American Time Blog

Clock Repair: Troubleshooting Clocks that Aren't Keeping Time in a Clock System

Posted by Carmen Dimond on Nov 29, 2017, 2:30:48 PM


One of the great values of synchronized clock systems is their precision. Seeing the same time on all clocks helps with efficiency and productivity throughout a facility. Precision matters, so when a clock falls out of sync, it can cause problems. What's wrong and how can you fix it? Fortunately, there are some quick and easy things to look for when troubleshooting clocks that are not keeping correct time.

Start by checking the LED

For wireless, Wi-Fi and Power over Ethernet (PoE) clocks, Customer Service Tech Specialist Carmen Dimond recommends you start by checking the LED light found on the back of the clock.

“The first thing we ask is, 'what does the LED show you on the back?'” says Carmen, who has seven years of experience troubleshooting for American Time customers. “That LED can sometimes tell us how the clock is acting.”

  • If the LED is flashing red, the clock is not receiving a time signal.
  • If the LED is flashing orange, the clock is getting a time signal but is not syncing correctly.
  • If the LED is flashing green, the clock has established a connection, has received a signal and should sync.

Check the voltage

For wireless and Wi-Fi clocks, the problem could be as simple as bad batteries. If battery output measures at 1.5 volts or less, the clock will not correct itself, Carmen explains.

It can be helpful to check the voltage on wired systems. If a lone clock is acting up, check the voltage at the clock itself. If all the clocks in the system are out of sync, check the voltage at the system controller, she advises.

Swap the clocks

If one or just a few clocks are out of sync, you can narrow down the potential causes by removing the problem clock and hooking up a working clock to the same connection. If the previously working clock also gets out of sync, you know the issue probably isn't with the clock itself.

Sometimes, the problem is stray voltage that interferes with the clock's ability to correct itself.

If you do determine the problem lies in the clock, the culprit could be as simple as wear and tear, especially if the clock has a mechanical movement that rotates the hands (as opposed to a solid-state movement that uses a circuit board.)

“You've got gears in your motor movement,” Carmen says, “so over time, with the dirt and the dust that floats around, that can wear those gears.”

Hit the “home” button

If a clock gets jostled for whatever reason, its hands can fall out of alignment and fail to reflect the accurate time. American Time products featuring our newly redesigned solid-state clock movements feature a “home” button that makes it easier to solve this problem. Pushing the “home” button, located on the movement component, will return the hands to the "12:00" position so they can properly re-sync.

Homing guides for a variety of American Time clocks can be viewed here.

When a bad signal is to blame

If you've determined the clocks themselves are working and there are no electrical issues where they are installed, the master controller, used in wired and wireless systems could be to blame. The unit could have a blown fuse or a programming issue, or its electrical relay could have gone bad.

Power outages and power surges can also lock up the master controller, she adds.

For wireless systems, the controller's radio can also wear out, causing a weaker signal. In this scenario, you might find that the problem clock will sync if you bring it closer to the controller, but fall out of sync when you move it further away.

When the ultimate time source fails

The culprit of clocks not keeping time could even extend beyond your building or campus. For clocks that sync with official U.S. time via NIST servers, an invalid IP address could be the root of the problem, Carmen notes. For instance, out of the several NIST servers available, seven of those were recently taken offline, meaning anyone using those servers would have found their clocks going out of sync.

To speak with one of our Clock Experts, call 800-328-8996.

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Topics: Clock Maintenance and Repairs

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