FlowTracker2 failing rate?

Untitled Forums International Hydrometry Network Flow Measurements ADCP FlowTracker2 failing rate?

  • Creator
  • #296

    Hi all. The FlowTracker2 is a fantastic instrument. When i works. In NVE we have only 3 of them, and they have all stopped working. One had a faulty pressure sensor, and was repaired. Two failed after long days of use. (Case one, on training, case two when repeating a 20 verticals transect. We got 4-5 verticals into #2 and then in stopped working). In both cases,  FT2 just stops responding after a (good) while. For the first instrument, we have not been able to reproduce the error. For the other one, it happened so recently we haven’t had the time to investigate. In both cases we changed the batteries. Turned on and off. Plugged and unplugged. In the last case we even reinstalled software and firmware.

    Does anyone else have similar experiences (3 out of 3 (100%) failing), or have we just been extremely unlucky?

Viewing 9 reply threads
  • Author
    • #307

      No not really for us in Sweden. We got two and think they are fantastic. But alright, one did brake I remember, we got that one repaired. (just found info that we needed to change cable, connection problems)

      The FT2 works also a lot better in clearer waters and picks up a higher SNR than the FT1.

    • #469
      AvatarClaudine Fortier


        We have 11  FlowTracker2 (FT2) kit, bought from 2017 to 2022. We really like them, but we had also some trouble.

        – One handheld unit when dead while measuring; we had to send it back for repair (finding : major short ckt. on Toradex board)

        – Four (4) probe had a low SNR problem ; had to send then back for repair (finding : internal wire broken)

        – One probe had a broken mounting stem. Had to be replaced.


        Despite all that, we are still optimistics with the FT2 and largely use them. All the repairs were done under warranty or goodwill.



      • #552
        AvatarAlec Dempster

          In NZ we have experienced a lot of failures, although the issues have generally been very similar and known issues with the early models. I have verified 24 FT2s through our tow tank and have sent back approximately 7 or 8 for repairs. Xylem Brisbane have been amazing to work with over the years and as Claudine mentioned, lots were done under goodwill other than when a genuine user caused failure!

          -The most common failure was the handheld unit appearing to “Freeze”/stop responding. Even after pulling out the battery cartridge it wouldn’t always respond/reboot. Generally this was caused by a loose keypad ribbon in the unit, requiring it to be opened up and replaced. Another fix to aid the freezing issue was upgrading firmware to v1.7 for a couple of our units.

          – We have had about 3 or 4 probes fail with the low SNR problem. Essentially the early versions of the probe heads had screws that were a bit short and once they started to work loose, this caused the probe head to vibrate. A closed loop system of vibrations and loosening screws continues until a wire in the head is damaged – causing the Low SNR/erratic velocities to be recorded.

          NZ use these devices a lot and I too think they are a big improvement over the FT1 in almost all areas!



        • #564

            Canada uses FT2s quite a bit and has generally be very happy with them. I don’t have any failure rates to share but we have documented a few types of failure on our internal wiki that I’ll share below.

            1. Flowtracker (FT) 2 freezing/locking up

            As per the latest RHC it is recommended to update to firmware 1.7 found in the software center. Special thanks to @Kris Assels (Unlicensed)

            UPDATE: 2023-03-22 Information provided by USGS HaWG

            Cause 1: This occurs with holding down a button and pressing another button before releasing the first would lock up the keypad

            Fix 1: Install software version 1.7 or greater

            Cause 2: The capacitors plus the solder would exceed the tolerance stachup and would result in the Torodex board flexing. The issue does not impact all FlowTracker2, since the solder height would vary during assembly.

            Fix 2: The issue was resolved by using a smaller capacitor. SonTek will replace the main board at no charge.

            2. FlowTracker2 – Low or zero SNR readings due to loose transformer wires

            SonTek has determined that vibrations (in high water velocity conditions or during transport) of the FlowTracker 2 probes were resulting in the transformer wires breaking. A wire breaking on the transformer would result in low or zero SNR readings. As shown below (BEFORE picture, Figure 1) the transformers sits on top of the boards and any movement would/could cause this issue to occur.

            To fix this issue, SonTek engineers had made the following changes to their production process:

            Secured the transformer to the board using heat shrink as shown on the AFTER picture below (Figure 2).
            Changed the wire stripping process for the transformer.  The supplier was using a mechanical stripper to remove the plastic insulation.  This was causing cuts in the conductor which would contribute to the wire breaking.  The supplier now uses a thermal stripper to prevent this issue from occurring.

            These changes were implemented in at the end of October, 2020. FlowTracker 2’s have serial numbers based on the year and week, so you can to check to confirm your FlowTracker2 probe has the fix already.

