Checking power to the motor

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holmesjtg
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Checking power to the motor

Hi all,

My C-124 quit on me the other day, fortunately less than a mile from work. Basically, I have power from the batteries (i.e. lights work), but the motor does not engage. I half suspect the throttle, since it's been a bit flaky over the past few months, but I was wondering what might be the best way to diagnose this problem. I have a volt meter but am unsure which wires to test. Anyone have any tips for this issue?

Many thanks,
Jeff

LCJUTILA
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Re: Checking power to the motor

Hi Jeff,

Sorry to hear about your problem.

Have you tried to contact Terry Richards at Current Motor? I think if you email him with high priority he may get back to you.

Terry Richards [Terry.Richards [at] currentmotor.com]

I had a similar problem a while back with my C-130 and it turned out to be the Bike Control Unit. I replaced it and it has been fine ever since.

LCJUTILA

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Re: Checking power to the motor

Jeff,
It may well be the throttle or it could be one of the other systems that disable the throttle.
It could be a brake switches or the kickstand switch are not working properly and rendering the throttle inoperative.
Kickstand down- Throttle off.
Brakes On- Throttle off.
That is the way it is supposed to work but if one of those systems has a problem it can seem like the throttle doesn't work.
Has the kickstand switch gotten dirty over the winter?

LCJUTILA

PJD
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Re: Checking power to the motor

LCJUTILA's comments are a good start. Malfunctioning kickstand or brake handle switches are a big source of stoppage.

Are you getting any error flashes on either the dash panel LED or the LED on the Kelly controller?

Do you have the BCUAccess software and the USB-to-6-pin connector to the BCU to use it? You can easily check a lot of things from the dashboard function - similar to an OBD (on board diagnostics) in a car.

The throttle has 3 wires - ground, +5V and 0-5V at the throttle - so the voltages of these can be checked. You will have to figure out which wire is which. The BCU takes the throttle signal as input and outputs a modified throttle signal in response to various condition like motor or pack temperature and the setting of the lo-hi switch, so of course a dead BCU also bricks the scooter. But I assume the "fuel gauge" is working, and you are getting the usual normal LED signals (kickstand down, brakes engaged) - if so, the BCU us working. My guess is it is the throttle if you are lucky, or the Kelly if you are a bit less lucky.

I got my connector and also a USB Tiny for uploading the BCU firmware from Current fairly early on, when John Harding was still there. Once John departed (or more likely, ousted with walking money and a gag order), Current seemed to begin regarding this ordinary service equipment and information as "proprietary" and became much less helpful.

I have been calling Terry to request a comprehensive wiring diagram - or at least the BCU connector pin assignments, plus a couple used cells to replace a couple cells that are performing poorly in colder weather on my bike, but most of a year of trying, no go except a single power wiring diagram last year. E-mail definitely does not work.

I can provide copies of the BCU software and driver, the documentation (paper copy only I think) and pin/USB pin assignments so maybe you can make or have someone make your own service cable.

I also have a used Kelly for the 24 cell (72V) version of the scooter.

holmesjtg
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Re: Checking power to the motor

Hi guys,

Thanks for the ideas and suggestions. I'm not getting any LED error lights on the dash and since the throttle was acting up a bit over the last few weeks, that's what I'm thinking is the issue as well. The fuel gauge is working so hopefully that means the BCU is okay, as you suggest. The throttle flakiness was basically that even when sitting at idle, there would be a little power applied unless I pushed the throttle handle in on the handle bar. In other words, it seems like the throttle mechanism was getting worn so that it would engage slightly even when not rotated. Anyway, I'll report back after I've had a chance to chat with Terry and do some more investigating.

As an aside, if the bike keeps going downhill, do you think there is any market for the batteries and other components? Or would it make more sense to try and sell the whole thing as a "project"? Not there yet, but seem to be heading that way, unfortunately.

Cheers,
Jeff

Jeff Holmes
Wheels: Current Motor Co C124
Work: Encyclopedia of Life www.eol.org

PJD
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Re: Checking power to the motor

Jeff,

How many miles are on it? Any other problems with it?

Unfortunately, the bike is not worth much except to a tinkerer as a project. The 5 year old used batteries are not worth much even if the mileage is low. "Derby" has been trying to sell his with no luck.

A throttle is one of the less expensive things to replace, so I'd do that.

