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Published by jmh3
Troubleshooting SMPS Problems (PWM Type)
Troubleshooting SMPS Problems (PWM Type)

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Published by: jmh3 on Sep 05, 2010
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Troubleshooting SMPS Problems
Switch Mode Power Supplies (often called“choppers”, switchers” or simply“SMPS”) are used extensively in many AC-powered devices, such as computers,monitors, television receivers, and VCRs.This Tech Tip provides a 6-step procedureto use for isolating problems in the PWMtype of SMPS that are typically used inconsumer electronic equipment. Tech Tip#203 explains how SMPS operate.TechTip#204 provides information on how todetermine whether the SMPS is the causeof an inoperative chassis.
Why SMPS Troubleshooting Is
Different Than Linear Supplies
Conventional linear power suppliesusually continue to supply an output, evenif a load shorts, a filter capacitor opens, or half of the bridge quits. Isolating thedefective component in a linear supplyusually consists of tracking too low, toohigh or lost DC voltages. The SMPS, onthe other hand, requires a differenttroubleshooting process. Here’s why:First, replacing a burnt resistor, shorteddiode or bad transistor in a SMPS doesnot guarantee a fix as with the linear supply. Simply fixing the SMPS supply byreplacing a burned part often causes thesame components to burn up again.Secondly, when troubleshooting a linear supply, a variac is used to slowly bring upthe AC line voltage while you monitor thecurrent draw. Not so with most SMPS.You have virtually no chance to back off the AC power once the SMPS kicks in. Iteither puts out no current or full current.Perhaps the biggest difficulty withtroubleshooting a SMPS is a direct resultof one of the SMPS benefits
it’s ability toprotect itself from over-voltage or 
current conditions by shutting down.Most SMPS component failures or loadchanges cause the SMPS to completelyshut down and produce a “dead chassis”symptom. This can make troubleshootingdifficult and confusing. Is the shutdowncaused by too much high voltage?; the
being pulled down?; too much loadcurrent?; a supply component failure?; or a defective safety circuit?Without a logical procedure, SMPStroubleshooting can be frustrating. Butyou can break the SMPS shutdown loopand quickly isolate the defective area in 6easy steps.
The Four Key Circuits
Before we look at these six steps, let’sbriefly review the four general sections(most important circuits or MICS) thatmake up a SMPS, as shown in Figure 1.(Refer to Tech Tip#203 for a completeexplanation of each MIC).
Fig. 1: A
contains four key circuits.
Unregulated B+
This circuitincludes the linear power supply, standbysupply, primary of the switchingtransformer, and the switching transistor.
This sectionprovides the control signal for theswitching transistor. The heart of MIC
is the driver circuit. It can be a singlestage transistor or a current modecontroller IC.
Secondary Circuits
Thesecondary circuits include the secondarywinding of the switching transformer andthe components (diodes capacitors, etc.)that provide power to the loads. MostSMPS have 2 to 5 loads.
Feedback & Control
MostPWM SMPS feedback loops provide four functions:
Output voltage sampling for regulation
High voltage monitoring
System control micro for power ON/OFF
Ground isolation through opto-isolators
Troubleshooting Procedure
The following six steps are proven to be asafe, effective method of isolating theproblem to a specific MIC. Combiningthese steps with dynamic componentanalyzing will get even the toughest SMPSup and running.
 Always use an Isolation Transformer. All SMPS contain both hot andchassis (floating) grounds. You willcause damage to the SMPS and/or your test equipment if you connecttest equipment to a hot ground, or attempt to tie the hot and cold
Keep the following things in mind whenperforming the SMPS troubleshootingprocedure:
 Always use the correct ground referencewhen making a measurement. Using thewrong ground reference will result in anincorrect reading.
Hot grounds are usually found on theprimary side of the switching transformer.Use this ground for all MIC 1measurements.
Chassis are found on thesecondary side of the switchingtransformer. Use this ground for MIC 2, 3& 4 measurements.
The opto isolator input (from the controlcircuits) is measured with respect tochassis ground.
The opto isolator output (to primary sidedriver or controller stage) is measuredwith respect to hot ground.
Be Prepared to Make All Parameter Measurements. Efficient troubleshootingdepends on your ability to quicklymeasure different signals and voltages:DC from tenths of a volt to 16OV; signalvoltages from 2 VPP to
VPP; andfrequencies from 40
to 150
We recommend using the
SC3080or SC3100 Waveform Analyzer, since theyallow you to make all measurements with just one probe connection.
