Atlas Informatik How-To

Fixing a remote control

 

Question:

Practically with every remote control some keys start reacting worse or even not at all after some time. How can this be fixed cheaply and quickly?

Answer:

Some people would simply buy a new remote control in this case. But that has many disadvantages:

  • First of all, it's difficult to find the exact same product again. It takes time to find it and you will have to wait until it is delivered. In any case, it will usually cost at least 20 CHF/EUR/USD. Since the close connection of the chinese mail order business it can also get cheaper, perhaps 10 CHF/EUR/USD, because they sometimes don't charge the shipping costs. But in my experience this is not always the case and you will still have to wait for weeks.

  • A new purchase increases the garbage pile and wastes resources. Everyone knows: On the one hand the production and the transport uses a lot of resources and energy (metals, rare elements, plastic, landscape damage, transport costs), on the other hand the old remote control cannot be disposed of cleanly. To make it worse, the rare elements are gone forever and cannot be replaced in the future.

  • Often you can't find the same product anymore, because nowadays new devices with different remote controls are sold all the time. What do you do then? You might buy a universal remote control. I've already exercised this a few times, always with unsatisfactory results. First you begin with kneeling down into the programming, which is often equipped with bad instructions and sometimes quite incomprehensible. In the end you have at best a partial success (some functions won't work), or it's sometimes a total failure (the model is not even supported). The partial success doesn't always please you either, because the keys of the universal remote are not written and arranged in the same way as on the original. A colleague of mine once bought a 200 CHF/EUR/USD expensive universal remote control, which could even label the keys with an LCD display. Unfortunately, it's not a pleasant way to tap on LCD keys, because sometimes you would rather like to let your fingers rest on the keys. Also, this thing was of double the width as a normal remote control. Somehow the end result in all cases is not much better than walking around with a crutch after a broken leg. And you should also keep in mind that an imagined buyer of your controlled device won't be glad about it at all.

For all these reasons, I personally came to the conclusion that only one thing really works: The original remote needs to be fixed! And now for the good news: This is possible with practically every remote control! In the following text I will show you how you can do this at home and at almost no costs.

 

Necessary tools

  • An Opening Pry Kit which you can get online is the maximum solution. Costs less than 10 CHF/EUR/USD. Depending on the item it contain the following two items.



  • A set of cross screwdrivers and maybe a set of flat ones

  • Optionally a guitar pick what the musicians use to pluck the strings



  • Cleaning alcohol or methylated spirits

  • Household paper

  • Aluminium adhesive tape or aluminium foil



  • Sometimes a tube of all-purpose glue.

 

Steps for the fix

Start this operation only if you agree that the remote control might have a few scratches or notches on the outside afterwards. But it doesn't have to end up like that.

  1. Remove the batteries from the remote control

  2. Look inside the battery compartment and in some cases outside of it for screws, e.g. under rubber feet or labels, and unscrew them all. If there are different sizes or lengths, remember well where they belonged (it's best to make a note).

  3. Now we come to the difficult part, namely opening the remote control. Of course, you would prefer to do this in such a way that nothing is visible afterwards. But there are only a few methods that can really achieve this. If you don't care about a few notches or scratches on the outside, you can simply insert a screwdriver or knife into the gap between the lower and upper part and lever the parts apart with a lot of force. If you want to do it a little more gently, use the prying tools or the guitar pick. Soft plastic is in any case better than hard metal. The tool can be pushed into the gap with a lot of pressure and the upper and lower half can be separated with a twisting motion. It is best to start at the bottom (facing towards you) and then go up to the light emitting diode. Usually the two parts have a small plastic hook every few centimeters, which rests in an plastic eyelet. If you can use the tool to pry out each hook individually, the gap opens up. But admittedly, it is unfortunately often a violent act and costs some strength. In some rare cases hooks can break off. But it doesn't matter because the other hooks are still holding enough.