Mine has only become more reliable free with age - aside from the cheaply-built Chinese switches and speedo. My battery pack is showing its age in colder weather riding (but I don't ride a below 18F or so), but it still works fine in warm weather. My main worry is whether GBS Battery will still be in business when I do reach the point of needing to replace the pack to maintain good performance perhaps in another couple years - battery tray modifications will be needed for any other cell as far as I can tell - and the BMS only works with LiFePO4 cells which are on their way out technology-wise - being replaced with Lithium-Nickel-Manganese-Cobalt-Oxide (NMC) cells such as the LEAF cells which are available for cheaper and far better quality. Modifying the BMS to work with the higher voltage of these cells would probably not be hard - but I don't expect Current Motor to provide me with the information to do it.

Update: oops, spoke too soon. The turn signals stopped working today - probably a bad flasher. I have been using LED lights for everything except the headlights. How many drivers recognize hand signals these days?

Update again: I had a spare flasher - fixed. The only thing wrong with the old flasher was a broken wire from fatigue - I tidied the wiring up under the "beak" way bvack, but failed to notice that the the wires were getting flexed where they enter the flasher case every time the handlebar got turned.

Solar Steve
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Re: Checking power to the motor

I had like problem, Your power to lights indicates that the 24 volt converter under the seat is ok. The controller in the rear has 3 heavy cables out to the motor. If one of those fails, you get low (30%) power from the remaining single phase. So its not those big cables to the motor.
Of course your thought of the twist throttle being defective could be correct. Very likely, from my own experience, a wire could be loose out of one of those automotive plug/socket connectors. There are several outside of the motor controller, small colored wires going through white plastic plug and socket connectors as I recall. (I sold my 124 last year). I had to repair two of those, one by the motor controller and another under the seat for the 24 volt converter. so just look at all the signal wires and connectors, see any loose ones hanging out, or a different number going in one side of the plug than comes out the other. Usually colors match, so if you find say a green wire loose, look for a connector with a green going in one side and none out the other. Tough to replace to original, so I just solder spliced the loose wire to the one is matches.

Solar Steve
Off Grid Photovoltaics
in North Idaho

holmesjtg
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Re: Checking power to the motor

Hi guys,

Thanks for all the info and updates. The problem with mine ended up being a broken wire (the red one) in the throttle mechanism. It was under that small triangular piece of plastic that can be unscrewed. Anyway, looks like a pain to re-solder so I'm looking for a replacement. I guess something generic might do but I was wondering if anyone has a specific part they could point me to.

I have tried multiple times to call and email Terry but to no avail. Maybe he's moved on to other things?

Hoping to keep my scooter going for at least another year - as you point out, doesn't seem to be much of a market for these, except as a tinkerer project. When it comes time, I'll likely try to contact a local enthusiasts group to see if I can interest someone in it as a "project".

Jeff

Jeff Holmes
Wheels: Current Motor Co C124
Work: Encyclopedia of Life www.eol.org

LCJUTILA
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Re: Checking power to the motor

Good news that you found the problem!
Since you are going to try and find a replacement anyway, maybe you could cut away some of the plastic that is making it tricky to solder so you have a better shot?
I am not the best solderer in the world but there is a very low voltage going through the throttle so it would take very little solder to get the job done.

LCJUTILA

holmesjtg
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Re: Checking power to the motor

I thought about it but found a replacement on eBay for around $6. It was also acting up a bit before this happened so getting a new one seems like a better move. What I don't want is to be far away somewhere and my amateur solder job fail on me!

Jeff Holmes
Wheels: Current Motor Co C124
Work: Encyclopedia of Life www.eol.org

PJD
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Re: Checking power to the motor

I have tried multiple times to call and email Terry but to no avail. Maybe he's moved on to other things?

I am not happy with the way Current motor has hung us out to dry. I suspect that Terry would like to help us - but perhaps he has been told to stop his support of the test pilot scooters. The investors at the top of the company regard pretty much everything needed to service the scooters as "intellectual property" (even though the Arduino and its programming used in the BCU is open-source) and are not giving the information out - especially if they go out of business.

Do you even have a copy of the BCU hex file and the tools to flash it onto the BCU? Do you have the BCU configuration software and cable needed to change the configuration? Without it, you are one digital hiccup from bricking your scooter.

But do you live in Boston? Becasue I thought that Massachusetts has a "right to repair" law requiring that vehicle manufacturers to not keep service information "proprietary".

Another thing that might work at getting them to return a phone call is to tell them that you are a representative of Halliburton or Shlumberger interested in one of their scooters-in-a-solar-box thingys. One of their markets for the things is for remote oil exploration sites.

LCJUTILA
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Re: Checking power to the motor

Let us know whether the throttle you purchased worked, what type it is and where you got it!
Thanks!