Fig. 2: Follow these steps to quickly and safely isolate SMPS problems
The flow chart in Figure 2 outlines the sixthe SMPS can operate. (Not all SMPStroubleshooting steps. Perform the stepshave standby supplies). Check for standbyin order. Each step funnels the problem tovoltage with the chassis plugged into ana specific MIC and suspect components.isolation transformer set for an output of  Any one of the troubleshooting steps may117VAC, (such as thePR57 POWERITE)isolate the SMPS problem. Often, you maybut with the chassis power (chassisnot need to do all 6 steps because theON/OFF switch) turned off.problem is found in one of the first steps.Following is an explanation of each step.Some chassis use a second, smaller SMPS as the standby supply. The fact that
Check The Standby Supply
the standby supply is working eliminatesmany suspect components. The
Driver The standby voltages to the driver andin MIC
is always a suspect in amicroprocessor must be correct beforedown condition, and is often needlessly
replaced. The standby switcher isphysically smaller, and has lower power handling capabilities than the mainswitcher, but it is driven by the sameDriver 
as the main switcher. Therefore,if the standby switcher is running theDriver IC is likely OK. The shutdowncondition is caused by something elsethat preventing the Driver IC fromsupplying a control signal to the mainswitching transistor.If the standby supply voltage is correct,but the main SMPS is still not operating,
move on to step
Substitute For The Main Load
 An important step in troubleshootingSMPS problems is to separate the SMPSoutput from the rest of the chassis. Thishelps you determine if the shut downsupply symptom is due to the SMPSsupply itself, or if the symptom is due toan outboard circuit or load. (A similar procedure is given in Tech Tip
for isolating problems to the SMPS or external circuitry).Most PWM SMPS will not operate withoutan adequate load current. Therefore youcan not simply disconnect the loads.Instead, most manufacturers recommendreplacing the main load with a light bulbthat has approximately the same wattagerating. The light bulb provides currentlimiting and provides a suitable, constant
load for the SMPS.
The main
load is the output of theSMPS that contains the feedback divider network. In a television receiver or 
3: Use a
bulb as a
for fhe
output of the SMPS. Disconnect the
load, then connect 
bulb af 
the feedback takeoff point.
monitor this is the output that powers thecollector of the horizontal outputtransistor. By substituting for this loadyou effectively disable the safetyshutdown controls that come from the
external circuits.
The size of bulb you use depends on theload you are substituting. For example, if you are substituting for the load on the
130 VDC
supply in a television receiver 
or monitor, use a standard 60 watt, 120VAC light bulb. If you are substituting for the 15 volt
output in a VCR supply, usea 12 or 18 volt bulb.You will need to open the circuit path toremove the normal load. Make sure tobreak the circuit after the feedback takeoff point. Removing the horizontal outputtransistor in a television or monitor willbreak the circuit, but do not connect thebulb in place of the horizontal outputtransistor. The primary of theflyback isnot designed to handle a continuouscurrent. Connect the light ahead of the
primary, as shown in Figure 3.
 After you substitute for the load, you willsee one of four conditions when you turn
on the SMPS:
Bulb lights and measured voltage isnormal
This means that the SMPS is working
properly. Something external to the SMPS
is causing the shutdown. Possibilitiesinclude excessive HV, excessive currentdraw by one of the loads, or a defectivesafety circuit.
Light bulb doesn’t light (SMPS doesn’tstart)
Light comes on but goes out (SMPSstarts but goes into shutdown)
Light is very bright (indicates possible
regulation problems)
These last three conditions indicate thatsomething is wrong with the SMPS.Continue with the remaining steps until
you locate the problem.
Remove the Drive Signal from the
Main Switching Transistor 
Open the signal path between the Driveand the gate or base of the switchingtransistor. You can easily do this byunsoldering and lifting any one of thecomponents in the signal path.Disconnecting the input signal to the mainswitching transistor allows you to safelytroubleshooting the SMPS circuits, whilethe chassis is turned on, withoutaccidentally producing an output from the
Check MIC 1 Circuits
MIC#1 includes all the
path from theoutput of the linear supply to the groundpoint of the emitter or source of theswitching transistor. Begin by checkingfor 
voltage at the switching transistor:1. Connect the Waveform Analyzer to theswitching transistor’s drain or collector.
Set it to measure DC voltage.
2. Set the
to zero volts AC output.Press the“0-1.5A/175W" output currentmonitor button.3. Gradually increase thePR57's ACoutput while monitoring the output
You will observe one of the followingconditions:
Low current, normal B+ (approximately160 VDC) with PR57 output at 117 VAC.
This means that the
supply is good.But there still might be a problem in the
circuitry:Check the switching transistor to makesure it is not open. Use a dynamictransistor, such as the TF46 “Super Cricket.check." Also check the resistor(s) in the emitter or source lead of the switching transistor. If you suspect they may have changed invalue,replace them with themanufacturer’s exact replacement. Theseresistors are precise tolerance, and are
critical to safe operation of the SMPS.
If the transistor and resistors are good,
proceed to Step
No DC and no AC current draw
There is an open in the
supply. Checkthe fuses, safety resistors, diodes, andswitching transformer primary.
No (or low) DC
increasing AC current
Low or missing DC voltage along withincreasing AC current is caused by ashort in the
supply itself, orsome-

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