How To Repair and Diagnose Problems with Your Imperial's Tube Radio

 with Signal Seeking Mechanism (a.k.a. Town & Country Radio)


Imperial Home Page -> Repair -> Accessories -> Radios -> Tube -> Signal Seeking

Question from Leo (1956):

Where can I get info for the Town & Country radio in my '56?  If I turn the radio on and tune manually, it works fine, but if I press the search bar or the floor button it goes dead and the tuning jams until I turn the power off and on again.


From Philippe:

I've the same thing with my 57 radio. The culprit is the "search" relay. The relay "sticks" when you push the search button but doesn't unstuck when a tune is OK. It seems that after a long while this relay needs a replacement. You must also verify the "clutch" and the small motor which drives the search station button. On my radio I've "bypassed" the old relay with a new one, checked the clutch and motor, sprays all the electronics "movable" things with electronic cleaner and now the radio works fine. But first look at this relay (and electronic related), it's in the middle of the radio or go to a radio repair and let it know to verify this relay.

From Tim:

I had the same problem with my 63 Town & Country radio. If I pushed the floor button the radio just went dead. I contacted Mike Hagan at Antique Auto Radio Repair. Sent the radio to him for restoration and FM conversion. The radio works great and the floor button works fine also. You may not want the FM conversion. When you turn the radio on and you get the AM you just turn it off and then back on and you have FM. Anyhow you can reach him at 215-547-7145. 

Mike Hagan 

Antique Auto Radio Repair 

235 Glouster Rd 

Fairless Hills, PA 



From Wayne:

I have a similar problem with my '66 radio.  I was told the problem was probably dirty contacts in the floor switch.  I never attempted to fix it myself - but it sounded like it would be worth a try.

Question from Mark (1963):

I cannot tune the radio in my 63 Imperial. I removed it on the weekend, and have since removed the cover plates and am fascinated by the mechanisms, tubes, and circuitry in this simple am radio. The tuning mechanism moves via the pushbuttons, yet if I try to manually or electrically ( via footswitch) tune the radio there is no movement of the tuning mechanism. Before I get too carried away overhauling the radio to find the problem I thought I would check and see if anyone has gone through a similar repair and could offer any tips.


From Philippe:

I don't know if '63 and '57/'58 radio are the same but I've repaired my 57/58 radio which had a similar problem. First you don't say if you can tune the radio on a station with the manual "tuning" knob. The pushbuttons (and tuning knob) are a manual affair but the first thing is to have a radio working "manually". The "search tune" automatic system is a lot more complex affair: there's a relay or solenoid, a small motor which drives the tuning shaft, a reversing switch and a magnetic clutch !! I repeat, this is what I've found in a 57 radio (with the schematic on the cover). The solenoid/relay (operated by the foot switch or the bar) controls the motor and the clutch. In fact it's a dual solenoid with a "starting" and a "holding" coils. When the holding coil is "on" the motor (via the magnetic clutch) drives the tuning shaft: you see the knob turning ! When you reach a station, the strength of the radio signal disconnects "starting" coil and connects "holding" coil, so clutch and motor are "off". When you reach the end of travel w/o stopping, a reverse switch operated the motor in reverse. Problem on my radio was the relay/solenoid, but it was 4 years ago and i don't remember well what i did ! I think i replaced it with another relay (non original ..) and cleaned the magnetic clutch and motor. Note that i have simplified the explanations as there's also a "local/distance" switch, a trigger tube etc...

From Dick:

I'm not exactly clear what you mean by "manually". If you mean manually pushing the "search tune" bar, that is the same electrically as tapping the foot control switch. If you mean manually turning the station selector knob, then you do indeed have a slightly more complex problem.

In either case, note that the shaft which runs laterally through the chassis and which actually positions the tuning slugs in the variable inductors is in fact joined to the drive mechanism by a slip clutch all the way at one end of the shaft. This is probably slipping. If you grab the rotating part and turn it yourself, you can probably tune the radio. The push button station selectors bypass all this folderol, and rotate the tuning shaft directly, so it is a given that the radio can still be tuned with the push buttons long after the other mechanisms fail.

Sometimes you can repair the slipping drive clutch by careful cleaning of it's surface, along with lubrication of all the moving parts in the mechanism. You must use only a tiny drop on most places (I put a dime sized puddle of "clock oil" on a smooth surface, and dip a straight pin into it to pick up microdrops of oil for each moving part.) There is an adjustment on the clutch engagement pressure/motion, but it has really limited range.

Before you get involved in all that, note that if you are careful, you can push two push buttons at once, and with a kind of see-saw motion, move the dial smoothly across the band until you find a station. Then you can find out if the radio works at all, regardless of the tuning funnies. If it doesn't, it has to go to a radio repair shop anyway, and my advice is to just ship it off to one of the specialty vendors you'll find in Hemmings (or perhaps on the IML vendor list.) I used to fix these for people, but nowadays I've too many projects already, so I'll pass.

By the way, while the radio is merely an AM radio, it is anything but "simple". It was this "Wonderbar Tuning" design, patented by Delco, which took over the luxury car radio business from Philco (then my employer) in 1949. The design of the mechanism and the control system for it was and is quite sophisticated indeed. It is amazing that most of them still work after 50 years! The non-luxury car radios were indeed "simple" in those days, but not this puppy!

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