flex it again and the wires no longer touch and you do not. This as with clamping too hard on conductors by way of improper strain relief, or not enough clamping or use of a either failed strain relief or one that clamps directly onto the conductors. I have at times on a 12/3 SJ cable that has about 1/16" of conductor insulation, and 1/16" of outer jacket insulation over the conductors, noted at times some gorilla clamping the strain relief down too tight or using the wrong strain relief setting. Such things are in each plug’s instructions - a reason to actually read them. Force a 3/8" dia cord into a 1/4" hole and yep it does hold. On the other hand the only reason it will do this is all the soft material such as insulation between conductors has been by way of pressure forced out of the way. In cases like this where not a failed strain relief by way of not enough pressure, I have at times noted cables where there is only 1/32" of insulation left between conductors or even after flexing, such conductors rub and cut away what’s left in insulation and short. The insultion even if silicone is still softer and more easy to compress or move out of the way than copper. Too tight a strain relief will cause conductors to short at the strain relief. This as opposed to a strain relief that was not tight enough and allows the outer jacket to fail in pulling loose thus now having the sharp edges of a strain relief to cut into conductors. This and allows all tension or fact conductors are still within the plug to be reliant upon the clamping pressure of the conductor screw terminals on the conductors of the wire. How many pounds of pressure can a 18AWG conductor take before it breaks? Verify it’s the proper strain relief or cut and adjust it so it is now. This or add tape to bulk it up below.

(A better solution for both plug and fixture strain relief is to absorb and prevent some of the flexing able to be done at the clamp. A S-4 lamp cap is designed not to cut into the fiberglass sleeving where it clamps. Still on this and on especially other fixtures where you have the sharp edges of a two screw strain relief bearing down on the outer jacket and conductors, a double layer of ½” wide Scotch #69 fiberglass electrical tape on the outside of the sleeving will help protect the fiberglass insulation from being cut into and prevent the cable from flexing right at the sharp corner. If you say first wrap the conductors with a double layer of tape by way of sliding the fiberglass insulation away from the conductors, than while the tape is un-cut, slide the fiberglass insulation back over the tape wrapped part, than do the double layer of fiberglass atop the sleeving, you now have four layers of tape preventing flexing too tight of the conductors and little to no chance the fiberglass sleeving will fail in pulling loose.

Same concept on the plug end of the cable. Many plugs have sharp edges which will cut thru both inner and outer insulators on cable. In this case there is a few ways to do it. Friction tape while gooey is the traditional method. Don’t use it on the fixture itself - it can catch on fire. As with the above, a double layer back and forth to wrap inner conductors under fiberglass sleeving, don’t cut it yet, slide the fiberglass sleeving over the coated area, than at least two more layers in burring the end of it under the strain relief and you now have a rubberized gripping of the fiberglass sleeving on both sides of it which vary rarely fails if proper tension on the strain relief. This also prevents too much flexing about a 90 degree angle at the strain relief. Otherwise if you need to make up for a wider hole such as on old style Union stage pin plugs, a few more layers quickly makes a 18ga heat wire into that of a 12ga SO cable such a plug was designed for. I have also seen the use of Heyco flat cable strain relief inserts used on this type of plug for this application. Works well but does not address the flexing issue that over time can cause problems with conductors breaking at the flex point.

On the more modern Bates style cable I have also seen use of a cable tie/pan tie with a double wrap about it inside the plug so given it’s tension that won’t pull thru a strain relief, it prevents as long as the cable tie is tight enough it from pulling loose. For the most part with one strain relief fitting on flat and one in the round, the Bates style plug is sufficient in preventing the fiberglass sleeving from pulling loose. Otherwise a double layer of friction tape under the fiberglass sleeving will be sufficient to by way of friction tape, prevent the sleeving from coming loose.

Another option with cable that has other than fiberglass insulation is to use vinyl tubing or outer jackets of larger sized cables sleeved over the primary cable’s outer jacket. It prevents the cable from flexing so well and more distributes an even pressure over the entire surface of the cable. Say a vinyl tubing 2" long with a ID of 3/8" sleeved over that of a cable with a 3/8" OD than becomes say a cable with a ½" OD which now is optimum for many types of strain relief.)

Fourth, take apart the plug.
Look at the conductors, were any crushed by way of strain relief or obstacle within the plug? If stage pin, was it using ferrules? Tug on the conductors, any pull free from the terminal? Any conductors showing damage or frayed? Are the terminals tight? If stage pin, are they using either ferrule or crimp?

