Yaesu FT-90R squelch problems

When I got back into ham radio in 2003, Debra bought me a Yaesu FT-90R dual band mobile radio for the truck. I’ve used it quite a bit over the years and have been really happy with its performance until recently.

I noticed a couple of weeks ago that the plastic or vinyl covering on the microphone cord is coming apart. It’s falling apart at both ends, revealing the individual wires. I’ve taped it up temporarily, but in the near future I’ll need to replace that cord. That’s disappointing, as the radio is less than 10 years old and it’s not like I’ve been using it excessively. For sure, being in the truck all the time during the hot summers can’t be especially good for the cord, but I’ve seen much older radios handle that for many decades. It looks to me like Yaesu used substandard materials for their microphone cords.

The microphone cable is a relatively minor problem. This past weekend I discovered a much worse problem: the squelch stopped working. If I turn the squelch up so that I don’t have to listen to the background static, I’m unable to hear transmissions from others. Sometimes this manifests as total silence, and other times it’s an intermittent reception. It sounds like somebody is turning the speaker off and back on a few times per second. It makes the signal almost intelligible.

As it so often turns out, I’m not the only one who’s experienced this problem. In fact, it appears to be relatively well known. Evidently the problem only manifests when the frequency step is set to 5 KHz. Or perhaps if it’s set to anything except 10 KHz. It’s interesting that one site says that the problem is more prevalent on UHF (440 MHz), and others say that the problem is primarily on 2 meters.

I’ve experienced trouble on both bands.

Apparently this is a software problem rather than a hardware problem. The only solution I’ve seen is, “don’t use the 5 KHz step.” That’s easy enough to change from the radio’s options menu, but then I won’t be able to access some repeaters. This morning, for example, there was an emergency situation (toxic fuel spill) and hams were called out to help with notifying residents. The coordinating repeater frequency is 441.625. If I forego the 5 KHz step, I would not be able to hear or transmit to that repeater.

The problem appears to be heat related. Some have said that a second cooling fan helps, and still others have recommended removing the radio’s case and cleaning out any accumulated dust. I’ll definitely try cleaning the thing, but I won’t be installing a fan in the truck to blow across the radio or, as somebody suggested, change the air conditioning ducting.

I’m a bit disappointed, because I really like this little radio. It’s small and yet powerful, with a good signal and a good receiver. Some people complain about the fan noise, but I rarely hear it.  But if my only options are to live with no squelch or not use the 5 KHz step, I’ll have to find a new radio for the truck and either sell this one or keep it for an emergency backup.

I wonder what dual band mobile rigs are going for these days . . .