LCJUTILA

holmesjtg
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Re: Checking power to the motor

Hi all,

Just had my first commute in for a while on the scooter after a successful throttle replacement. As lame as it sounds, the part I got cost just $5.73 (including shipping!). Bought it here (http://www.ebay.com/itm/371288473668?_trksid=p2060353.m2749.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT) from eBay. Or search for Electric Scooter Bike Throttle Grip for Electric Throttle Motorcycle. Although it's obviously very cheaply made, it seems to do the trick.

Has anyone replace their rear pads? I need to do that so I'll be trying to find a source for those as well.

Cheers,
Jeff

Jeff Holmes
Wheels: Current Motor Co C124
Work: Encyclopedia of Life www.eol.org

LCJUTILA
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Re: Checking power to the motor

PJD posted the link below:

http://absolutelyscooters.net/

They look like they have rear brake pads as well as most body panels and lots of other good stuff!

LCJUTILA

PJD
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Re: Checking power to the motor

Yup. Absolutelyscooters provides very good service and always has the part in stock. The scooter you are looking for for all parts for the Current is called the "Touring 150DE".

A hint about the rear brakes - they are not mounted in the "stock" position with the bleeder fitting at the high point of the caliper cylinder, so if you need to bleed them, you need to remove and orient the caliper so the bleeder fitting is upward using s piece of wood lath or other shim between the calipers. Just allow gravity to do the bleeding - don't pump the brake handle. Also, take _extreme_ care not to spill any brake fluid on any plastic body parts - the cheap Chinese plastic cracks and literally crumbles a couple days after exposure to brake fluid.

holmesjtg
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Re: Checking power to the motor

Hi guys,

Thanks for the advice about the brake pads. I'll do some more checking on the site, but when I last looked, the only thing that comes up under "Touring 150DE pads" is a set of front brake pads. I'm assuming rear would be different?

Now, onto the real problem. My bike has developed a bad habit of suddenly losing all battery life for no apparent reason at all. For some history, this has been going on for quite a while. The typical scenario was that it would happen after a weekend of it resting (I would charge it after work on Friday evening). Everything would look fine on the 'fuel' gauge and it would show the gradual drain as expected while I drove into work. But occasionally, at some point in my ride, the gauge would just drop to almost zero and I would have to limp to work (or home, depending on when it happened) in low power mode. Lately, it's been getting worse. On Monday it did it again on my way home only this time it really dropped to zero so I couldn't even go anywhere in low power mode. Well, it gave me a couple of brief starts but that was about it. Then yesterday, after driving about 12 miles on a full charge (again with the gauge showing the expected drain as I went), it suddenly went to zero again. I fortunately wasn't too far from home and so pushed it the rest of the way and charged it up last night. Made it to work today but am wondering if I'll make it home.

A couple of things: 1) The gauge seems to show proper drainage up to the point it suddenly drops to nothing. 2) Charging up appears to be working normally. 3) It originally started doing this only after sitting for a couple of days but, sadly, now appears to be able to do it at will.

So, any ideas? Is it likely that some of the cells are fooling the software? I thought it unlikely since the drain on the gauge appeared so normal but who knows? It's also strange to me that it would so suddenly drop to empty.

Anyway, it anyone has any thoughts, I'd really appreciate it!

I did call Current today and nobody answered. Maybe they have closed shop?

Cheers,
Jeff

Jeff Holmes
Wheels: Current Motor Co C124
Work: Encyclopedia of Life www.eol.org

LCJUTILA
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Re: Checking power to the motor

Is this the right link for rear brake pads?
http://absolutelyscooterparts.net/catalog/square-style-brake-pads-p-308.html?osCsid=sf8fm93b8c3fbqgc2cns906ir0
Are the front and rear pads the same?

LCJUTILA

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Re: Checking power to the motor

Use MG Chemicals Super Contact Cleaner .. see my earlier post today on another topic.

PJD
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Re: Checking power to the motor

Jeff,

Do you get a light flashing the code for "pack at zero" (3 short, 1 long)? A low voltage cutoff from a cell with too much resistance will give a momentary shutoff then a different code - but the bike will still run normally (as long as you dont draw too much current again) and the fuel gauge indication will not change.

It is probably just the BCU software is corrupt and needs to be re-flashed with a fresh copy of the .hex file. But checking and cleaning all the connectors (since Current refuses to provide specific pinout assignments) into and out of the BCU is a good idea too.

I assume you don't have a "USB Tiny" and driver, and the BCU management software? I can provide the software user guide and information on obtaining the USB Tiny needed for re flashing the BCU and the pin assignments for making your own USB/serial connector cable need for the BCU configuration.

