Universal IV electrical problems

I am having problems with the electrical system on my Universal IV and need advice!  The cover was off the electrical control box as the carriage has not been breaking consistently on the feed board end for the last couple runs, but it was usable. Recently, when I flipped the press on, I saw a few sparks out of the corner of my eye come from the electrical box, and now it is really broken!  No scorching or evidence is visible, but now the carriage does not respond to any of the user controls. It does not matter what mode the press is set to (Manual, Cycle), no response. When I flip the on switch, the pilot light comes on, and the ink drum motor runs, but nothing else. Engaging the limit switches on the back side of the press by hand seems to activate the corresponding relays as expected. If I engage (push in) the forward or reverse “reversing switches” in the electrical box with a wooden stick, the carriage moves, but still no response from any of the user controls. Manually moving the carriage to the center of the bed, there is still no response from the “manual control lever” forward or reverse.  It is as if everything is working, but the user controls are not connected.

Scan_Pic0350The local electrician has worked on the press before, but it is way out of his comfort zone, so if anyone has any ideas that would be a big help. Below is the electrical diagram, and a video I took of the electrical box back when it was actually behaving. I know the Universal IV is a rare press, and the electrical system is not exactly the same as the smaller Universals, but any suggestions would be much appreciated. Likewise, I am in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State, so if anyone happens to know of an electrician out here who might be able to help, please let me know.



10 thoughts on “Universal IV electrical problems

  1. Rob LoMascolo - January 24, 2015

    The new resisters. . . .

  2. Rob LoMascolo - January 24, 2015

    I replaced the 2 and 200 ohm resisters today. The first picture shows the original resistors. Although working, considerable deterioration is visible on the 2 ohm, so I decided to replace both.

    The 2 ohm resister was not labeled, but I replaced it with a CLAROSTAT VP-50-K 2, 411-9048, and it is working well. The other was replaced with an OHMITE 0400H, same as the original. The newly installed and working resistors are pictured below.

  3. The Arm NYC - January 21, 2015

    Yes, the one pictured might have been a bad example. Keep an eye out for ones that are 110- I couldn’t possibly have bought them all! ;)


  4. Rob LoMascolo - January 21, 2015

    I don’t know if the limit switches are the same, but I bought the internal micro switches NOS on eBay, part number BZ-2RQ68 or BZ-RQ68 (interchangeable I hope as the ones I got are mixed). They were only about $14 each, so not so bad. I replaced all four switches, and the breaking issue has not returned.

    I have been looking for spare RBM contactors, but have not found an exact match. The one you show, with blue background, I recognize from eBay. The trouble is it is 250v, not 110V, but maybe the contacts are interchangeable? I have one NOS complete DOSX-59T relay, used for the “rear relay,” “front relay,” and “time delay relay,” but am looking for more of those too.

    I will update how the 2 ohm resister replacement goes once I get it.

  5. The Arm NYC - January 21, 2015

    I would also suggest you keep an eye on eBay for some contactor assemblies from which you can pillage some spare points. Search “RBM contactor” and look for something that looks like yours and requires the same power. Specs may be different, but the parts you need should be interchangeable. I’ve had good luck with this and have never had to spend much money.


  6. The Arm NYC - January 21, 2015

    Does your press have the same limit switches as the smaller Vandercook Universals? If so, you might consider replacing the entire unit BZE6-2RN2. The first thing I do when I drag in a new Uni is replace all four.


  7. Rob LoMascolo - January 18, 2015

    Thanks for the tip, but I finally figured it out, and the press is working better than ever! It turns out that my stereo photographer friend Diego, who lives just a couple miles away, had studied electrical engineering in college! He came right over when I told him my woes.

    It took about eight hours of head scratching and wire tracing, but we finally got it! It turned out to be two unrelated problems consisting of a broken (shorted) wire and a bad limit switch. None of the relays were actually the culprit.

