Introduction: How to Open and Clean a ColecoVision

About: I'm a web developer by trade. I'm a tad obsessed with video games, especially retro games and consoles.

As part of my continuing quest to have the ColecoVision more documented on Instructables, here are instructions on how to open and clean one.

Notice the title — this is an instructable to open and clean a ColecoVision. If you haven't attempted to open one before, you may be surprised at how tricky it can be.

Step 1: What You'll Need

You will need:
  • a Phillips head screwdriver
  • dish soap
  • canned air
  • paper towels
  • q-tips
  • 90%+ isopropyl alcohol
  • a small brush (I use a cheap electric toothbrush)
  • Vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)
  • Furniture polish (Pledge or an equivalent)
The only tool required to open a ColecoVision is a Phillips head screwdriver. Everything else is for cleaning the case and internals.

Step 2: Opening the Console

There are two ways to open a ColecoVision. I can't recommend the first way, which involves peeling the front sticker off. So I'm going to describe the slightly trickier second way.

First, remove the 8 screws on the bottom using a normal Phillips head screwdriver. Put them in a container and set them aside. I have several dozen Altoid containers I use for this.

Here's the tricky part. You'll notice that even with the screws removed, it's still pretty sealed. What you should do is hold the console horizontally, right-side up and turned 90 degrees. I'll assume for this description that you've turned it 90 degrees counter-clockwise. With your right hand, peel the back of the console up, separating it a bit from the bottom.

Next, also with your right hand, reach across and grip the face of the console close to the corner that's away from you. Try to pull the bottom lip of the top half up and past the bottom.

Eventually it should come off for you.

Once you've got it open, you may be surprised to see how empty the ColecoVision is. Only one half really has anything in it. This, of course, was to allow for the area that you store the controllers in.

Step 3: Cleaning

If your ColecoVision has remained closed for 30 years, it's likely a horror show inside. This one had ancient cobwebs, miscellaneous debris and tons of dust.

Typically, I would start by blowing out a console with canned air. This one was pretty bad, though. I actually did this in April 2013, which in Minnesota meant that I hadn't turned on our external faucets yet. If they had been on, I would have taken the parts outside and hosed them down. Instead I put them in the sink and sprayed them, then filled the sink with soap and water.

While the case soaked, I turned to the internal parts.

The top RF shield had a good amount of rust. You can deal with this chemically or physically. I did both. First, I soaked it in apple cider vinegar overnight. Then I scraped most of what remained off with sandpaper. You can also use a dremel or a wire brush wheel if you have a bench grinder.

For the motherboard, first try some canned air. Then, if you want, you can go over it with q-tips and isopropyl alcohol. I did this, but I didn't go crazy. I just made sure it wasn't disgusting.

When you've decided that the case has soaked long enough, take it out. Now's a good time to go over it with a toothbrush. Just go to town on any grooves, holes and slots. Many ColecoVisions have residue from a sticker that used to be on top. Brushing at that should remove what's left. Try not to destroy the sticker on the bottom. Soaking it may have loosened it. Later on, when everything is very dry, you might want to use some adhesive (scrapbooking glue or something) to keep it in place.

Now let it dry. It will take longer than you'd like. Once an hour or so I picked up each half and shook it to get rid of some water that collects in screw holes and crevices. But really it just takes time. Let it dry overnight, especially if you are soaking the RF shield in vinegar. Remember that rust that was (probably) on it? You don't want to contribute to that.

You may want to spray some furniture polish onto a paper towel now and rub both halves down. That gives it a nice shine and makes it smell lemony.

Step 4: Close Console

I've found that closing the console is easier than opening it, though it can still be tricky. You basically reverse what you did to open it. Put the power and reset buttons into place. Loosely position the top on the bottom. Pull one of the top front corners over and around the bottom of the front. Continue along the front until everything snaps into place.

Now, make sure that the power and reset buttons appear to work correctly. You might even try plugging it in and trying a game. You don't want to put all eight screws in just to realize that one of the buttons are off.

Once you're satisfied that the buttons are fine, go ahead and replace the screws.

Step 5: Finishing Touches and Notes

Were you successful? Congratulations! It wasn't that bad, was it?

You might want to give it one more rub of furniture polish. If you have trouble with the power or reset button, you'll have to open it back up and seat everything correctly.

You can now sleep a little easier at night, knowing that there are no dust demons gaining strength in your ColecoVision.