A working pair of earphones can be an essential accessory for any media player, laptop, or smart phone. While most earphones are fairly dependable, from time-to-time these accessories can start to falter and stop working like they should. Sound quality can diminish, it can go in and out, or the headphones can stop working all together. When things like this happen, you may be tempted to run out and buy a new pair of earphones, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Never fear! There are ways that you can fix your earphones to get them up and working again.
Before you get started, it is important to note that earphones often feature very small and delicate parts which means there is a risk of further breaking the earphones when you are working on them. In most cases, if the earphones weren’t already working, there is little risk in taking this approach as standard headphones don’t come with any warranty. If you are willing to give it a try, here are a few different approaches you can take to fixing any pair of standard earphones.
The first step in fixing any headphones is to diagnose the issue. Different solutions will need to be implemented based on what type of problem has developed with the headphones. Once you have diagnosed the problem you can attempt to fix it based on the following steps.
How to Fix a Broken Headphone Cable
Start by putting on the headphones and listening to the sound quality. As you do this, begin bending the cable while you listen. If, all of a sudden, you can hear better or more clearly when the cable bends, then you have a cable issue.
Start by gathering the following supplies:
- Electrical tape
- Wire strippers
- Shrink tube
- Soldering iron
- Heat gun
Here are the steps:
- Turn on the audio with the headphones plugged in and bend the cable at a 90 degree angle across the top of your thumb.
- Slowly run your thumb along the length of the cable.
- When you hear the sound cut out or crackle, this is where the problem is in the cable. If your thumb is near or touching the plug, then you will need to repair the plug, not the cable.
- Once you have found the break in the headphone cords mark it with a piece of tape.
- Remove the headphones from your ears and lay them on a flat surface in front of you.
- Use your wire cutters to remove the outside of the cable, taking off approximately ½ inch of the outer plastic coating from the wires. Keep cutting until you find the broken wire. The broken area is the area you need to fix.
- There will either be two insulated wires and one bare ground wire, or one insulated wire and a single ground wire. Either way, you will need to cut the wire in half, removing the same amount from each of the wires.
- Take your shrink tube, which you can buy at most electronic stores and slide it onto your cable. This will be used to protect the cable once the repair is done.
- Join the wires together, connecting wires with similar colors to one another. Do this by twisting them together until they are joined in a sturdy manner.
- Take your soldering iron and cover the wires with a small dab of solder. Let cool.
- Wrap the joints in electrical tape and slide your shrink tube over the repair. Blast it with the heat gun until it shrinks around the repair.
How to Fix an Earphone Plug Issue
If you notice that you can only hear out of your headphones when you hold down on the plug, then you are likely dealing with a broken plug. Before you can fix this particular problem you will need a few basic supplies.
- A new jack plug, typically 3.5 mm (purchased at your local electronics store)
- Wire strippers
- Shrink tubing
- Heat gun
- Clip or vise
- Soldering gun
With your supplies in hand, here’s how to fix a plug on your earphones.
- Remove the old plug by either unscrewing the metal plug, or if your plug is plastic, by cutting it off with a pair of scissors.
- Strip the wires with wire strippers.
- Unscrew your new plug and slip the cover of the plug over the end of the cable along with some shrink tubing.
- Connect the wires to the probes in the plug. Copper wires will connect to the longest metal probe, also known as the sleeve probe. The two insulated wires connect to the pins, also known as the tip and ring robes. Make sure to twist any frayed ends together while you do this.
- Clip the wires onto the pins, keeping all three wires separate from one another.
- Roughen the edges with sandpaper and solder the wires to the plug.
- Screw the cap on the spring and plug and heat the tubing with heat gun until it shrinks.
- Test the new plug to see if your earphones work.
How to Fix Earphones With Broken Earbuds
If you borrow a pair of headphones and plug your cables into these earpieces and find that the sound works fine, you have a problem with the actual earpiece or earbud of your headphones. Fixing this part of your earphones can be more complicated as the process is different for virtually every type of earphone. You can look online for specific directions to your brand of earphone or attempt to fix the earbuds with these general instructions.
- Take a small crosshead screwdriver and attempt to remove the screws on the earpiece. You may need to remove the padding first.
- Tug apart the earbuds, but know that you will need a new rubber seal after you do this. You can purchase this seal at an electronics store.
- Typically, you will see loose wires right away when dealing with n earbud issue. If you notice loose wires, reattach them to the empty metal pins in the headphone driver.
- Solder the wires back over the empty pins, keeping each wire separate from the other ones.
- Replace the headphone driver if it looks broken. You can find new drivers online.
- Once you have made these repairs put the headphone, rubber seal and cover back on the earphones. If the coverings seem loose, secure them with a small amount of glue.
Use a Multimeter to Diagnose Earphone Issues
If your earphone issue is not one of the three aforementioned problems, then you can use a tool called a multimeter to attempt to diagnose your issue. This device can be purchased at most home improvement stores. Here’s how you can use it to test your headphones.
- Set the multimeter to test continuity, marked by the sound icon or symbol.
- Plug the black lead into the port marked COM and the red into the port with a mA on it.
- If there are no breaks in the wire, the multimeter will beep.
- Use a wire cutter to slit the outer coating over the cord of your earphone, one next to the plug and one next to the earbud.
- Test these areas by placing the black plug near the opening by the earbud and the red plug near the plug. If the multimeter beeps, the problem is in the plug or earpiece.
- Continue testing the cord in this way, going down the cable until you find two points that do not cause the multimeter to beep. These are the points where you may have an issue with your cord that needs repairing.