Repair Your Remote Controls





Introduction: Repair Your Remote Controls

About: If I got a dollar for every remote control I helped to repair, I would be rich but I have not got a cent.

I have repaired a quite a few faulty remote controls and most often they are repairable.
Getting a programmable remote is one way to solve the problem but the functionality and locations of the keys may not be satisfactory.
Repairing your remote should give you more satisfaction as you get to keep the remote you are used to.

Common faults are: some buttons not working, not working at all, corroded battery terminals. Often buttons are sticky because of some dirt accumulated over the years from the sticky little hands of your kids?
The hardest part of repair is often to open the covers. You do not need much experience in electronics repair to repair a remote. Also it is perfectly safe as there is no way to get an electric shock as they work with batteries.

Step 1: Test Your Remote With Digital Camera

Check your batteries first or buy new batteries. Once you have good batteries, you can test with a digital camera by pushing the buttons and having camera on and pointing to the infrared led. You should see red light if the remote is working. If no light comes up you obviously have a dead remote but do not despair and procede to the next step

Step 2: Open the Remote Control But There Is a Catch or a Few Catches.

Remove the screws if any. Sometimes screws may be hidden under a sticker or rubber feet. Often there are no screws at all but just plastic catches hidden so you have to be clever to open it without breaking the case. Use something blunt and flat toclick the covers open. This is often a challenge but should not be too difficult.

Step 3: Take a Picture of Every Phase So You Remember How to Re-assemble

Since you are using a digital camera you might as well take pictures of the disassembly so re-assemly will be easier.

Step 4: Pull Everything Apart

Did you take a picture of the keyppad layout? Sometimes keypad is just one rubber membrane but sometimes the keys fall away like pieces of a Lego puzzle. And if the buttons are marked with numbers and functions you may struggle to re-assemble them in right order?
Use a small plastic takeaway box or similar to store the bits so you don't lose parts.

Step 5: Inspect the Circuit Board and Repair Dry Joints

Remotes are often dropped on the floor and may develope dry joints on the battery contacts or circuit board. Inspect the contacts and circuit board under good light with a magnifying lense or if lucky you might have a microscope or just a very good eyesight? Solder all suspicious joints. If there is a sign of water damage you can use methylated spirits and toothbrush to clean out the circuit board.
Sometimes I have washed the circuitboard with soapy warm water, good rinse after that and drying with a hair dryer. I would not recommend the same treatment for you cellphone as some components do not like water.

Step 6: Wash the Covers and the Buttons

Use a smal bowl or similar to wash and contain all the parts so you don't lose bits down the drain. Use old toothbrush to clean all button holes and buttons. Warm water with dishwash liquid does the job. Take particular care with those small buttons and clean them properly. If you can leave the bits to soak overnight they come clean easy. Ultrasonic cleaner would be good for this job but most people do not have one in their cupboard.

Step 7: Rinse, Drain and Dry the Parts

Rinse with warm water. Use a drainer to contain all the parts without losing small bits down the drain. As extra security use sink plug. Dry with a paper towel. Wipe the buttons dry individually as they may still have some dirt which makes them sticky when in use.

Step 8: Repair Case and Re-assemble

If there is damage to the case or buttons you need to do the required repairs. Use hot glue or super glue depending on fault. Let dry overnight if you had to glue something.
Re-assemble bits in reverse order and make sure you have the buttons in right place and right way around. Small nicks and dents on plastic cover can often be repaired by heating carefully with a hair dryer. Do not use a lighter with a flame as it is too easy to burn the plastic. May be you can get rid of some dog bite marks on the remote if they are not too deep?

In case of lost fallen out IR LED you can use second hand LED out of other remote you no longer use or buy one from Electronics hobbyist supplier. Make sure you get the polarity right or you need to get another one.

Step 9: Test With Digital Camera

Test every button as before. Sometimes you have to push two remote buttons simultaneously as with recording buttons on my Panasonic VCR.
Once you have completed test with your camera you can use the remote. Thats it, I hope you got it going again?

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2 Questions

Half of the keys on my remote works an the other half don't what can be the problem

Possibly a cracked circuit board.
Check with a bright lamp behind the circuit board if you see cracks. Then solder a tin bridge over the crack.

I have a LG tv all buttons on remote work with the camera test but won't work tv

Possibly faulty xtal on remote and you are transmitting on wrong frequency?


