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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 isnt 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 R5s 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...
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 aluminiumtogether 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 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 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.
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
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