(On Bates style stage pin plugs for a fixture you are in the case of a old style S-4 Leko installing a 18ga. wire within a 12ga ferrule. Lots of room within the ferrule to not put even pressure on all the conductors so as to cause resistance, and even more opportunity for the screw to cut thru the ferrule in than cutting thru the conductors. At a minimum when installing 18 or 16ga wires into a 12ga ferrule, they should be stripped twice as long, folded back upon themselves and than inserted into the ferrule which makes it fill up the 12ga ferrule a little more. This will make the 18ga wire into a 15ga one within the ferrule at least, and a 16ga one into a 13ga conductor. Much harder given a lot of extra space otherwise for the screw terminal to just cut thru the ferrule and the conductors. Otherwise there is more than just 12ga ferrules on the market and they are also available in insulated versions that wrap around the insulation of the wire in preventing it from fraying. The say 16 or 18ga insulated ferrule will than fit within the 12ga ferrule and first capture the wire as intended, than with the 12ga ferrule center it on the screw terminal. The insulated part of the smaller ferrule prevents the 12ga ferrule from falling off and by way of now two ferrules, prevents the screw from cutting thru a single layer of ferrule. Better distributed clamping on the smaller conductors also. Best of all would be to in this case use a 18ga x .39" insulated ferrule. Sleeve it with a non-insulated 16ga x .39" ferrule. Sleeve this than by a 14ga .39" ferrule, than by the 12ga x .35" ferrule. This would make the 18ga wire than become 12ga wire at least inside the Bates plug type stage pin screw terminal. Lots of layers of tin plated copper to distribute the pressure evenly on the conductor but cut off what’s sticking out beyond the 12ga x.35" ferrule so the screw makes pressure into the meat of the conductor. That would be an expensive way of doing it, but work really well. Otherwise one ferrule for the actual wire gauge and one for the ferrule set up for the plug works well enough.)

(Same concept with ring or flag terminals on other types of stage pin plug. There is lots of wire gauges of each specifically designed with the same #8 screw size hole to match the gauge of wire used. Always either use the proper AWG of crimp terminal or at very least fold the wire up sufficiently so it becomes close to that of the one available. In the case of 18ga wire fitting into a 12ga crimp terminal, if you fold it so there is three 18ga conductors fitting into the hole, the 18ga wire folded three times is now 12AWG in size. Using the proper Stakon type crimp tool especially if the front cutting jaws are ground off the tool for use on flag terminals and not some form of hammer, vise grip or what ever to crush instead of crimp is also necessary. A quick and good test is to crimp a set of 12AWG conductors with your tool as if making a 12ga cable. Than screw those terminals to a wall. Climb that cable than. If it don’t support your weight, your crimp was either too tight in breaking or if the conductors came loose, improperly crimped in not tight enough or not enough material was displaced. A terminal properly crimped has a jaw on it which displaces material to within the cavity and not crushes it about the wires. Crushed about the strands of wire allows some strands really tight, and others not so tight.)

Never unless the stage pin plug was designed (an older intermediate but obsolete design) to be used without terminals or ferrules, install bare wires directly under a screw turning and cutting into conductors. This much less they will settle over time and fall out of compression into the areas around the screw which have no pressure on them. This causes less strands of wire directly under the pressure of the terminal thus a smaller conductor and resistance to current. A problem waiting to happen and the same reason for using the proper size of terminal or crimp. Such terminals even on other than stage pin where the strands of wire settle a bit will become loose to further this problem in having only a loose connection to the plug - lots of resistance = listen for the rattle on any plug you use though a stage pin probably won’t rattle. Given it does not make noise it’s very important to always properly terminate the strands of wire because there is nothing telling the next user you did a quick fix. On older Union types, it is not acceptable to simply wrap the conductors around the screw terminal or tin the wire in doing so. If you have the wire wrapping washer fine (give me a source for them,) but otherwise always use the flag and shortened ring terminal.

Never accept more than two strands of wire that did not fit within the terminal or ferrule. Twisting the heck out of wire does make it into a tight bundle but also makes it larger in dia. This could be acceptable say in fitting a 12ga wire into a 12-10ga terminal, but for say a ferrule that is sized for the non-twisted size of the conductor, you now have made it into about a eleven gauge conductor and it won’t fit so nice. Should you need to straighten a conductor, instead twist some but more pull on it to do so. No more than a 1/4 twist to the conductor. There is a tool out there also called a ferrule crimper... really cool tool to have should you have the cash and intent to make a really good connection.)

Fifth have a look at the lamp.
Is the lamp good by way of filament and continuity? Have a really good look at it’s pins, it will indicate a bad lamp base or contact to it. Others hearing popping and other noises out of a fixture is that of hearing the lamp base or something within the socket arc welding as it conducts.

What do the pins look like? Nice shiny metal or oxidized and if not even melted? Put a good lamp into a bad base and it will destroy the lamp by way of it’s contact pins. Put a bad lamp into a good lamp base, and it will destroy that lamp base. Never test a lamp short of having examined it’s pins and they look good into another fixture’s lamp base. This will only lead to destroying another lamp base now. No pitting, copper showing or pock marks and or welded areas should be observed on a lamp.

How easy does this lamp pull free both from it’s holder and the sockets of the lamp base itself? Too easy, or too hard? Too easy and possibly it’s holder and it’s sockets are both bad no matter what they look like. Too tight and it might be the case that the base is out of alignment and by way of being difficult the lamp installed is installed at a slight angle and is also not making good contact. This beyond the Altman stuck lamp in removal concept of the past, there is at times alignment issues making even a S-4 difficult to install lamp into base. That difficulty in primarily installing the lamp, or in the case of once the lamp is installed how easy it comes out is of more importance than once installed how difficult it is to get out.

