Neon sign repair?

I have a sign that’s a 4 letters and an apostrophe that UPS managed to break. Anyone ever had neon fixed, and is it at all affordable or am I out of luck? Sign is fairly small, made of clear tubing (no phosphors of any kind). Ends are OK but the middle is in several pieces.

They broke the glass or did some other damage?
Either way, yes, just find a neon repair shop and they can fix it. If they can make neon signs, they can bend some new tubes. Random guess, without seeing it, you’re looking at about $100-$200.
If the glass is in tact (though I’m guessing that’s not the case) it’ll be cheaper or you might even be able to fix it yourself.

Yes it’s the glass, the middle two letters are in one or more broken pieces, the two ends letters are still attached to the electrodes. 60 pounds of aluminum and transformers + glass + UPS = what you’d expect.

Can they fuse new glass to the undamaged portion or would they have to remake the whole section?

(I know, I should just get on the phone and ask. This one place I googled has fixed beer signs that shippers have broke so they can’t be that expensive)

They will almost certainly just form new letters. Once the glass has been bent, it’s hard to re-work it. I’ve had a few signs repaired, and they always just made new letters.

Anyone have experience with filing a damage claim with UPS? I contacted the seller and told him too, even though I have a feeling they’ll deny the claim because it wasn’t in my opinion properly packaged (60lb sign with a bit of bubblewrap around it). The seller insured it for what I paid for it (with neon signs the value is pretty much what someone will pay, they can’t look up the Kelly Blue book). If UPS pays, will they then own the sign, or could I maybe get a quote for having it fixed and negotiate to just have them pay the repair costs, which based on the $100-$200 random guess is less than what I paid for it?

Here’s my 2¢:

Forget it.

UPS will ALWAYS claim that it was improperly packaged! They are happy to take your insurance money, they just won’t pay any insurance money (queue Seinfeld laff track). I had an expensive laser printer destroyed by them, and they sent out an insurance adjuster, who looked at everything, took photos, and then left. A week later: claim denied, improperly packaged. They won’t even refund then amount paid for insurance. It’s a big ripoff.

Neon tubes cannot be repaired. It will have to be replaced (the tubes themselves.) It is not a do it yourself repair project.
The tubes are filled with a gas that reacts with electric charge to make it illuminate.They are bent to the shape of the letters or figures and then charged with the gasses. There are several gasses they use to create different colors.
Do not attempt to repair it yourself. It just won’t work.
The transformers inside will work with the new tubes. So all is not lost

I filed a claim with ups for a small chunk that got gouged out of a Nintendo wii I sent and they reimbursed me no questions asked for the full price of a used wii.

outdoor sign companies often have professional tube benders on staff.

Look for the guys who are installing the restaurant signs and such…not the billboard installers

If all else fails, you can make one of these with the transformer.

When I was a shipping manager, I filed many claims with UPS and was always paid. Just document the damage and the packaging and follow the directions for filing a claim. Give them the info they request and they pay the claim. Piece of cake!

We discontinued FedEx over unpaid cliams.

As an update the seller did file a claim for the full value with UPS. I sent two emails out asking for estimates, one from a local shop one from someone that came up on Google. The latter gave me an estimate of $80 plus shipping, he wants just the glass sent to him, I don’t know if he can salvage the intact letters or wants to use them as a template.

I’ve shipped neon art before. With some forethought, it can be done safely.

If it’s only four letters, the glass is pretty much a lost cause and they just want to use it as a template. Once they draw out the design, it will take less time to bend a new piece than it would to try reassembling shards.

In hindsight, shipping the glass separate from the transformer is how it should have been done in the first place. Five ounces of thin glass vs twenty pounds of transformer is not a winnable combination.

As an update, UPS denied the claim due to improper packaging. I suggested that the seller pay me the cost of fixing it rather than me leaving unvaforable feedback, which made him angry. Do you think that was out of line or not? I’m tempted just to leave unvaforable feedback and move on rather than have to deal with the seller any longer? I asking him to pay for repairs was reasonalbe since the cost of the sign was $400, that would leave the seller with 3/4 of his money and me with a working sign. Any tips for dealing with a seller like this, or do you just not do so and cut your losses if they want to get hostile?

