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TM F/A-18C Hornet, Warthog and Cougar grips disassembly and OTTO switch upgrade


DeadMeat
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Short update.

I've swapped out the rest of the hat switches with OTTO 4-way and 5-way switches. I've used commercial spec switches but they are functionally identical if somewhat cheaper than their mil-spec cousins. Change the "C" to "M" in the part numbers below if you're interested in spending even more 🙂 

 

(Trim: T4-0016)

DMS: T4-CQ1112

TMS: T4-CK1112

CMS: T5-CP1112N (plus 3d printed adapter and hat)

 

sxQqjPP.jpg?1PwAmvta.jpg?1

 

The mod is not too difficult. Take the grip apart like usual. The DMS and TMS switches are easy to remove. They pop right out of the front panel from the back

Jesetcg.jpg?1

 

The CMS is trickier. You'll have to remove the hot glue and unscrew the switch body from behind and then it'll pop out.

k0Y6gHB.jpg?2

 

The OTTO T4 is pretty close to the stock DMS and TMS so they'll fit with a bit of electrician's tape and hot glue.

Y3Cwq0g.jpg?1

 

The CMS is trickier, the stock switch is much larger in diameter so it would make more sense to fit a full size T5 (like the trim): 

xLQAkQK.jpg?1

 

I've used a smaller T5 with an adapter ring instead. The hat is custom designed and SLA printed and painted:

q9yXBqn.png?1

 

Wiring is straight forward. Carefully unsolder the wires from the TM switches and solder them unto the OTTOs.

Only thing to note is that the wiring position is "opposite" on the OTTOs compared to stock.

 

Here is an example of how to match the OTTO switch contacts to the original TM TMS switch wiring: 

0vdzz8b.jpg

 

In the end it wont matter much (except for the ground wire), you can always remap inside DCS.

 

I find the end result is excellent. The switching feel is great, but the improvement over stock is probably not worth the cost unless you get lucky on EBay.

 


Edited by DeadMeat
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I can't speak to the quality of other manufacturers' grips (which I think is out of scope for this thread anyways) but if you want a A10/F16 style grip you're probably stuck with TM for now. A replacement TM F16 "viper" grip (identical to the TM warthog grip) is around USD 200 which is maybe more reasonable than going down the OTTO rabbit hole? Certainly easier and less risky. If your grip is within warranty consider filing a claim - otherwise you're left with the option to try and fix problem yourself, contact Thrustmaster support to buy a spare hat switch (if they even carry that) or buy a replacement grip.

 

Regarding the price of the OTTO "replacement" I think you're right, it is expensive to put in our little toys (I mean very serious consumer goods haha) but don't forget they're not intended for this application either 😉 

 

To be clear I didn't start this thread to advertise for or defend the pricing strategy of any manufacturer, OTTO or others. The thread is just here tell you that yes, if you want to, you can use OTTO switches in your Thrustmaster grips 🙂 

 

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Thanks for the information DeadMeat.  I have been going back and forth on this, and I think I probably am going to go ahead and put the OTTO unit in.  It's still the cheapest option vs buying a new stick, and it sounds like if you want a really nice stick this is kind of the inevitable path (I can just do piece by piece as they break down).  I am an engineer with about 20 years of experience in prototype fabrication (machining, soldering, etc.) so the modification part doesn't scare me.  I already modified the base to try and improve the stiction so warranty isn't an option.  I saw they have this unit on Mouser: https://www.mouser.com/datasheet/2/603/TK-Mini-Trim_Catalog_Page-1769763.pdf

That's the cheapest 5 way I could find, I guess I will have to crack open the stick and make sure it's going to fit since it's bigger than the one you used.

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Sounds like you're in a good position to make whatever you decide work 👍

 

The TK switch may be an option! The price close to the T5, but from what I can tell it is a "tactile" version meaning it is more "clicky" than what I used (think sensor control switch on the Hornet grip) so that should be even nicer. Size wise the body looks to be a bit smaller than the T5 in both depth and diameter?

