Introduction: How to Repair Busted Headphones

Picture of How to Repair Busted Headphones

Have you ever had that $200 pair of headphones and your beloved happy dog chewing the cable?

Here I will show you how to repair the cable of your badly damaged headphones and basically give them another chance!

Or if you wish to do like me and save yourself $150 by buying busted headphones from ebay for about $20 and then fixing them like a pro!

(This instructable is very similar to another that I've posted, but this is in more detail and shows the whole headphones repair. )

Step 1: Tools and Bits Needed

Picture of Tools and Bits Needed
What you need is a polyurethane sealant to cover the cable repairs.

This will keep the joints tough as well as flexible!

You may need:
  • Cable cutters
  • Knife
  • Clamp

Step 2: Cut Bad Sections

Picture of Cut Bad Sections

Step 3: Prepare Wires for Soldering

Picture of Prepare Wires for Soldering

Strip the cable and remove the insulation shield around the individual wires. This is easy to do with a lighter.

Then apply the solder to the ends.

Step 4: Connect

Picture of Connect

When soldering together the wires, make sure they are insulated.

I used some heat shrink tubing for the insulation.

Step 5: Fixing the Jack

Picture of Fixing the Jack

The cable connector was in a bad condition. This could look like it is OK and still not work properly. If you can hear through one of the headphones only or the sound is intermittent, then it is the connector that needs to be fixed.

Step 6: Extract the Metal Tip

Picture of Extract the Metal Tip

We need the metal tip of the cable so all the rest goes to the bin. 

This is where attention needs to be paid to remember which wire goes where.

Step 7: Reconnect the Cable

Picture of Reconnect the Cable

Solder the wires to their places on the connector.

Keep the wires short and as tidy as possible.

Step 8: Seal the Joints With Polyurethane Silicone

Picture of Seal the Joints With Polyurethane Silicone

Using something as a spatula, apply some silicone on the soldered joints. Leave for about 24 to 48 hours to let the silicone cure.

Use polyurethane silicone! This will ensure that the rubber stays soft and flexible. There may be other types of suitable silicones, but I do not know, you have to tell me.

If you enjoyed, please vote for me in the Soundhack and FIX IT contests!


SerenaB6 (author)2016-07-27

my cat broke my earbuds and no sound and she broke an the wire is breaking if i pull it it will brake and i need to fix cause my brothers girlfriend bought them for 20$ please help me

SarahM188 (author)2016-06-13

What happens if you do not know how to repair it yourself? Can i take it to a store? my wire stretched on one side and does not work can it be fixed?

wonstoneyoo (author)2016-01-21

I usually use hot-melt and heat gun for quick curing.

Apply hot-melt and blow it with heat gun to make even surface.

If you touch up with wet finger, you can have better visual.

You could substitute the heat gun with a gas lighter or cooking range

hertzgamma (author)wonstoneyoo2016-01-21

Sure, that would work! Only disadvantage is that the resulting glue blob won't be flexible as the silicone is.

wonstoneyoo (author)hertzgamma2016-01-21

In other words, the movement of elastic silicon could force the solder joints apart easily what means shorter life time.

hertzgamma (author)wonstoneyoo2016-01-21

Sure, I didn't think about that!

shakespeare1212 (author)2016-01-19

Nice, just the instructable that I was looking for, but, we should not have to "remember the connections" isn't there an industry standard pin out for head phones/ head phones with a mic. Can anyone point me to it?

For the "3.5mm 4 pin terminal microphone/earphone" pin-out guide, refer to:

There are standards - one for Apple obviously and one for everybody else including Android devices. Remembering the connections would make it easier when you have to locate the 2 speakers in the ear buds and the microphone cable +ve and GND.

Make a google search with "audio jack apple and android connections" - I think Apple has the GND and MIC rings swapped to the others

steinie44 (author)2016-01-02

Just go to the Dollar Store and buy new ones.

kdsnest (author)steinie442016-01-19

Right, because they will sound the same after this repair.

M. A.G (author)steinie442016-01-03

Do you know what dollar store head phones sound like? I'll tell you then- SH*T!

905kat (author)2015-12-28

This is so awesome! You would not believe how many headphones we've gone through, for iPods, computers and gaming systems! I will definitely be trying this before even thinking of replacing them again. Thanks!

hertzgamma (author)905kat2016-01-06

Always glad to help!

jeanniel1 (author)2016-01-06

Oh, I'm sending this to my daughter - she's got so many pairs of earphones lying all over the place, broken or soon to be!

hertzgamma (author)jeanniel12016-01-06

I'm glad you found it useful! :)

ljah2175 (author)2015-12-27

can you use a different jack from another pair of headphones if the jack is the problem?

jchristakis (author)ljah21752015-12-31

of course you can. u just have to figure out which is the cable for ground left right and microphone. guide through this picture

(IF you find this is not working swap ground/common, with microphone)

LeonS5 (author)2015-12-25

Would you buy busted headphones then sell them later?

hertzgamma (author)LeonS52015-12-27

I don't do that but I don't see why one wouldn't haha

muhammadc2000 (author)2014-04-24

@shizumadrive Try on your next pair (if you plan on getting new ones) hot glue a pen spring to the end

Clever and a great idea!

