Introduction: Repair a TV Remote Contol

Don't waste money on a "Universal" remote...

You know how it is, your old TV works just fine, but the remote has gotten flakey... (i.e. the buttons work intermittently or need to be pressed extra hard or repeatedly before you get the response you want).

You have dutifully checked (measured) the batteries, or just replaced them with fresh ones - to no avail, alas...

So you go splurge on a good quality "Universal" remote and get it home, only to find out there is no configuration code to make it work with your equipment (which is "older", naturally - that's why your remote has "worn out").

Well, here's the solution for you - fix the old remote (and return the useless new one to the store!)

(In this example the remote is actually for a surround sound system, but the techniques are the same. In fact, I first did this with a large desk clock with silicone membrane control buttons.)

Step 1: Organize Yourself

You'll need:

  • a couple of small and intermediate sized screwdrivers (flat head), and perhaps a small phillips head jewelers screwdriver
  • isopropyl rubbing alcohol (90-95% is preferable, but 70% will be fine)
  • "Q-tips" or comparable cotton-tipped swabs
  • metal foil tape (of the type used in heating and ventilation installations - available at any hardware store)
  • scissors (for cutting the foil tape)
  • tweezers (for placing the tape where it is needed)
  • optional: a hard plastic scraper to help pry open the housing of the remote

Step 2: Getting It Open

The biggest trick to this is opening the housing on the remote control - without damaging it, or doing much cosmetic damage.

Remove the batteries. There is often a screw or two inside the battery compartment, but generally the front and back halves are held together by little tabs with barbs, located around the seam.

Pry carefully with a screwdriver, or hard plastic scraper. As you locate each one you will need to push the tabs in a bit to unhook the little barb / catch that provides the closure.

Work your way around the perimeter of the seam, and eventually it will pop open.

Step 3: Cleaning

Lift off the silicone rubber membrane with the buttons.

Under it, on the main circuit board you will see metal contacts for each button on the remote.

The contacts for the buttons you use most frequently (like the large ones for channel and volume and mute) will show the most crud (residue) from the silicone rubber buttons that press on them.

Use alcohol on a Q-tip to carefully scrub off the residue until they are as shiny as the clean ones for the buttons that are seldom pressed. Be sure not to leave any cotton strands or fibres.

Step 4: Renewing Worn Contacts

It is likely that the conductive material on the silicone rubber membrane has rubbed off on the back side of the commonly used buttons - this is the residue you just scrubbed off the contacts.

So, now you need to apply a tiny piece of metal tape to the rubber membrane for each of those buttons that was misbehaving.

This takes some dexterity and patience - that's where the scissors and tweezers are handy.

You can see that for the small round buttons on the left edge of the third photo, I was able to use a single piece of tape for three buttons. This was easier than a single tidbit of tape for each button as I did for the buttons on the far right of the same photo.

Step 5: Close It Up!

Now is the time to do any final cleaning of dust, etc.

Align the rubber membrane in the holes in front half of the housing and position it carefully over the circuit board, then start snapping the little tabs into place.

Reinstall any screws that were removed from the battery compartment, put the batteries in - and test it...

Chances are that you are back in business, ready to relax with your favourite TV program - without the stress of a remote that won't change channel or volume at your command.