Allow the snapping and popping to exist long enough and your lamp realistically can weld itself to its lamp base. RSC (R-7s) lamps such as on cyc lights or yellow construction work lights are the worst for this type of concept. Otherwise often on a off shore DC-Bayonet (BA-15d) base, the solder contacts can melt around the contacts in making the lamp impossible to remove yet not work once the contact has melted away from it. In the mean time with such a base type and cheap lamp, it could cause intermittent contact to the lamp.

For more normal fixtures, your socket by way of it’s holder and the individual contacts should be sufficient to retain the lamp. If with a bump the lamp could fall out, it’s a shop lamp base no matter what it looks like. A PAR lamp should be able to be held only by it’s socket or your lamp base is bad. Same here with a G-9.5 base. Loose is loose and don’t conduct well no matter what it looks like. Was it the lamp, the base or both? Attempt without powering up the fixture to dry fit another lamp into it. Sufficient or does by way of tension this lamp base fail?

Six, open up the lamp cap.
Make sure you have your mica insulator and no shorts in the wiring. A path of least resistance might not be by way of the lamp’s filament. It could instead at times be by way of short you have not electrocuted yourself on yet. For one moment it’s working, the next it’s shorting to the system which might or might not be sufficient to trip. If the system has lots of resistance already, or the breakers are shot, such a circuit might not trip but definitely be shorting even randomly.

Next check the condition of the fiberglass insulation over the conductors as they go into the lamp base. Should be tight about the conductor and not expanded or frayed. Check also once inside the lamp cap for any parts of the wire that might have been pinched in also causing a short. ETC with the NI-gold lamp base socket terminals chose a fiberglass outer braid insulated silicone wire. That’s a good thing by way of protection of the insulator but once it’s frayed or expanded, does nothing but show a problem underneath. Under this fiberglass sleeving is a silicone coated wire which if it gets too hot will become brittle and flake or crack off. The fiberglass reflects heat away from it and protects against shorting if in decent shape but otherwise offers limited to no isolation. Other companies have added another layer of fiberglass spaghetti tubing over this conductor and even have boosted the temperature rating in the case of a S-4 up to 250c rated fiberglass braided Teflon insulated wire. A bit less flexible in wire type by way of amount and size of strands making flexibility but also safer by way of temperature and quality of conductor.

It’s often the case that someone will have removed the prevention pin from a 750w lamp and used such a lamp on a 575w rated fixture. Such a lamp is safe enough to use for a limited period of time even on the 18ga wire, the only problem is with the heat. In heat, the insulation over the conductors will start to break away and even flake off where it’s hottest - where it’s entering the lamp base.

If heat and shorting was not the cause, it’s probably in the contacts themselves. A good indicator is the lamp’s pins or now how well they retain the lamp. Even with a wire collar about a socket, it can still stretch over time and heat. Insert one socket at a time on a lamp and bounce the lamp held by it. Does it come loose? If so that lamp base no matter what it looks like is bad. Any socket no matter the type that freely allows the lamp to fall out is a bad lamp base. Test the other socket. Blackened or arched sockets must be replaced but otherwise one that allows the lamp to come loose is one step before the arching starts. On other types, too loose, yep you will get snap crackle and pop out of it.

Seven value your time.
At some point, your time is more valuable than that of the time spent in trying to save a fixture. There is contact cleaners/lubricants available that will halp but on a G-9.5 base 9.53mm O.C and 3.17mm dia x 11.4mm long, there is not much you can do with either lamp base or lamp which in solving for now won’t later waste your time on. A GY-16 or larger base type, perhaps but the Medium 2-Pin is not worth the effort.

A new lamp is in the $15.00 range and making one that’s shot work, than spending your time troubleshooting if it don’t soon later is not worth the effort. Same with a similar price in contacts. ETC I believe is no longer selling the old 18ga version. #W330-04 for the 16AWG wire modern version will fit as an upgrade and now be rated as a fixture for 750w no matter if alignment slot for 750w lamp has been drilled out or not. In fact the old style Leko is upgradable to the new lamp cap without dependant upon how old the fixture, cutting away alignment pins or otherwise a direct fit.

Install new contacts and you without cleaning them find much less work now and in the future invested. A shame you can’t just crimp on a new contact but the new ones while on a cable will also work well.

At this point you should have a solution to what caused it or simply be replacing everything.

Step by step, but do the easy first.
I had done most of this checking already and everything checked out fine. I am replacing all the bases on the fixtures in question. I guess I will toss those lamps too even though they appear ok just so they cant have the chance to ruin the new bases.
OnWithTheShow said:
I had done most of this checking already and everything checked out fine. I am replacing all the bases on the fixtures in question. I guess I will toss those lamps too even though they appear ok just so they cant have the chance to ruin the new bases.

Do the bases to lamps and or fixtures appear to be bad or loose?

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