 

The stock CMS switch is the same size as the MIC switch on the Warthog throttle. It has a loose fit on the stick grip diameter wise but tabs and hot glue holds it in place. Here are some approximate dimensions for CMS and TMS/DMS switches:

zVPost0.jpg

 

Two things concern me about the TK switch, the MOLEX connector interface will be tricky to work with (unless you have the right connector handy of course) and the button style itself. You may be able to pop the hat off and replace it with your own design or attach the TM hat if you can get it off the TM switch. I was able to pop off the hat on a T4 so it may be possible on the TK as well.

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Thanks that is very helpful!  Good point on the connector, I think I have the crimp at work and can just order the contacts and connector.  I think I will just go ahead and order it.  Looks like there will be plenty of space, since it's threaded I can make an aluminum spacer that I can fix inside the stick and then secure the switch with a jam nut.  I am not a huge fan of the shape of the CMS button anyways, so I kinda want to try this style.  If I change my mind I will figure out a way to get it off 😉

 

I will post up some pictures when I get the parts

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  • 2 weeks later...

would like to see someone explore converting a TM F-18 stick sensor select and trim switch reversal to create an AV-8B style stick... Ergonomically speaking, trimming the AV-8B would become far more natural then if your thumb doesn’t have to reach so far like on the TM F-18 stick. I imagine that is why they did it on the real life stick too.

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On 1/10/2021 at 2:42 PM, Baz000 said:

would like to see someone explore converting a TM F-18 stick sensor select and trim switch reversal to create an AV-8B style stick... Ergonomically speaking, trimming the AV-8B would become far more natural then if your thumb doesn’t have to reach so far like on the TM F-18 stick. I imagine that is why they did it on the real life stick too.

yea it’s been suggested a few times but I haven’t seen anyone actually do it. Should be fairly easy 🙂

 

The Otto T4 trim switch will not fit in the middle position but the stock trim might - but as I recall the diameter of the trim and sensor switch bodies are different so you’ll need to break out the ol’ dremel and hot glue 😉

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Right, the spring is a real pain. It takes some practice but you close up the grip and basically you gotta seat the spring first in the slot and then try to push the lever back on. You have to catch and compress the spring with the lever as you push it in.. Keep at it and you'll get it

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10 minutes ago, DeadMeat said:

Right, the spring is a real pain. It takes some practice but you close up the grip and basically you gotta seat the spring first in the slot and then try to push the lever back on. You have to catch and compress the spring with the lever as you push it in.. Keep at it and you'll get it

Much thanks. I'll try it. Hope that help 🙂

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The rod does go through the spring.

 

Here's a quick video I just shot that may help you. Don't forget the c-clip. Now where did I put mine :crazy:

 

 


Edited by DeadMeat
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  • DeadMeat changed the title to TM F/A-18C Hornet, Warthog and Cougar grips disassembly and OTTO switch upgrade
  • 2 weeks later...
5 hours ago, The Burrito said:

I don't suppose there's a way to get a 3D-printed CMS top on order for the 4-way, is there?

 

Sorry, I don't have the rights to make my CMS hat commercially available. I can only provide a link to a viewer of the model here if you want to recreate it.
My design fits the #4-40 threaded post version of the OTTO T5. It sits a bit high though but it works.

 

Same goes for the adapter to fit the T5 into the Warthog grip - I can only share a viewer link.


Edited by DeadMeat
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The madness continues. I have successfully swapped out the Hornet sensor control switch with an OTTO T5-0146 5-way switch:

UyMQl8V.jpg?1

 

I salvaged the mil-spec switch from a rear seat side handle out of a Tornado fighter bomber I found on EBay. The handle that is:

FA8UiXL.jpg

 

The stock TM switch is very similar in size to the real deal, only the T5 is a bit longer with the terminals and black caulk on the bottom and the T5 hat/crown on top is slightly larger:

UK3NVYC.jpg?1

 

The TM sensor control switch is easily removed from the face plate but removing the hot glue and pressing in the tabs on the back side.