  4. Once the upper and lower part have been unhooked, the separation can be tackled. Do this carefully and pay attention to which parts were arranged and how. Be careful especially with the battery compartment and the light emitting diode. There are often parts that slide exactly into each other. Remove loose parts from the remote control and store them well.

  5. Now you have the remote open and can finally get to the keys. They push on a rubber mat, where it has a an elevation to each key, which carries a small plate of conducting material. This plate then presses down on a conductor snake, which is arranged on an electronic circuit board.

  6. For cleaning you can use a little bit of alcohol soaked paper (best is tear-proof paper, e.g. household paper, no fluffy papers like toilet paper or cotton wool!) to wipe all the plates and also the printed circuit board. But do this as short as possible and with little alcohol so that it evaporates quickly.

  7. You can remove the remaining dirt and liquid residues from the rubber mat and from the plastic top either with soapy water or just with dry paper and blow dry with a hair dryer. In any case do not use alcohol there!

  8. Put back all the loose parts that you had taken out

  9. Align everything perfectly and assemble carefully. Make sure that all keys are free to move. Press the upper and lower half firmly together until all the hooks are reconnected.

  10. Screw in the screws.

  11. Put the batteries back in and test the entire remote control.

The result will usually be that the remote control will run as it did on the first day. Most of the time. But I had also already special cases, where the above simply did not work. Now we come to the king's class, which you won't find so easy anywhere on the net.

Stubborn problems

It can happen that the above recipe simply doesn't help. Some keys still don't want to react easily. Here is my ultimate solution to this problem. I found out that it's a lack of conductivity of the little plate, not a corroded circuit board. Deceptively, the plate seems to look ok. Fortunately, this is just a low-tech problem, and we can always solve these ourselves:

  1. We identify exactly which keys cause problems and remember them well. Best is to make a note.

  2. We open the remote control again as above in steps 1 to 5.

  3. We now need the aluminum tape. This has a sticky and a metallic side. Using scissors (recommended is a small one like for example that one on a swiss army knife), we cut a small piece out of the aluminium tape that is about as big as one of the non-functioning plates. Square is ok. The plate should still be clean from step 6, otherwise we clean it now. Then we press the aluminium square onto the plate for a few seconds until it sticks.

    Just by the way: There would also be the possibility to use conductive electric paint. Such paint can simply be painted onto the plates. This would be more convenient than cutting out aluminium tape, but after some time it will lead back to the original problem, namely that it is rubbed off.

  4. In the case that the aluminium piece in point 3 simply doesn't want to stick (depends on the remote control), or we didn't have any aluminium tape but only aluminium foil, we dab a small dot of the all-purpose glue onto the plate and glue the aluminium piece down. A pincer can help to position the piece precisely. After we have done this with all the problem plates, we wait a few hours until the glue has dried.

  5. We reassemble the remote as described in steps 8 to 11 above.

 

Result

  • Our remote control could now have some notches and scratches, but it works exactly as on its first day. A wonderful typing feeling. You don't have to press forcibly all the time and check every time whether the command has really arrived at its destination. "It just works". Yessss.

  • We have protected the environment by not causing the production of a new remote control

  • We have protected the environment because we have not triggered any costly transport

  • It is an extremely cost-effective solution, which can be done with household means

  • It is an extremely quick solution. It's done in 30 minutes or at the most in a couple of hours

  • The remote control still fits perfectly to the controlled device

  • It's still possible to sell the controlled device without any problems, should it sometimes be necessary.


Problem solving

  • What to do if there is no reaction at all from the controlled device? I once had the case that a single key had tilted. After the assembly it pressed down constantly which blocked everything. With a small movement you could release the button and lo and behold the remote control was running normally again.

  • If the whole remote control doesn't do anything before even starting this operation, it's almost always because the batteries have lost some acid which corroded the contacts. In such a case you can first clean away the white stains with alcohol and then take some fine sandpaper and sand the contacts slightly. But only a little bit, otherwise it gets even more susceptible to corrosion.

 

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