            Any probe built after week 40 in 2020, will have the fix implemented.

            FT2P2040001 was built in 2020 the 40th week.

            If the serial number is FT2P2101003.  It was built in 2021 week 01 and it would have the fix in place.
            If the serial number is FT2P1923005; it would not have the fix installed unless it had been returned to SonTek for repair after October 2020.
            For those units that have not yet fixed, Hoskins has offered a preventative repairs to avoid problems in the field. We recommend contacting Hoskin and requesting an RMA. Costs for these repairs are to be covered by Hoskin and SonTek YSI. NHS pays shipment to Hoskins.

            You must be logged in to view attached files.
          • #600

              It would be good if USGS would comment on this.  When I was still there, the failure rate of FTs was a concern.


              • #608

                  USGS has experienced both issue 1 and 2 that James mentions above. We have also seen the issues listed below. We have communicated them to SonTek and they have addressed the issues.

                  • Handheld issues that are related to damage caused from the old handheld mount. SonTek redesigned the mount to increase the surface area better distributing the pressure reducing the damage (Image Attached).
                  • The eight screws on the probe (Image Attached) become loose over time and fall out. SonTek has increased their torque specs to prevent the issue in the future. A local fix would be to apply blue LockTight to the threads to help them stay in place.
                  • The Probe mounting stem falls off. SonTek fixed the issue by increase the weld strength to withstand 712 lbs of force from 265 lbs of force before breaking.

                  In the USGS we received many concerns from our field staff thinking the failure rate was high. When we pulled reports on HIF repairs we saw an increase in repairs over time, but it corresponded with an increase in the number of registered FlowTracker2 ADVs as FlowTracker1 ADVs were being replaced. When we compared the failure rate to FlowTracker1 ADVs in the past, it was similar.

                  You must be logged in to view attached files.
                  • #650

                      So, is it your sense that the failure rate is acceptable?  I used to hear from Data Chiefs and others that Flowtrackers failed too often.  Of course, old school streamgagers would say something like ‘our current (mechanical) meters didn’t break so often’.


                • #617
                  Nick EverardNick Everard

                    In a group call earlier this week – including some authors here – we touched upon Sontek quality control which, to be brutally honest, has often fallen well short of what it ought to be. FlowTrackers were not mentioned, but are clearly not being built to the standard one should expect.

                    How can this group more effectively address these issues?

                    Here’s a summary of issues I am currently aware of:

                    • M9 comms – unreliable (even after all these years!)
                    • RS5 comms – poor range
                    • FT2 – the above issues
                    • SLs – high failure rates (the last I heard was a few years ago, as I am not close to this any more)
                  • #697

                      Thank you for the discussion and data on FlowTracker2. We are continuously working to ensure quality and the best user experience. Travis’s reply above summarizes well the work done to date. If you have a particular concern that you don’t think has been addressed, please let us know via our technical support email: sontek.custsvc@xylem.com or support@sontek.com

                    • #699

                        Additionally, I’d like to respond to Nick’s list above.

                        RE: M9 comms – There is currently a known issue with the USB drivers in newer Dell Rugged laptops. If you have a new issue with connecting to an M9 or S5 with the radio AND have a new rugged Dell laptop this is likely the cause.  see: https://internationalhydrometrygroup.org/forums/topic/dell-ftdi-drivers#post-677. Otherwise, make sure you are running the most recent version of the firmware and RiverSurveyor Live or RiverSurveyor Stationary Live. Data handling and communications improvements have been made.

                      • #700

                          RE: RS5 comms – poor range. This has been an inconsistent issue, with some users reporting no issue, some off and on issues and some with consistent range problems. If you are having consistent or intermittent issues please reach out to our tech support team (sontek.custsvc@xylem.com) for troubleshooting. On this topic, we are actively asking for USB radios to be returned for root cause analysis. Please coordinate with tech support. SonTek will pay shipping.
                          RE: FT2. See above.

                        • #701

                            RE: SLs (and I will add IQs). Communication can be affected by the USB drivers in newer Dell Rugged laptops if the FTDI USB to serial adapter is being used. Check your driver version and the FTDI driver thread for driver updating instructions. For issues not related to the driver, we have recently released IQ software v4.0 and firmware v4.0 with improvements to the recorder handling and SDI-12 communication. See post here for more detail: https://internationalhydrometrygroup.org/forums/topic/sontek-iq-software-and-firmware-version-4-0-release Long term beta testing has shown v4.0 is stable and reduces intermittent communication and recorder issues. SL software and firmware with the same improvements will be released later this year.

                            Sorry for the multiple posts, but there seems to be a word limit per post and no alert if you are over, it just doesn’t post.

                        Viewing 9 reply threads
                        • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.