KB869: Troubleshooting Guide for Digitrax Command Station or Booster Problems

This article was last updated on Feb. 27, 2014, 1:01 p.m. | Print Article | Leave Feedback

Before sending your Digitrax Command Station or Booster in for repair try these simple steps to see if you can “bring it back from the dead” and save a possible trip to the repair shop.

1. Nothing is responding

If there are NO LEDs lit on the front panel of the Command Station or Booster:

  • Check the power supply to the unit to make sure that it has not been knocked loose in the power socket and that the socket is powered.
  • Check the connections from the power supply to Track A and Track B connections on the front of the unit making sure that they are firmly attached.
  • Swap out the power supply if there are still no lights.

If some of the LEDs on the front panel of the unit are lit:

Check your throttle’s TRACK STATUS Indicator to see if the track power is turned off at the throttle.

2. No Power or Intermittent Operation

The majority of intermittent operation problems can be traced to bad connections on the layout or poor or noisy wheel pickups on locomotives. The DCC digital packet communication strategy performs exceptionally well in a less than perfect environment, and will often mask bad connections until they are really impossible to work with!

  • Clean the track and wheel pickups of your locomotives.
  • Check for the adequate track power around the layout with the “quarter trick.” Take a quarter or screwdriver blade and go around your layout creating electrical short circuits across the rails every 3-6 feet. Your command station will beep and shut down as each short circuit you create is detected (Zephyr and Zephyr Xtra show a blinking display instead of a sound). When the short circuit is removed, the booster will return to normal operation. If this does not happen, then you need to add more track feeders so that the signal/power is adequate all over the layout.
  • Check your LocoNet cables with the LT1 tester to be sure you don’t have any cables that were made incorrectly. See your starter set manual for how to do this.
  • Check your locomotives for problems with their mechanical drive train and make sure you have free movement of the locomotive wheel sets. This is especially important with inexpensive locomotives.

3. If the Command Station or Booster unit shuts down frequently:

  • Move the unit so that the heat sink has a flow of cool air.
  • Place the unit out of direct radiant heat like sunshine or a room heater.
  • Try direct cooling by using a small fan to blow air onto the heat sink.
  • Lower the track load current by running fewer locomotives or setting up additional power districts and adding more boosters to provide more power for the layout.
  • Reduce the input voltage from the transformer.

4. Troubleshooting Layout Wiring

Often we find that customers who believe they have problems with their Digitrax equipment actually have problems with their layout wiring. Installing Digitrax, or any other command control system, on your layout will not fix problems with layout wiring. Layout wiring can be very complex. We see many examples of layouts that have “grown over the years” where wiring was added and changed creating some very interesting electrical systems.

If you suspect that layout wiring might be a problem, we recommend that you disconnect the Digitrax equipment from the layout and test it on a small section of track not connected to the layout to confirm that the problem is not with your Digitrax equipment.

If you find that there is a problem with your Digitrax equipment, please contact Digitgrax for tech support.

If you find that your Digitrax equipment is working fine, then it is time to de-bug the layout.

Observe the problem carefully and methodically.

Does it occur with both DC and DCC operation?

If so, check track wiring.

Is it occurring everywhere on the layout or in one particular area?

With your Digitrax system hooked up, use the quarter trick described above. You may not have enough feeders or your power supply may not be adequate. Use your LT1 to test the LocoNet cables attached to the booster in the problem area.

Does it only occur with certain locomotives?

Check the locomotives for mechanical problems and for damaged decoders. If you programmed the decoders just before the problem started, go back and re-program them in case you entered values by mistake that are causing the problem.

Does it only occur with certain throttles, boosters or other equipment?

If the problem happens with just one piece of equipment, then you may need to have it repaired. Check the RJ12 LocoNet jacks to be sure the pins are not mis-aligned.

Does it occur only when plugged into a certain LocoNet jack?
Check the wiring to that jack, particularly if you are using telco type jacks that you wired yourself. Use your LT1 to test the LocoNet cable you are using in that area of the layout.

Have you recently changed anything in your layout wiring?
If so, try disabling the change to see if they layout will run without the “upgrade.” You may need to de-bug the upgraded wiring.

Have you changed any of the Command Station/Booster or Throttle option settings?
If so, go back and re-set them to the default values and check to see if the layout will run.

Have you recently installed additional boosters on your layout?
If so, check to be certain that these boosters are set up properly as boosters. If more than one command station is operating on your layout, you may experience unexpected operation when the decoders are taking commands from two different sources (command stations.)

If you find that you do need to send an item in for repair, please print out, complete and enclose the Repair Form with the item that needs repair. If you can't find the repair form, please be sure to tell us your name, address, daytime phone number, e-mail address, what you are sending for repair and what the problem is. This will help our technicians diagnose the problem, repair it if possible and get it back to you as quickly as possible.

5. If you continue to have problems, clear the command station's locomotive slots.  If that does not do the trick, reset the command station to factory default settings.

Sometimes, the command station's slots are full and just need to be cleared out.  Many users do this after each operating session to avoid this issue.  If you are a lone operator, this is not likely to be as big a problem.

The boosters and command stations, DCS50/DCS51, DCS100/DCS200 and DB150 use Option Switches to clear the slots and to reset the units to factory default.

Clear your command station's slots when you see the "Slot Max" or "FuLL" message by closing Option Switch 36.

Completely reset your command station or booster to factory settings by losing Option Switch 39.

Follow these instructions to work with Option Switches in your DCS100/DCS200 and DB150 command station or booster:
1. Place the MODE toggle switch in the Center OP position
Press the "SWCH" key
Enter 3, 6 to clear the slots or 3, 9 to reset the unit to factory defaults
Press the "c" key (which is also the Cloc key). 
5. Now go back to the command station/booster and move the MODE toggle switch Down to "Sleep" and then up to "Run".  

Follow these instructions to work with Option Switches in your DCS50/DCS51 command station/booster:
1. Press the "PROG" key
Press the "SWCH" key
Enter 3, 9 to reset the unit to factory defaults
Press the "c / -" key (which is also the CV-WR key).
Press the "EXIT" key


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Questions or Comments on this article? Please visit helpdesk.digitrax.com and submit a ticket. Please reference the KB article number in your ticket.