Installing keep alives

I often receive emails from folks asking about ways to squeeze keep alives into models. One option to be aware of is that there is nothing sacred about one manufacturers’ product over another’s. These things basically work the same way and are wired pretty much the same–one wire goes to the positive common and the other to the negative connection on the board.

Often the problem is finding those connection points on some decoders. To provide a little help with this I suggest you visit the following websites. First, there is a great website maintained by a modeler in Australia at Click Here. This one has a lot of specific examples of installations and how to find the correct connection points.

Bryan Vianco at Streamlined Backshop also has some information on using keep alives with LokSound decoders which can be found at Click here. Bryan also does custom installations in case this seems overwhelming to attempt.

My friend Mark Gurries has an excellent discussion of the technical details concerning keep alive circuits on his website at Click here.

Finally, a warning–installing any of these keep alives with a decoder other than one made by the same manufacturer probably will void your warranty, so tread lightly. Once you let the magic smoke out of a decoder, it can be hard to get it back in. Should you have any doubts or concerns, a quick call to tech support should answer your questions. However, most will tell you they only support their own decoders or they can’t provide any specific information on how to connect to another manufacturers decoders.


  • I have found that both ESU and ZIMO are making smaller Keep Alive capacitors, making installation less of a challenge.

  • Hi Larry- I’m wishing you would do a “DCC Guy” post about keep alives in a more specific way. For example; what’s available in the marketplace, the various physical sizes and the very smallest. Also important would be the capacity of the, um, capacitors in terms of time the it will keep various size motors running at different speeds/amp draw. I realize it can be a huge undertaking but if you, yourself, can’t find the time, perhaps you could speak to your manufacturing buddies to at least publish the material for their own products. Just wishing.

  • Very informative post. Keep alives are the way to go. Space for them is often a problem though. You may have to remove some metal from the chassis to find room.