Busted Ipod Click Wheel Connector Fix

Introduction: Busted Ipod Click Wheel Connector Fix

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On this Ipod (Nano, 4GB, 3rd generation) the "play" button on the clickwheel stopped working. I used a knife, and separated the case halves (I don't know anything about Ipods. There is a plastic tool available for them that takes the case halves apart)

I ended up cracking the screen with the knife.

So, I order up a new screen and clickwheel, and when they arrive, the website URL tells me to move the connector locking mechanism UP.

I, however, do not READ the directions, and go by the so-so pictures, and decide I had better use a knife to push it IN.


That didn't work.

I effectively destroyed the locking mechanism, bent a bunch of pins, and completely dislocated one of the pins.

These pins are about as thick as a whisker in a beard (In other words, not easily repairable).

You may be thinking it is too hard for you, but if you take your time, and do it right, you can succeed. This works for motherboards, anything electrical. It's better than scrapping an expensive Ipod, or purchasing the $100 motherboard. Technically, this did not cost me but a fraction of a penny in solder, and my time.

Step 1: Cleaning Up the Area, Assessing Damage

I used a needle to clean out the plastic debris.

Be careful, friends, when using ANY METAL near the motherboard! You do not want to accidentally short the battery to a sensitive semiconductor!

You absolutely need a GOOD pair of tweezers to do this!

Because one of the pins had broken off, I tried, with no success, to re-solder it back on. It was simply too difficult to do.

I took a strand of wire (I apologize, I do not know what gauge it is) out of the wiring harness for my Subaru BRAT, cut it to length, dipped it in some soldering flux, and tinned it.

I apologize again, I did not take pictures of this step, or many of the steps I did, because I honestly wasn't sure if it would work.

But I will try and explain it.

Having the wire in the tweezers, coat the entire wire strand in soldering flux (I used tinning flux from Lowe's). Then, using a heated-up soldering iron (I used a Weller soldering gun, dual heat range, but a pencil iron is just fine!) with some solder on the tip, and simply TOUCH the hot soldering iron tip to the wire.

Some smoke may appear as the flux burns away, and cleans the wire, and you will notice that the wire is now silver in color, (The color of the solder) and no longer gold (The color of the copper wire).

In this picture, you can sort of see the wire I used. I had to bend it, because if it was a straight connection, I would not have been able to maneuver it about like I did, however, in bending it, it became very difficult to solder.

The red stuff you see is silicone that I used to form a mechanical barrier against vibration, beings that each end of the wire is held in place with a few pico-ounces of solder.

Bear with me..

Step 2: Making the Tools!

First off, you need a really bright light, and the ability to see tiny thing close-up (Maybe get your reading glasses?).

For the soldering iron, I used a cutoff wheel on my Dremel, and used the flat portion of the cutoff wheel to shape the tip of the soldering iron. I followed the contour of the tip and just kept it up until it was needle-sharp.

I am using a 30 watt soldering iron-because it is all I have as far as pencil irons go. A 15 watt will work fine, so will a 20 watt, and a 25 watt. This is very delicate work, and my 30 watt is overkill for this project.

This next tool is very important! Without, it, any solder or debris can remain between the tiny pins, causing all sorts of trouble. The first time I soldered everything, I had tiny bits of solder bridging connections, so it didn't work.

I had a small utility/box cutting knife laying around, the kind where you can break off the tips to get a new sharp edge.

I very gently took enough meat from each side, so that the blade was thinner than paper, to fit between the grooves. You do not want a super thick blade that will push the pins aside, breaking their solder connections. (This happened to me, but was easily repaired)

A blade so thin it flexes is not good, either. I got mine pretty thin, though.

Lastly, you need a VERY good grade of thin, rosin core ELECTRICAL solder. Other solders, with tin, used for plumbing simply will make your life very difficult.

Step 3: Positioning the Pins

Due to the nature of this particular step, a microscope is very handy. However, a good light and a magnifying glass will due.

You want to align the pins on the plastic strip contacts as centered as possible. I had a bent pin, so I could only center it so much.

I apologize for the pictures, it is the best I can do with the setup I have.

These pictures are at 75X magnification, with the Tensor lamp as a light source. You can see where the pins match up, please notice on the left hand side where the wire I soldered in is connected.

Notice at this magnification, how everything looks nasty and filthy. One micro-speck of solder in the wrong place will keep your Ipod from working. You do not need a microscope for this, not at all. But it's interesting to see some of what is going on!

Step 4: The Soldering!

This step takes good hand eye coordination, and a very steady hand.

If you are able to anchor your hand via the pinky, that helps. If your soldering iron is very short, that also helps a great deal. My conditions were less than ideal (I tried using the microscope, but everything is reversed, i.e. when you move right, the microscope shows you moving left, the same with up and down!) but I made them work.

Tinning the iron: If solder is not sticking to the very tip of the iron, you will need a wire brush to clean it, all the way around. Also, don't be shy with the flux. Flux helps the solder stick to the iron.

You don't want solder dripping from the end of the iron, either. Use the same wire brush to clean off any excess solder. The tip should be a uniform silver color, smooth and perfect, just like the tip. Too much solder will instantly bridge the pins, making an electrical connection between them.

I also tried a magnifying lamp, but I couldn't make it work, with the absence of a work bench.

Here's a valuable tip: Unless you disconnect (Desolder) the battery:


You do not want to be soldering on a delicate device with power surging through it (For the device's sake!)

After that is done, feel free to clean the connections with the knife you made.

Be very careful not to CUT the ribbon, but put enough pressure on it to actually have a cleaning effect.

Understand that by cleaning the pins with a steel blade, you are making electrical contact between the pins, same as turning on a switch. This is why you want the hold switch on HOLD.

I have also included some 75X magnification pictures, for your enjoyment.

That's it!

Except for one thing: Resetting your Ipod! You NEED to reset the Ipod for it to work. You may have to reset it several times. I find plugging it into your computer also helps "Wake it up".

Make sure everything is OK before you re assemble it. I played the game "Vortex" to make sure everything is OK. It worked fine for me.

A story:

A few years ago, I lost the controller chip to a IDE-USB interface. (A poor design caused the shcip to be pried off and fly across the room while being disassembled) I found the chip later (In a bag of bread!) and soldered it using this technique. It wasn't as hard, but it was hard. It was a 4 sided IC chip, and the pins were only slightly larger, with slightly larger spacing between them. It worked like a charm! The device recognized the HDD and it worked!

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