KatV1 (author)2015-12-25

love it!!!... stupid and sexy cat -_-

JaredE (author)2015-12-24

I recently fixed a pair of headphones. The colors of the conductors were blue, red, green, and yellow(copper?). The copper colored one is neutral (-), red is right audio channel, green is left audio channel, and blue is for the button control. But colors can vary obviously. Test to see what wires go where by using a multimeter in continuity mode and when you hear static from your headphones then you have found the channel for that wire.

Nice idea with the silicone. I have been using Loctite silicone insulating wrap. It does an ok job.

JaredE (author)JaredE2015-12-24

By the way, you will have to remove the varnish from the copper conductors. I used an emory fingernail file and held the wire between my finger and the board then pulled the wire out several times. This removed the varnish and made the wires solderable.

SoLongSidekick (author)2015-12-24

You really might want to add instructions on how to figure out which wires go to which part of the 1/8" connector.

gregdavid (author)2015-12-24

You can buy highly flexible polyolefin heat shrink tubing (fairly cheaply) in all sorts of sizes, so no need to use the silicone. Plus great stuff to have for just about any electronics project, esp. if you want to get real professional results. Plus, it's far easier to just buy a replacement jack and solder that one on rather that trying to salvage the one you have (not that I have not done that from time to time as well).

jcook20 (author)2013-06-06

I wouldn't rely on solder to hold that together. Consider using proper cable joiners. The result will be more bulky but that's basically what makes it resilient.

killersquirel11 (author)jcook202013-06-06

Splice the wires, keeps it small and strong.

Look up the "Western Union Splice". Do that, then solder and shrink-wrap. The result will be almost as strong as the original wire (and IMHO less breakable than a cable joiner, which will catch on stuff)

See this instructable

fstedie (author)killersquirel112015-12-24

This type of splice does not work on Lintz wire which is what most headphones use. This is a laquer-shielded wire that does not strip easily.

hertzgamma (author)jcook202013-06-08

The solder is enough just to make the electrical connections. For mechanical strength is the polyurethane adhesive.

Haiku_Fish (author)2013-10-02

I have some earphones that have not been chewed but have quit working - any hints on how to find the bad cable spots when they are not easily visible?

hertzgamma (author)Haiku_Fish2013-10-02

You can plug them in and play some music. Now twist the cable all over its length at different places to see if you can hear something at all. If this does not help then I wish you luck to cut the cable at the exact place but can't think of any other hint.

XOIIO (author)2013-06-06


Seriously, way better, you never have to deal with anything cord related again. I went wireless after my iPod touch was flung out of my pocket because of some cords and skidded across the street, luckily it was fine.

hertzgamma (author)XOIIO2013-06-08

There is one more battery powered device to worry about charging :D

XOIIO (author)hertzgamma2013-06-17

True but it has an 8 hour battery life, so it's good for a day of more than casual listening, and after a week or so you just get used to plugging it in alongside your phone for the night.

Patrick S (author)XOIIO2013-07-22

audio quality of wired >>>> wireless.

shizumadrive (author)2013-06-07

My problem lately (with apple products especially is the cord frays or comes off right next to the jack. Electrical tape I tried but it comes off after a week. This is pretty good though for middle of the cord issues.

samsoltan (author)shizumadrive2013-06-07

Hot glue works really well. I've fixed an Ipad2 cable this way.

HollyMann (author)samsoltan2013-07-04

wow awesome - good to know

Edwardo Leon (author)2013-06-07

well documented. my only suggestion would be to use Sugru instead of polyurethane silicone. search it up. it is much easier to handle. come in different colour choice. maker or fixer like youself would keep a few packs handy store inside the fridge. you would love this quick set silicone material.

hertzgamma (author)Edwardo Leon2013-06-08

I'll give Sugru a try!

jaxboy (author)2013-06-08

I couldn't help but notice that you had several black globs on an orange cable after probably 2 hours of tedious work. You could save yourself a lot of hassle, however. I bought a patch cord on ebay last week for $1.19, delivered. You can get them in many different colors and lengths. Cut the other end off of the patch cord. On your headphones, go to where the junction where the cable splits, strip back about an inch of the outer insulation on both the main cable and the patch cord you cut to give you room to work. The heat shrink is an excellent idea. Join the 2 cables at the one place. Make the polyethylene coating extend the extra half inch or so onto the junction of the 3 wires, and you have a much prettier result, with a lot less work, and a lot less chance of something going wrong in your repair. And, as an added bonus, you did it in about 10-15 minutes. Excellent job of describing your process, and great pictures, by the way.

didgitalpunk (author)2013-06-07

heya ppl! go on
and you will have the pinout for the connector if you lost it.

ho and you can use the color description from here
the green cable can also be/look blue sometimes.

gazzwi86 (author)2013-06-07

I'd suggest using one of these for the jack as it keeps it tidier:

weaverbrosracing (author)2013-06-06

How do you go about stripping those tiny wires?


One you can use a sharp knife to scratch the lacquer off the wires, other way is to burn it with the tip of a lighter flame.

I personally either use sandpaper, or just hold the wire in a glob of solder on the iron.

Run them thru the flame of a lighter to heat them up,,,,,just for a split second. The wire coating will then pull right off.

About This Instructable




Bio: I am a University of Edinburgh electronics engineering student.
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