Ghetto electronics repair

oven-graphics-card-nvidia

After hearing that his video card might be repairable by heating it up to reflow it, this user did just that. He stripped it down and tossed it in his oven. It’s amazing how often this type of hackish repair works. We’ve heard of people using candles on ibooks, tossing video cards in oven,s and wrapping an xbox 360 in a towel and running it for 30 minutes to get it hot enough to reflow itself. Why even bother with controlled temperatures and exact measurements? What other crazy fixes have you had to employ? We had a Playstation that only worked upside down.

[via engadget]

190 thoughts on “Ghetto electronics repair

  1. I’ve heard of taking keyboards with coke (“soda pop”) spilled on them and running them through washing machines, I’ve also heard of doing it with motherboards and some other stuff. Somebody said they used to take a bunch of motherboards and run them through the dishwasher at the same time and half of them would make it, half of them wouldn’t.

  2. What about freezing dead hard drives so you can get data off of them? You get about 10 or 15 minutes tops between freezer trips so you have to be quick.

    That trick has made me so much cash…

  3. when my laptop drive was in the process of disintegrating, it would only function if I opened the laptop up 180 degrees and propped the whole thing up vertically…

  4. @epicelite

    And wipe out every particle. You meaby can dry out a pcb, but if the water has suspended minerals, that could be a problem even if you dry everything up.

  5. I had to deal with an upside-down Playstation too. I think it was actually a design flaw in the first generation, the heating vents were at the bottom so it was very easy to put it on a surface (like carpet) which kept those vents from doing their job.

  6. I tried the same thing with a Thinkpad motherboard as a last ditch attempt (based on some forum suggestion) and it worked.

    I’ve also used a dishwasher to clean up motherboards and graphics cards which have suffered leaky capacitors; it works well, you just have to make sure the item is bone dry before you power it up again!

    The upside down PlayStation is well documented – the problem was caused by excess heat warping the plastic rails that the laser pickup moves on, the solution just uses gravity to counteract the increased friction :)

  7. I spilt port into an amp once. It fried one of the speakers but the amp was fine (I took it apart, wiped it clean and let it dry).

  8. I have several classic Gameboys which I use to write music and they tend to lose columns of pixels (lots of columns) so I applied lots of heat with a soldering iron to the ribbon connecting the vertical part of the matrix with the glass for about ten minutes and amazingly, no more dead pixels at all!

  9. i actually used the towel trick on my laptop to fix my crappy integrated nvidia card. just wrap it up and run a cpu stress test. it got up to 94C! totally works though.

  10. the freezer trick saved me a few hard drives as well.

    on my old PC, the hard drive needle would stick on occasion, and by lifting the front end up about 2 inches and dropping it, it would mysteriously work.

  11. I’ve used similar methods to repair ball grid arrays on xbox 360s and the newer dlp, lcd, and plasma television. Though I usually place the chip I want to reset facing up. Then after a minute of heat I put a small weight on the chip. After another minute remove the heat, but leave the weight. Only thing you have to worry about is accidentally shifting the chip while the solder is hot.

    I’ve had mouse infested projection televisions that I had to use a mild pressure wash on before they could be repaired.

    Electronics and water get along fine. So long as the water and contaminants are gone before electricity shows up. Also have to remember that some capacitors keep a charge and could short out when water is applied.

    @rasz
    For surface mount parts as long as they are not heavy and the board isn’t bumped the solder will hold the part like glue.

  12. @ Rasz: Lightweight parts, and not breaking the surface tension, as well as not completely reflowing the solder (Just enough to fix connections, but not complete liquidity)

  13. I was fishing something out of my keyboard w/ a knife and sliced a connection (brilliant, I know). My solution was to tape a paper clip across break. Still works like a charm.

    Paper clips actually work great for all sorts of repairs. I used a bunch of paper clips to wire up an ancient keyboard connector so that it would work in a PS/2 port.

  14. I’m sure that everyone remembers the HP monitors with a loose solder connection, where the fix described in the manual was ‘percussive maintenance’. Then there’s the Creative Zen’s HDD sticktion problems, fixed with a good hard whack to the side of the player.

  15. The Xbox 360 towel trick totally works. I got RROD a few years ago so I tried the towel repair because of a video I saw on Youtube, then managed to get in about 45 minutes of Guitar Hero 2 before it died again.

  16. i don’t know if this is considered crazy, but a few cordless phones i had lost response on the keypad, and cleaning the oil of the contacts with some alcohol made them work again. and there is also the rubber eraser trick where you clean the pc card contacts and memory module contacts with it, and they are magically working again.

  17. @cde: yeah, I never underestimate the surface tension of molten solder :)

    @epicelite: you want to get the water away from the device pronto, or it can do plenty of corrosion damage (these accidents rarely happen with deionised water :S) Also water droplets can be trapped in lots of places long after you think it’s completely dry.

    Dumping the device into a container of methylated spirits as soon as possible will do the trick – it will flush the water away nicely as well as evaporate quickly and completely.