Starting a negotiation with extortion isn’t the best approach. You should have blamed UPS and asked the guy for his help in fighting the evil brown shirts.

So what should I do at this point? Just take my losses and walk away from the issue without leaving unfavorable feedback or trying to collect money?

Try calling the guy again, be apologetic, explain that you were just stressed out by UPS failing to take responsibility, then ask the guy to help you out. If that doesn’t work, you could try taking him to small claims court, but that may be difficult if he’s in another state. So if all else fails leave some criticism which may just get deleted. Overall it’s just a tough break since the cost of doing something about it may exceed getting a new sign made. If you bought the whole unit including mount and power supply then the cost of getting a new tube locally shouldn’t be all that bad.

^^^ Small claims was never an option since we’re nowhere closed to each other and we’re only talking $110. I told they guy that since I was to demanding I would now just forget about it, then he said he didn’t feel right about leaving me with the bill and we settled to split it down the middle.

Any electrical engineers or neon sign tech around?

Now I’m working on fixing the green section of the sign, which works, but is dim and flickers unless it’s been running about 30 minutes constantly. Since this section flashes on and off, in normal use it never gets “hot” enough to not flicker. I talked to the neon shop and they basically said "that’s the way it is, the mercury gets used up in old tubing and they’d have to remake the entire section.

I would think if that was the case they couldn’t just refill it the existing tubing with new argon and mercury but the shop didn’t meantion that as an option. What about increasing the voltage of the transformer, my understanding is that would shorten the life of the transformer but how much? 25 years intead of 30 or would it blow up tomorrow? This is decoration while I’m down in my basement, not something like an "open"sign that’s on for 12 hours a day for years.

The existing transformer is 4000 volts at 30 ma. I have one rated at 7500 volts at 30 ma that I’ve been scared to try since the voltage is so much higher. The existing transformer will light up a section of neon tubing about the same length brightly without flickering.

I took a transformer driving argon tubing from another sign and swapped it in and it lit up, it still took a bit to reach full brightness but it didn’t flicker. I have no idea what the voltage and current was on this transformer, it was a switching supply instead of magnetic with a “4500DCHP-7” on the circuit board, I have no idea if that might mean 4500 volts? The same sign also contains a transformer hooked to neon section where the board is identical, but has a few minor component differences, (more diodes, less capacitor)

So what’s my next move?

  1. Just see if the guy fixing my neon section wants to make a new argon section like he says is needed?
  2. Buy a replacement 4000 volt transformer and see it it works?
  3. Buy a larger transformer, say 5000 volts?
  4. Buy a high voltage probe so I can use my multimeter to figure out what is really going on as far as voltages and currents.
  5. Make another attempt to contact the local shop (they never returned my emails the first time) and see what they say?

I don’t think there’s any real danger in using the higher voltage transformer.
The current is what determines the brightness, and both are rated for the same current. It’s possible that the higher voltage transformer will make the sign flicker less, since it has a higher pre-strike voltage, and so will tend to strike the arc with less trouble.

FYI - when a luminous tube sign is running, the voltage across the tube is very low, so the current needs to be limited lest the sign melt. The current limiting is done either by:
a) a “lossy” transformer, which self-limits the current or
b) a newer, electrically-ballasted “transformer” (actually a solid-state high-voltage inverter circuit), which electronically limits the current.

The 7500 volt I could try it and see what happens, but it’s being used for anothe element of the sign so I couldn’t use it permanently. I managed to find a description and schematic of the switching supply I swapped in by looking up the patent, (4524305) and it doesn’t list the output voltage, the patent gobblydygook seems to say to me that it uses a feed back loop to automatically set whatever voltage is needed.

Just leaving the switching supply installed might be an option for now, since I don’t care about the sign I pulled it out of, but in the long term I would like to get either a proper outdoor rated transformer or else have the tubing rebuilt to do a “proper” restoration.