Also, has Current returned any of your calls?

Paul

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Re: Checking power to the motor

Is this the right link for rear brake pads?
http://absolutelyscooterparts.net/catalog/square-style-brake-pads-p-308.html?osCsid=sf8fm93b8c3fbqgc2cns906ir0
Are the front and rear pads the same?

No, it is this:

http://absolutelyscooterparts.net/catalog/brake-pads-with-hook-guide-p-310.html

The pads are the same front and back.

The pins for removing the pads might be very tight - use a good-quality hex socket - not an Allen key-type wrench.

holmesjtg
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Re: Checking power to the motor

Thanks Paul for the info on the software and brakes. The problem with the dead pack episodes I've been having does make the fuel gauge go to zero and the bike doesn't run. So I guess it means that it isn't a low voltage cutoff from a cell? If you could send me the info on getting the software, etc. for reflashing the BCU, I'd certainly give it a try. My email is jeff [at] twenda.com if you need to contact me directly. I'd really appreciate it! I should also try cleaning the connectors as you suggest since they are no doubt far from pristine at this stage.

Never heard back anything from Current so I'm assuming they have all moved on to other things. Strange not to hear from Terry though as he has always been such a great help and I know in the past has kept an eye on this forum as well.

Cheers,
Jeff

Jeff Holmes
Wheels: Current Motor Co C124
Work: Encyclopedia of Life www.eol.org

PJD
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Re: Checking power to the motor

If they are still in business, they should be supporting the scooters.

I'd love it if I could find out how to get in contact with John Harding.

Are you getting any codes from the led on your dash panel when it happens?

I will e-mail you a package of software and documentation. The USB Tiny programmer used to flash the firmware can be obtained in kit from here for $22 - have you done some soldering? I could order and build it and sell it to you if you haven't - but I can't promise a fast turnaround.

http://www.adafruit.com/products/46

The other hardware you will need (besides a laptop or notebook PC) is a USB-to-6x1 pin female header connector that is used by "BCUAcces" to configure the firmware settings. After flashing, a calibration procedure is needed so the fuel gauge will register correctly. I can try to give you the USB to 6x1 pin assignments (I'll need to probe it with a continuity meter to determine the pin assignments) but you will be on your own in building one. I guess I could build one of those too.

LCJUTILA
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Re: Checking power to the motor

Current Motor has a Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/CurrentMotorCompany/events?ref=page_internal

Their last post to it was at the end of May.
I am not on Facebook but if anyone else is and wants to try to communicate with them maybe we can get some results.

LCJUTILA

PJD
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Re: Checking power to the motor

I am also one who eschews "social media". But even if Current is not out of business I think that it has made a "business decision" to hang us out to dry. So the best help would come from John Harding who presumably has a Facebook or maybe more likely, a LinkedIn page. The correspondence with him probably has to be secret - I suspect that Current made him sign a gag-order as part of a severance deal.

I'm pretty sure that the current BCU is just a easily available Atmel microcontroller. So it should be easy to replace with a little soldering work. It would be nice to have pin assignments and a wiring diagram for troubleshooting - and the BCU source code, but the Vectrix bunch have soldiered on with much less info. To most important thing is to get the 12V (actually 13.5V) DC-DC converter separated from the BCU board since the heat from it that is what is probably ruining the BCU in a lot of cases. Changing to LED lighting (except the headlights - although LED headlamps are becoming available too) is another way to fix the problem.

LCJUTILA
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Re: Checking power to the motor

On your BCU comment, I had to replace mine a while back and there was discussion with Terry about it getting too hot due to it's proximity to the DC Converter....
I lessened the load on the converter to lower the temperature by switching out Brake/Tail lights and the Headlights and little running lights that share the housing with the headlights all with LED bulbs.
The Hi/Low Beam switch no longer works with the headlights I ended up with but I have had no further problems.
There is better than stock illumination now too.

LCJUTILA

PJD
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Re: Checking power to the motor

Another place where LEDs should be used is in the panel - the bulbs are small but there are a lot of them. I've got a fair number of spares I can sell...

What headlights did you end up with? I rigged H4's in mine - the dumb hard way - cutting the tabs on the bulb so they fit on faston connectors rather than just buying a bulb socket. I also put a switch in the low-beam circuit on the handlebars so I can run just the little running lights (which I put brighter LED's on) in the daytime - yeah not the best from a riding safety standpoint. The BCU enclosure just gets barely warm now.

I wonder how many spare parts are laying around in Current's Ann Arbor office/shop that are useless to them, but would be very useful to us.