The T5 can then be press fit into place so the mod is in principle reversible:

6ju5j8g.jpg?1

 

The biggest hurdle is dealing with the length of the T5. You have to remove a good chunk of the central plate to make room. Make sure to leave some structure to support the screw holes so the grip can be closed up again and be careful not to completely destroy the groove for the trigger. Below a shot seen from the front of the grip (disassembled):

7Q9Xype.jpg?1

The hole on the right is for the T5, the one on the left was made earlier for the T4 trim switch.

 

The wires on my T5 were unmarked but it was a simple job to find the common and directional wires with a multimeter. I left 5 cm in place and spliced it with the wiring bundle from the stock TM switch, matching with the correct wires:

mWTEtV3.jpg

The tricky thing here is that the wires for push button are both red and you need to splice the correct one with the yellow common wire from the 4-way and on to the single common wire on the T5. If you get it wrong the push button will be shorted and show up as pressed all the time. Only way to be sure is to hook it all up, plug her in and test it.. I messed up and had to swap the two red wires from common to push again.

 

I think the TM switch is pretty good but In the end I'm happy with the upgrade unnecessary as it is. In action I find that the throw on the T5 is quite a bit longer than the TM switch and it has less of an audible click when it closes the contacts. Here's a short video comparing the two:

 

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7 hours ago, Mower said:

can i swap in hats from my old cougar stick?  being metal theyre better anyhow

 

I haven't tried it. Most or all mil-spec push buttons and hat switches I've seen actually have polymer buttons and hats, but I certainly get the idea that metal can feel better.

In this thread I've focused on upgrading TM switches to their real/realistic counterparts, but feel free to share the results if you try out the cougar swap 🙂

 

For reference, check out the specs on the OTTO Controls T4/T5 full size and T4 "mini trim" hat switches.. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

@DeadMeathave you experimented or played with swapping the stuck trim had and the stock castle to make the stick more closely resemble the Harrier?

Know and use all the capabilities in your airplane. If you don't, sooner or later, some guy who does use them all will kick your ass.

 

— Dave 'Preacher' Pace, USN.

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15 minutes ago, RAZBAM_ELMO said:

@DeadMeathave you experimented or played with swapping the stuck trim had and the stock castle to make the stick more closely resemble the Harrier?

I get asked this a lot - no I haven't felt the need to swap 'em but I think it should be possible to do 🙂

 

The switch bodies have different diameters so it'll require a bit of dremel and hot glue work to fit but it shouldn't be a big problem.

 

If someone donated a grip to the cause I'd be happy to try it out haha

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  • 1 month later...

I just installed my Thrustmaster F/A18 Grip for the first time today and I noticed that the Sensor Control Switch is defective in that it doesn't register when you push it to the right.  As it was a Christmas gift I would rather not go through the process of working with the gift giver to return it and get a new one.  Has anyone found the direct replacement switch?  This mod looks great but I'm not so keen to cut into the structure of my stick.

 


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For a brand new stick it sounds like you have a warranty issue. Sending it back is probably the only option unless you want to take it apart and mess with it yourself. 

 

Unfortunately this is such a specialized switch that there are no direct drop-in replacements outside of maybe a spare part from Thrustmaster.

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 4/5/2021 at 10:08 AM, DeadMeat said:

For a brand new stick it sounds like you have a warranty issue. Sending it back is probably the only option unless you want to take it apart and mess with it yourself. 

 

Unfortunately this is such a specialized switch that there are no direct drop-in replacements outside of maybe a spare part from Thrustmaster.

 

Thank you for this thread, but also for this answer -

 

unfortunately I have the same issue that the castle switch "loses" its "click" to the left after repeatedly pressing it to the left. 
If I click "right" and then "left" again, the click works again for about 4-10 clicks, until it fades. 
I'm wondering if this is a design flaw, a sign of total failure of the switch or just something that happens...

 

Btw - did someone already donate an F18 stick for you to switch the castle and trim? 😄

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