This instructable as to how to clean your remote is a basic start to solving a problem. Although it may not look like it, make sure your battery connections on the motherboard are lifted up so that battery contact is ensured. I did clean with rubbing alcohol the motherboard, and washed the casing out with warm water and soap. But the problem was the battery connections needed to be lifted up to make better contact with the battery. This instructable got me to open the remote and check it out for myself instead of going on eBay and buying a remote for $40 when the entire sound bar cost me $160 . The pictures on this old instructable are not like new remotes. Everything is covered except for a few prongs. So don't be upset if your motherboard doesn't look like the ones pictured here. But make sure there are no broken visible connections.

1 reply

Thanks for your comment.
I wrote this Instructable 12 years ago and that remote was old then.
But the practice of repair is still pretty much the same.

Hi, my remote's leds light up correctly but the hi-fi it controls doesn't respond. Is it possible for the sensor in the hi-fi to fail or any other suggestions ?

To use my TV remote control I have to physically turn the TV off by hand, then switch it on again and then wait about 10 seconds before it will operate by the remote. It then works fine, changes channels etc, but once I use it to turn the TV onto standby, after the 10 second delay, the same happens, it looses its ability to work so I have to go back to the TV, turn it off then on again, wait the 10 seconds and then the remote will work again, which is really annoying as this TV is in my bedroom ! Would really appreciate it if anyone knows why and can tell me how to get rid of this really annoying fault.....

I have found that the squiggly lines under the buttons are the culprit. I clean them with surgical spirit and dry clean with cotton buds. It works for two weeks and i have to do it again. Is there a better solution? Appreciate if u can drop a reply to

After soldering any joints on a circuit board, it's very important to clean those solder joints with isopropyl alcohol or flux cleaner and let them dry.

1 reply

That is what I did at work but last time I asked isopropyl alcohol the pharmasist refused to sell it! I might have been looking a bit rough that day, lol

I am having trouble with a TiVo remote, when I press a button, the LED lights up and stays on, then after that none of the buttons work. The only way to make the LED turn off is to take out the battery and put it back in but then as soon as I press a button again the LED will light up and stay lit again. Do you think following your procedure will fix it? Or could there be a problem with the actual microchip?

1 reply

It is rarely the chip. Hard to tell without seeing it.

I had a problem with a remote with a new CD player. I put in fresh batteries, twice, and it still would not work. I had the company send me a new remote, and that one didn't work, either. The batteries appeared perfectly installed (correct polarity, stayed in place, the door closed over them). I thought maybe it was the CD player sensor. I tried the infrared camera test, and both remotes were not working. I took the batteries out of one of them, and noticed the negative terminal springs were very firm. I got the idea to try to get the springs to be "springier" by stuffing the batteries in reverse, so the "button" on the positive terminal would force in the negative terminal springs and make them softer and "springier" (thus a firmer hold). I then reinstalled the batteries in the correct direction, with the negative side of the batteries against the springs. It worked! The remote infrared worked. I don't know if it was the springs not allowing proper contact of the terminals, or maybe what I did dislodged some corrosion or dust, but it worked.

1 reply

Good to hear and 10 points for persistence :)

Thanks, guys!! This stuff works. Definitely!!!

Very useful tip I should remember before buying a replacement, thanks for sharing

Some sort of frequency counter should do the job. But in my job as a TV technician, I never needed to know the frequency. It either worked or not.

Thanks. I did it and restored almost all the buttons that didn't work.

Great advice all around. For those who need to change the IR LED, some simple tips. One edge on the plastic "can" is usually flat; next to the negative (ground) lead. On a new LED, one lead is longer than the other; that's the positive (hot) lead. To make them easy to remember, the ground/flat side would be easy to mount flat against the large grounded foil area on a circuit board, while you'll need a long positive lead to connect the LED to something important that powers it.

Thank you for this! Was able to repair a remote that was the last one in the house to run my cable box from Scientific America!

Another method to fix these if the IR is flashing slowly but still no remote action is to replace the ceramic resonator on the board.
Don't worry too much if it isn't an exact frequency or colour match because the receiver in most if not all TVs has a wide range.
You may find that this fixes stubborn remotes where nothing else does :-)

Hi, the camera test diagnosed a failed IRED on my Sony remote.
For those who run into this problem, the best bet is to either harvest one from another unit or simply use the ones sold on *bay for making night vision cameras.
You will need to solder it though unless you happen to have heatshrink and a steady hand to cut the wires to length.
I have also used tape sensor LEDs harvested from a defunct VCR before but these don't work quite as well as the correct part.