Short of burgulary, the only way we will probably get access to them is through a court-ordered auction as part of a bankruptcy - so maybe bankruptcy might be the best thing to happen to them from our perspective.

andydamis
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Re: Checking power to the motor

I had the same problem and it turned out to be a bad cell. Terry or Steven flew out to Seattle and replaced the cell (and maybe the controller at the same time???). Terry explained that when a cell drops out, the controller disables the bike and that many chinese bikes have the low cell limit disabled so the bike will continue working with reduced voltage, but that is not how CMC programmed these.

P.S. I have a C130. Currently not running due to a failed batt temp sensor. Going to try to replace them after letting the bike sit for nearly a year. Just wish I could find the step by step directions Terry put together for me.

PJD
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Re: Checking power to the motor

Actually, most Chinese electric scooters don't have a BMS or any pack protection at all.

Current uses a BMS and a Atmel-based microcontroller (the BMS) of their own design. Jeff's description of the problem - the fuel gauge going to zero, and a switch to low-speed mode, does not occur from a LVC from a low cell with the newest firmware version - the scooter momentarily stumbles - then you get warning flashes on the panel LED. Although it may do that with older versions where the designer John H, had put entirely too many safety-shutdowns in it. With the old program version, I found myself stuck with a totally disabled scooter becasue of just a bad battery pack temp sensor. And even just a moderately hot summer day would put the scooter in reduced speed mode because of "overheating".

Regarding the failed battery temp sensor the easiest fix either to upgrade to the new firmware. You will get warning flashes - but the scooter will run normally. Alternatively, you can replace the bad thermistor with a appropriate resistor mounted in a rain-proof area (I'll follow up with the best value) and be done with it. The reason the thermistor (always the aft-mounted one) goes bad is that the rear wheel throws water onto the battery pack and the thermistor is not waterproof. I fixed this condition on my C124 when I enlarged the under seat storage area - the compartment box is sealed onto the little "fender" that, on the C130, additional cells are mounted.

Replacing the thermistors is pretty easy. I can try to provide the procedure if you want. The hardest part is removing bodywork. You should cut away the glued-down under-seat storage area bottom and re-rig it to be removable with screws . This keeps you from having to literally remove all that bodywork around the seat just to get at the top of the battery pack and BMS. You can really tell that Current's staff came from the US auto industry - becasue they designed the thing with absolutely zero thought as to serviceability. In one of their service "recalls" they even reversed one of their "good ideas" and removed the loop of slack on motor-lead wires that allowed a tire to be changed without disconnecting the wheel from the controller. I made sure that did _not_ do this on mine.

We really need to form an a technical information community here like the Vectrix owners have successfully formed.

LCJUTILA
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Re: Checking power to the motor

I agree on forming a technical information community.
I have not said what kind of LED headlight bulb I used because I do not recall. It was a direct plug and play though and was fairly expensive.

LCJUTILA

PJD
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Re: Checking power to the motor

Just to add another comment since the topic has wandered to the problem of weak or failing cells.

One thing that is pretty much mandatory to have on the CuMoCo or any other EV that does not have a full-blown cell-health monitoring syatem in the manner of an electric car, is a means to easily check individual cell voltages without any disassembly. The first of many mods I did to my C124 was to rig a pair female connectors, mounted under the charging door cover, to the BMS leads so that I can check the voltage of each cell with a voltmeter (by probing each adjacent pair of pins in the connector). Back in 2011, bugged John, Eric, and Terry about adding such a cell-check feature to their scooters, but they never did.

I still have an e-mail I got from an early CuMoCo staff with the BMS wire color assignments for each cell number to make the work easier if anyone wants it.

Mostly, we need some kind of repository where we can put such useful information. Ideas?

andydamis
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Re: Checking power to the motor

Wow Paul. Good thing Terry didn't reply to me quickly, otherwise I would have never looked here for answers.

Not only will I be able to correct my crappy acceleration issues - which can be a real problem here in Seattle - but I also will stop the extremely annoying "breakdowns" that happen every time I hit a certain bump on my way to work. I can't even remember how many times I have had to ask my friend with the hitch mounted scooter carrier to haul me back home.

So, I think I have everything needed to upgrade the firmware. Is it just the flat 6(?)-pin flat connector with the sd card at the other end of the wire? If so, where do I find the update? The BCUAccess9600.exe program I have is 323KB dated June 12, 2012. Is that the latest version of that program?

Any assistance and tips you can provide will be greatly appreciated. I'll read up on the other thread for updating the controller.

Thanks.

Andy

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