Our equipment posts cover the making, modification and use of observatories, telescopes and equipment. Select the posts for more information on the topics.
The EQ6 has standard brass gears on the stepper motor and worm gear, with a ‘transfer’ gear to translate the stepper motion to the worm gear.
These gears introduce errors and backlash, the belt drive mod is designed to replace these gears with a timing belt
Replacement of the gears for a belt drive is straightforward but will take a day to do properly. Instructions are provided with the kit from Rowan Astronomy and another useful resource is the hyper-tune instructions from astro-baby.com
There are a couple of tricky steps
- Removing the adapter at the bottom of the polar scope shaft – you will need a steal belt, oil filter wrench (from Halfords)
- Removing the worm gear caps and the worm gear retaining ring, these can be removed using pointed pose plyers, but you risk damaging the caps if you slip, a better approach is to use the specially designed tool (available from Rowan Astronomy)
- The bolts holding the mount together are steel bolts with M6 threads tapped into the aluminium body – it is very easy to strip the threads be vary careful – if you do strip them you can repair them easily with a Helicoil thread repair kit.
Fitting the belts is easier if you have locking tweezers, but it can be done with your fingers – if you are nimble – there is not much room to manoeuvre inside the mount.
The EQ6 hyper tune is a procedure to strip down and rebuild your mount to improve performance, the exact details are best followed from astro-baby.com so I won’t copy them here. The tune-up includes replacing the plastic shims and replacing them with PTFE ones and replacing the bearings, I replaced the small worm gear bearings and cleaned and re-greased the large bearings.
The best attitude to take when doing this modification is slow and deliberate, if something is not going well or as described in the instructions the best course of action is to stop, have a cup of tea, re-read the instructions and try again.
I took the time to make-up an EQ6 tool set, this includes all the tools needed for the hyper tume, most are common tools you are likely to have available such as screwdrivers and allen keys, the two less common tools are the metal band oil filter wrench (available from Halfords) and the worm bearing cap and retainer removal tool (available from Rowan Astronomy – makers of the EQ6 belt drive mod) the latter you can get away with pointy nosed plyers but you are more likely to scratch the caps without the tool.
The strip-down and rebuild took a total of 20 hours, requires a lot of space and somewhere reasonably clean to lay everything out. It is straightforward if you are mechanically minded, but is a large commitment of time.
To complete the hyper tune required the following parts and consumables.
- 2 rolls of paper towels
- 2L of white spirit
- old tooth brush – for cleaning parts
- clean containers – e.g. ice cream tubs for cleaning parts
- lithium grease for re-greasing bearings and all parts
- PTFE shims of various thicknesses to replace the plastic shims
- New bearings (I just changed the small worm gear bearings)
Expect to spend about £60 on these parts
There was a lot of dirt and grit in the main bearings, quite how this gets in, given they have never been taken apart, is beyond me. To re-grease them requires removing the bearing caps that seal the bearings in, this was done using a modified modelling knife. The bearings were then de-greased using white spirit, the process of removing all the dirt from the bearings took a long time, we kept spinning the bearings in the white spirit to dislodge the dirt until no bits were visible in the pot, regularly changing the white spirit. They were then left to dry naturally on paper towel and before re-greasing were warmed with a hot air gun to ensure all the white spirit had evaporated.
Any parts that required cosmetic repairs were repainted and I also replaced all the rusty screws with new ones.
When we reassembled the EQ6 the Declination worm felt ‘notchy’, so we took the EQ6 apart again and inspected the worm gear, it had a small surface scratch, almost too small to see, but this scratch was getting amplified in the mount, so we polished it out using 2000 grip emery paper on a lathe (you could probably do this in a drill if you don’t have a lathe), this cured the problem.
A massive thank you to Julian Tworek for offering to help complete the hyper-tune, Julian’s patience, experience and perfectionism is exactly what is required to complete this project successfully.
The EQ6 is known for its power connector coming out or momentarily disconnecting, which is not something you want happening in the middle of an imaging session. I’d previously replaced all my power connectors to a type with a locking collar and decided to mod my EQ6 so that all my gear uses the same connector. This is not a particularly hard mod if you are confident around electronics and a soldering iron, but it will obviously void your warranty. You have to choose where to fit the connector carefully to avoid any components on the motherboard. Tapping onto the 12v on the board is pretty easy but worth checking with a multi-meter.
The EQ6 is difficult to polar align in Altitude, especially when fully loaded, the Knobs Mod can help, but only so far because the design of the altitude adjustment is flawed. Modern Astronomy make a ‘rail mod’ this corrects the design and makes precise polar alignment in altitude really smooth. I won’t go into the installation here, but it is straightforward, the altitude bearing/bolt covers are liekly to be damaged when you remove them (I got mine off ok but this is apparently unusual) so the kit does come with some nice metal new ones (although I prefer the originals).
Getting the altitude bearing bolt covers off is the hardest part of this mod, you will likely destroy them, fortunately the kit from Modern Astronomy comes with some new ones.
The Eq6 is fixed to the pier/tripod using a central bolt, but this generates significant friction between the tripod/pier and EQ6 which can make polar alignment along the azimuth axis difficult, you need the central bolt to be tight to ensure no movement but loose to adjust the azimuth for polar alignment, but it can’t be both, fortunately this can be easily fixed.
If you haven’t done it already complete the knobs mod.
I used 1mm thick PTFE sheet, but I know others who have had success with thinner PTFE sheet, you can cut this using sturdy scissors, but I opted to scribe the PTFE using a pair of engineering dividers. Simply place the sheet between the mount and the pier adapter/tripod.
Note image below doesn’t show the hole you have to cut for the lug that protrudes from the pier/tripod which the azimuth adjustment bolts push against.
The polar adjustment knobs on the EQ6 are not very good, upgrading these parts will make your telescope mount much easier to use and therefore will result in better polar alignment leading to better images.
- The Azimuth adjustment knobs are too small to get a good grip on them
- The Azimuth adjustment knobs are too close to the mount, so you either bang your knuckles into the mount or can’t get a propper grip on the knobs.
- The Altitude adjustment bolts are too soft and bend easily
- The handles on the Altitude adjustment bolts are too small and uncomfortable to handle.
Fortunately these problems can be fixed relatively easily by replacing the parts.
- 80mm, M10 clamping knobs with 50mm star shaped knob
- 80mm, M10 machine knobs with adjustable metal handles
This is a straightforward modification, but there are a few things to consider.
- When removing the altitude adjustment bolts remove the telescope and counter weights, also be careful that the mount doesn’t swing down – the mount is heavier that you think so this job is best done on a workbench with the mount laying on its side.
- If you can’t remove the rear (south facing) altitude adjustment bolt – don’t force it, you will damage the thread – it is probably bent! this is a common problem with the EQ6. Unfortunately fixing it, although straight forward, does require removing the circular caps and unbolting the the central altitude bearing bolt and almost everyone who tries this damages the end caps covering the altitude bearing bolt. These caps are glued in place with what looks like epoxy. I was lucky and the paint the expoy was glued to gave way but it is very unusual for these to not be destroyed in the process of removing them (if you do destroy them you can get replacements from Modern Astronomy as part of their slide mod).
Replacement Knobs for the EQ6 make a huge difference to polar alignment
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