  18. The pencil eraser thing got me a fluke multimeter for nothing (someone gave it to me cause it didn’t work after it’d been dropped in a puddle)

  19. I’ve repaired 2 ipods that had the bad hard drive icons. both required removal of the hard drive, then a good shaking. I know it’s nonsense, but the shaking didn’t fix it while installed in the ipod. You had to remove it.

  20. Seen and played with one ps1 that worked only upside down. Top-side up, it just didnt detect the disc..

  21. spiritplumber, that’s genious! I wonder how long till someone comes up with a miniature freezer purposely designed with a 3.5″ / 2.5″ / 1.8″ bay inside :)

    @foh: yeah many years ago when I was at school we had BBC Micros to play on and the computer guy said yeah the chips can get loose whilst in transport so you drop them flat down onto a hard surface to re-mount the IC’s.

    Last year I picked up lots of dirt cheap (3 for £5) things from a car boot seller (like a flea market) which were shop returns from an expensive electronics store called Maplin. Most of the things worked without need of repair, except a 3x AA battery soldering iron that needed a battery contact bent back into shape, which I then proceeded to use to fix a portable laser spirograph thing, dry joint on the laser diode :D

  22. i had a computer that would only turn on if the case was on it’s side. once it was on, i could put it back upright, but next time i had to powercycle, over it had to go. in the end i just kept it sideways. worked for 5 years or so before it finally gave up the ghost.

  23. I have had several instances requiring freezing of harddrives. works like a charm.

    I still have my PS1 that requires it to be upside down to work, if it works.

    I used to work at a TV repair shop, and the vast majority of what we fixed were mitsubishi electric’s V26 chassis DLPs (the WD**525, WD**625, and WD**825 models) which were almost entirely capacitor replacement jobs. what we’d often see is several capacitors in series or parallel in the power supplies from one of the other (less professional) shops not having the right parts and just slapping something together to get the tv to “work” needless to say, it didn’t stick too well. some of them were even just taped to the pads with some electrical tape, too.

    we’ve come across the xbox 360 fixes a few times, and they’re kinda hit and miss.

    there’ve been a few instances where I’ve had to reflow solder in my oven before, on a thinkpad A30, I’ve fixed the gpu with that, and I’ve also used a mechanical pencil to repair a couple micro fractures in the same laptop’s mainboard.

  24. @nihilocat Yeah, unfortunately heat dissipation and laser decay were common for its later generations too.

  25. I read data off a bad laptop drive by freezing it, and while reading the data off, submersed it in ice water (inside a ziplock).

    Held out long enough to get everything off.

  26. hi all. i have also used the heater trick, but in my case i used the thick thermal pad from a cracked plasma display panel to act as a heat spreader for the underside of the PCB (which i then placed on a spare CDROM drive). insulated the capacitors and connector with tinfoil then did the reflow with a heat gun. So far the repaired (AGP) Nvidia card hasn’t failed yet.

    regards, A

  27. On eof our clients back in the day were a large accounting firm, One of their hard drives failed containing quite a bit of critical data. This was an RLL drive and after inspection we found that the mainm spindle had failed. So out with a drill and speed controller. Firstly we drilled and tapped the centre of the spindle then using a flexishaft connected the drill and speed controller. using DOS we continued to DIR the drive until we started to see listings then pulled al the data off. Was 100% successfull in the recovery process.

  28. I’ve done a lot of “dishwasher” repairs before. I normally follow up the dishwasher repair with a bath of the commercially available WD40. Before I sound like an advertisement, it seems to be the only “oil” that doesn’t eat at most plastics, and after it dries it doesn’t leave any conductive chemicals behind. I’ve used WD40 and an old tooth brush to clean up dirt, smoke, etc. from microwave transmitters and receivers without causing a need to re-tune (unless I jiggled an adjustment by accident). When I used to repair VCR’s that the gears would keep going out of alignment, I would take apart the mode switch and pack it with white lithium grease. I’ve used white lithium grease to make intermittent switches work, and have had limited success with resistive volume controls.

  29. @ Gage

    I had the same experience with the towel trick, 30 minutes upside down in a towel and it would work for an hour or so. I kept doing that for a while but eventually just tried the wedge-under-the-ram-chips trick which kept it going for about 6 months before it got hit with the banhammer.

  30. My Xbox 360 wireless control stopped working so i took it apart to what’s inside, Not a electronics guru or anything of that nature, I checked out the board and then thought the vibe motors were cool so i removed them. I put it back together and the SOB worked.

  31. The towel method for a xbox is probably the worst way of doing. Whoever thought of the idea, never thought of thermal runaway. In most cases, the bga ic needs to be reflowed, and even though you might reflow it with the towel method, the thermal damage could have destroyed other parts of the board even though the bga has been reflowed. lol

  32. I had an old iPod mini that would only play music if you squeezed the top and bottom, flexing the entire circuit board. By the time I finally got a new one, it would only work in a small hand-vise.

  33. Hah, I have never owned a Playstation that didn’t need to be upside down.

    My first liked to run on the left side at 10-30° from vertical.

    It is the laser sled rails made from plastic that wear out and cause misalignment of the laser.

    RE wet electronics: try a putting them bowl of dry rice, the rice will absorb the moisture.

  34. @ efox

    that may be true, but it was broke before. The worse thing is that it would be broke after as well.

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