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The Troubleshooting Checklist I Developed for Our Field Techs

It’s easy to overlook the simple solutions when troubleshooting. Which is why a colleague and I developed a prioritized checklist for use in the field for both service techs and for ourselves. Here are things we have our teams check.

A few months ago, I wrote about a project that a colleague of mine had done with a three-zone AVR to power two video zones and a third audio-only zone. Things seemed to be working well until the client recently reached out and asked my colleague to take a look at the system because the second zone was not turning off the audio reliably, and was not turning on either video or audio reliably. In the short term, programming was changed to allow the client to quickly press a custom button to turn off the audio if it didn’t turn off correctly the first time, but this was obviously not ideal and not an acceptable long-term solution for the client or the integrator.

He went to the client’s home and was able to quickly recreate the problems. The audio often would not turn off via the “room off” command for the master bedroom (Zone 2) and when turning on the zone, the TV reliably turned on but the AVR’s Zone 2 did not—leading to the dreaded “no signal” message from the TV.

He tried everything: tweaking the programming, adding in redundant programming, changing communication from IP to serial, using different drivers to fool the AVR into turning on. Nothing was working consistently. He got on the phone with Control4 tech support, which confirmed that the Control4 controller was sending the signals to the AVR, so it seemed that there was either something going on in the driver or in the AVR. After 90 minutes of unproductive time, he finally had the “aha!” moment and updated the firmware in the AVR. Ten minutes of waiting for the firmware to update and everything worked perfectly after that.

Image: Thinkstock

This story just goes to show that no matter how experienced or how thorough you are, it is easy to overlook the simple solution and go right to the more complex (programming, drivers, control protocols) and ignore the basic. That is why he and I have now developed a troubleshooting checklist for use in the field for both service techs and for ourselves. Here are things we have our teams check, in approximately the order they should be checked:

  1.  Reboot Troublesome Devices
  2. IP Addresses: Are the devices online and on their static IP addresses? (Fing is a GREAT tool here)
  3. Power Cables: Is everything plugged in and getting power?
  4. AV and Networking Cables: Are all cables securely attached and in the correct ports?
  5. IR Emitters: Are they in the right location on the device? Are they plugged into the processor securely and in the right port? Are they flashing?
  6. Firmware: Check for updates
  7. AV and Networking Cables: Test cables and replace any that seem frayed, damaged or are in the signal path that isn’t working. Replace one by one to isolate the trouble spot
  8. See If Issue is Replicable on Other Devices (ie. if there is no picture to the living room TV, what happens when you take the feed coming out of the matrix switch for the bedroom TV and route it to the living room)
  9. Programming: Is there anything that can be tweaked in programming to fix the issue?
  10. Components: Replace any small components (baluns, switches, IR blocks, etc.) that may be causing a problem, again one by one to isolate issues

Notice how the list goes essentially from the easiest to the hardest to execute. You don’t want to waste time in programming or moving components around or swapping out system components if something was just unplugged from power or a simple reboot or firmware update would have solved it.

What else would you add to the list? What priority would you give it?