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In less than 3 years I have built the almost, unenviable reputation for mount tuning. As one

of only a handful of mount tuning businesses world wide we can safely say we're pretty

experienced at what we do.

In this first of series of Editorials you'll discover how to get more out of your mount to get

even better imaging with just a few basic tweaks and changes to your set up..

First off – your mount is actually quite a precision bit of kit and needs to be treated as such.

The recent trend for Hyper-tuning has become quite a double edged sword. Telescope

Mount manufacturers do everything they can to keep you buying their brand. In the case of

SkyWatcher (much like BMW) they want you to work your way through their levels of product

from the lowly EQ2 with a clock drive to an EQ8 which comes complete with 'grab handles'!


Like anything mechanical it has a life span and this can be extended through servicing. This

is the bit that polarises the entire Astro-community, because these mounts have become so

popular over the past 15 – 20 years, with astrophotography being seen as the saviour of

astronomy in general. Quite simply, no-one really considers these mounts not working, but

like anything, they do wear out. Looking after your mount saves you a lot of money,

maintains performance and therefore helps resale value – should you wish to upgrade, or

hyper-tuning your mount means that you may not have to.



Tip 1, Let's look at how your mount is stored. Most people usually end up storing it in a

case, but we have come across a number of mount that have suffered from quite a lot of

internal corrosion.

Keep your mount dry or allow it to dry off. It doesn't matter if it gets wet during an evening

session with dew etc... provided the mount is allowed to air off completely and dry before

storing away in a case or bag.


Tip 2. Exercise your mount regularly. We had an HEQ-5 in a few months ago that we

converted to a StellarDrive 5, and even though the mount was only about 4 or 5 years old

all 6 axis bearings need to be replaced. What had happened is that the customer had kept the

mount stored in a conservatory over the summer.

The heat soak that built up in the mount emulsified the bearing grease turning it into a grey

putty that leaked out over the inside of the mount. He hadn't used the mount for several

months but upon running it and readying it for the new season, he noticed that the slew

movement wasn't as smooth as before. Storing your mount out of sunlight will also stop any

plastic from yellowing or cracking due to UV exposure.

In fact if your mount is older than 5 years and if you are looking to have it tuned – then

fitting new axis bearings is something we definitely recommend. I spoke to a bearing

manufacturer about some of the problems we had been having. I learned that if the mount is

not regularly exercised then the balls in the bearings themselves will rest against the bearing

cups causing pitting. They are designed to be used reularly.

Whether or not you use the mount during the summer, I would strongly recommend that the

mount is slewed in both RA and DEC axis several times so that the grease inside the

bearings is 'worked' and therefore kept activE.


Tip 3. Use the correct voltage. If you have ever suffered from a blinking power light at the

end of a session or you're trying to slew a heavy telescope, you may need more than the 12

volts or amps than you think. We test all our SkyWatcher mounts at 13.8 volts. In the

owners manuals it is stated 11 – 15 volts, but in tests we found that the sweet spot for better

tracking, regardless of payload, is between 13.2v and 13.8 volts. No need to go higher as

we've tested 13.8v at maximum payload.

If you are using a battery out in the field keeping it insulated and off the ground (especially

if it's a wet lead acid deep cycle type) this means that you'll be able to image for far longer.

Typically, lead acid batteries will lose up to 50% of their capacity when affected by cold.

Considering that most of us image during the winter outside, at temperatures less than 5ºC,

keeping your battery nice and 'snuggly' saves a lot of frustration.