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By: Michael R. Monett

Now that winter is upon us, you may be experiencing strange behavior while browsing the Internet. Sometimes the modem relay clicks off for no reason, or sometimes you cannot even log on. Before you blame the modem and decide to get a new one, try the following: take a small dab of ordinary white petroleum jelly and put it on the little gold connectors in every phone connection in your system. Insert and remove each connector 4 or 5 times to spread the petroleum jelly evenly and to clean off the surface grime inside the connector. If your phone system is anything like mine, you may be surprised at how many connections you have. I have two lines, with a total of 18 connectors, including two in each handset. (Don't forget the ones in the basement - they are probably the cause!) The reason this helps is simple. The little gold connectors merely rest against each other - there is no clamping action to press them together. Ordinary dust and grime can work their way in and cause intermittent or poor connections. This is aggravated by changes in humidity and temperature as the furnace turns on and off. The petroleum jelly cleans the surface of the connector and provides an insulating film which prevents further buildup of grime in the connections. When you plug the connector in, the microscopic roughness on the surfaces punch through the insulating film to make a low-resistance, metal-to-metal contact. This is a simple solution to what could be a very expensive problem. Try it before condemning the modem, the Internet, or your poor service provider. You may be pleasantly surprised at how much better everything works, and how much clearer the phones sound when you make a call. It works for any electrical connection (except high temperatures that would burn the jelly!) This is an old Radio Engineer's trick from the 30's, taught to me by the operators of radio station CFRB in Toronto (The station is now dismantled.) Updates and Related Info Modem Speed I never realized until I tried this how much the modem depends on good, clean connections to the phone system. You can be connected to a site 5,000 miles away, and the weakest link is the last 50 feet inside your home. High-speed modems depend on equalization to transfer all those bits. This makes them much more sensitive to changes in signal level, and minor pops and clicks, than the human ear. When a loose connection causes a line click, the modem generates an error that causes the block of data to be re-sent. This slows down the data transfer, and you get the impression that the web is "slower than usual today". However, after treating each connector with a dab of petroleum jelly, the web has regained its youthful vigor. Pages snap up on the screen just like they used to, and it is a pleasure surfing the web again.

Rubber Erasers: Some people have suggested using a rubber eraser instead of petroleum jelly. This is a bad idea. The rubber leaves tiny particles that contaminate the surface of the connector. This makes an erratic connection, and actually increases contact resistance. Any apparent improvement will quickly degrade, and you think the problem must be somewhere else because you know you just fixed it. This can send you off on an expensive wild goose chase.

Contact Resistance: The petroleum jelly helps remove surface oxides and contamination and leaves an insulating film that protects the contact against further contamination. Actual contact resistance measurements, made by me, show the contact resistance decreases by a factor of ten, and becomes very stable. This is compared to a normal, clean, untreated connection.

Other Sprays and Contact Cleaners: Over the past 40 years, I have tried just about every commercial contact cleaner sold. None of them do as good a job, or last as long, as plain old petroleum jelly.

Try it - you'll like it!

See Also:

There is quite a good number of Tips etc. under the 'Joe Benkert Forum'.


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