Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Panasonic DMR-ES15 and a U61 error code.

January 5, 2007, I bought a brand-new Panasonic DMR-ES15 DVD Recorder.

Sometime a few months ago it experienced a problem reading a disc, and displayed U61 on the display. After fiddling with a few buttons and probably unplugging it and plugging it back in (I don’t really remember what I did then), the device returned to normal and resumed working properly.

I promptly moved on with my life and forgot about it.

Yesterday afternoon, exactly 13 months and two weeks after the original purchase, the unit displayed the U61 error again, and nothing I could do would get the machine working again. After several attempts to reset it by pressing different buttons, holding various buttons down at power up, or by unplugging it and plugging it back in, I gave up and called Panasonic for help.

I spent a good amount of time on the phone with the Panasonic Tech Support agent. I let him know the machine was exactly 1 month and 2 weeks out of warranty. I let him know I’d just purchased a nice new set of Panasonic phones a few weeks ago. Nevertheless, after he’d also concluded the machine was definitely broken and wouldn’t work again without being repaired, he informed me that he thought it would be unlikely the factory would make an exception and repair it for free, but that I could include a copy of the receipt and a letter asking them to consider it.

The flat-rate for a repair was $130. I paid $97 for the unit, new.

So I pulled out my trusty multi-bit screwdriver (and searched Google) and went to work. Looking at Google, it appears to me that this is an extremely common problem with this model. There are many, many other pages detailing people that have this exact same error, with this exact same DVD Recorder. It appears to me that the unit has a design deficiency, and I’m inclined to think Panasonic ought to cover these repairs for free or at a heavy discount, or at least make the relevant repair procedures and parts available to owners of the units. But I don’t know the percentages of problems vs. OK units, and for all I know this is just a case of a small but vocal minority, so I’m not anti-Panasonic yet.

If you’ve arrived here because you also have the U61 on your DMR-ES15, I can tell you what I’ve done to solve the problem on mine. I’m not a trained repairman, I have no electronics or mechanical education, and it’s highly possible I don’t know what I’m doing, so proceed at your own risk.

First, I unplugged the device. Next, using a Phillips-head screwdriver remove the two screws on the sides (1 on each side), and three screw on the back, of the case, and remove the cover.

There is one Phillips-head screw at each side of the DVD drive, and one at the back, attaching the DVD drive to the DVD Recorder chassis. Remove each of these screws, and you can remove the drive assembly. There are 4 delicate ribbon/flex cables running from the bottom of the drive, to sockets on the circuit board. Gently slide each of these out of their sockets on the board.

Once the screws have been removed and the flex circuits unplugged, you can remove the drive from the DVD Recorder.

On the top of the DVD drive there are four more small Phillips-head screws, one at each corner. These secure the top cover of the drive. Remove these screws, and then remove the cover by lifting the back edge up, and then pulling the cover backward and up.

NOW, I tinkered for a long time on the drive mechanism, reassembling and testing repeatedly, before resolving the error on my unit. Ultimately, the solution was to carefully slide the laser head to the back of the drive. The laser was originally forward (toward the tray door). Once I slid the laser all the way back, I put everything back together and everything worked properly again.

I won’t be surprised if the problem re-occurs as I never determined the original cause of the problem, but at least I now know how to quickly repair it.

Hope this helps.


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

I just bought 4 so if this error comes up and your method indeed solves the problem, thank you for your keen observations and simple, clever solution.

Brent said...

I had high hopes but I wasn't so lucky.

Unknown said...

I had high hopes, but alas I was unlucky as well. I've reluctantly resigned to gettina a replacement.