    The bad limit switch (2LS) is what had been causing the press to not break properly in the first place. The limit switch always tested as good, but we discovered a considerable delay in the time from when the switch was depressed until it actually closed the circuit. The switch was also apparently the cause of a lot of clatter and sparking of the “Rear Relay.” I ordered new micro switches (BZ-2RQ68), but in the meantime, I was able to force the bad micro switch open and clean the internal contacts. I am not talking about taking apart the limit switch housing, but taking apart the actual sealed black plastic switch inside. The inside of the switch was filled with black sticky molasses like oil that was causing everything to move very slowly and stick together. It is somewhat puzzling as to how just so much oil had entered the sealed switch, but it must have been slowly entering through the plunger over the years. After a thorough cleaning, supergluing the switch back together, and reinstalling, the delay disappeared. Once the replacements arrive I will remove the superglued switch, but it is working really nicely at the moment. I was able to turn the braking control knob way down, and the “cams” that depress the limit switches needed to be readjusted to make up for the new prompt breaking. Obviously this switch had been going down hill for a very long time!

    As to the larger problem, the lack of any response from the controls, proved far more difficult to solve. The major problem was that the electrical diagram in the manual (NA Graphics copy I think) did not match the press. I don’t know if the press was professionally modified at some point, or if Vandercook changed the design during production. The problem turned out to be a wire short in circuitry that does not exist in the diagram! On the diagram, 6 wires are shown going to the “drive” motor (carriage motor). On my press, 8 wires run to the motor! I would be curious to know if this is true of the other Uni IVs out there. Anyway, wires number 1 and 9 are the additional two wires that run to the motor, and number 9 had shorted close to the wire nuts that attach the “rubber cord” inside the motor base. An easy fix, but very difficult to find. It is strange that power would be sent all the way from the “manual control lever” through the motor, and then back to the electrical box to power the “reversing switches.” Perhaps wires 1 and 9 connect to a thermal protection switch inside the motor? It is impossible to tell, and according to the electrical diagram none of that circuitry to the motor exists. The rubber insulation on the wires in the motor, connecting the “rubber cord” to the coils, is breaking down and the wires may need to be replaced in the not so distant future. I don’t know how difficult this will be, but the motor will need to be pulled apart. The “rubber cord” has already been replaced years ago. If I get around to redrawing the electrical diagram, I will post it.

    We also found considerable corrosion to the 2 ohm resister, so I will be replacing it and the 200 ohm resister shortly.

    Thank you all for the help, and I hope this long explanation may be of some little use to someone else!

  8. The Arm NYC - January 18, 2015

    You might try contacting this guy-


  9. Rob LoMascolo - January 16, 2015

    Thanks for the suggestions, but still no luck. I tested all of the fuses, removing each one and testing them individually with a simple circuit consisting of an AA battery and a voltmeter. They all work, but I did notice that the two 7 amp fuses have been replaced with 20 amp fuses.

    If the carriage is at the feed board, and the power is flipped on, the “rear relay” activates. Moving the “manual control lever” creates no visible sparking or noise, even with the room lights off.

    Fiddling with the speed control makes no difference in getting the carriage to respond to the “manual control lever”. As I mentioned before, engaging (pushing in) the forward or reverse “reversing switches” in the electrical box with a wooden stick makes the carriage move, but no response from the “manual control lever”.

    I checked the points on the forward and reverse relays, they look ok. I don’t know about the points on the reversing switches.

  10. The Arm NYC - January 15, 2015

    Hi Rob,
    Have you had any luck with this? I would suggest you first swap the fuses. It can be hard to tell if one is bad. Then get down in front of the box and try sending the press forward with the lever and see if you see any arcing. Consult the manual and make sure you know the difference between the relays and the reversing switches or none of this is going to make sense. You can sometimes get an electrical current jump on one of the relays if the electromagnetic reversing switches aren’t engaging correctly. I had this happen once and it cooked a solder joint on a corner of the forward relay which needed to be redone. The cure was new points in the reversing switches to replace some that were badly pitted and not providing good continuity.

    Another thing worth checking is that the speed control variac is making good contact. If it isn’t you can sometimes get it to engage by pulling out slightly on the speed control knob when the press is on and engaged to run forward. If this makes it go forward, you might get away with simply loosening the set screw on the knob, pushing on the back inside of the variac, and re-tightening the set screw. If that isn’t enough additional pressure, try taking off the knob and adding a washer on the shaft beneath it. It sounds crazy, but one of my Universal IIIs has been running with this quick fix for three years. I thought it would let me finish the job on the press, but it ran so well I just let it be.


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