Introduction: Fix a Fraying IPhone/Mac/Surface/Laptop Charger
If you're in the position of having a broken laptop/phone charger, and you can see the wires getting exposed or fraying, and for weeks now you've been bending your charger cord in juuuuust the right way to get another charge in, and you don't want to shell out $70-100 dollars for another official one, this is the Instructable for you.
Time: 10 minutes
- BARE copper wire (won't work with coated or enameled!)
- A broken charger
- An X-acto/other sharp knife
- Some heat shrink tubing (or electrical tape might work in a cinch, but it's not great and could melt)
A couple of disclaimers: this probably definitely voids the warranty. If you have Apple Care or Windows Complete Protection and bought insurance for your charger, maybe go that route first. Also, I've been using this fix for a few days and have no problems with overheating, shocks, weird power surging, etc. etc. but use at your own risk! I've tried this with the thin end of a Surface and Mac charger--should work with most other ones as well.
This is a fix that is meant to hold up longer than simply wrapping your broken charger in duct tape because it reconnects the frayed wires, rather than just adding a layer of protection to keep it from getting even more frayed.
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Step 1: Prep Your Charger for Reconnection
Take an X-acto/hobby knife and strip away the insulation until you get to some fuller, unfrayed wire segment. Try to keep this as short of an exposed length as possible. Given the most common positions of breakage in charger cords, you'll have to get through some thicker plastic near the charger brick--heat up your knife blade to help get through the plastic if you need to.
You're looking for enough unfrayed wire to make a healthy, physical connection with supportive wiring.
Warning: don't cut into the insulation too aggressively. A light touch, multiple cuts will do. These chargers have thin wiring that can very easily be cut through with an X-acto blade.
Step 2: Bridge the Gap!
Take some bare copper wire (or other conductive wire, just make sure it's conductive and BARE) and wrap it around your exposed area of cord. Make sure to enclose the frayed bits into the wire wrap. It's like a hair wrap...for electronics. It doesn't need to be this tight, but definitely helps with making sure there's a connection and also helps with structural integrity.
If you want to try using copper tape, that might work too! I used the wire because that's what I had lying around and because I figured wire coils would mimic the natural movement of the charger. The gauge doesn't really matter, but probably the thinner the better. It just needs to be bare! If not, you've made an induction coil--cool, but useless for our purposes.
Step 3: Test It Out
At this point, your charger should work fine again. (3 step fix, hooray!)
Plug it into your laptop to check. There's probably a better way to test this without just plugging it into your nice, more expensive laptop, by plugging it in and then using a multimeter or something like that. Would love to hear alternatives! It didn't short my laptop (or a friend's that we tried out) and I can't imagine why it would in this set up, electrically.
If it doesn't work, you may need a tighter wire wrap, or expose more of the frayed wire to make enough of a physical connection.
Step 4: (Optional) Solder Your Wire Wrap
I had originally wanted to just coat the frayed wires in solder and call it a day but didn't want to melt the insulation of the internal, undamaged wires. This soldering step kind of just keeps some of the copper into place and may have helped attach the copper wire to the original wire. If you had wrapped it tightly enough, it's probably fine skipping this step, especially because you had tested it in the previous step, and we'll be adding some heat shink tubing to secure it anyway.
Step 5: Slip on Some Heat Shrink Tubing/insulation
I used 3/8" tubing so it would fit over the charger head port. Alls you need to do is slide it into place, and hit it with a hair dryer or heat gun, and it should shrink to fit your exposed wire nicely. If it's not shrinking as much as you'd like it, wrap the shrink tubing in some copper, then hit it with the heat source--the copper heats the shrink tubing even more.
If you don't have heat shrink tubing lying around, some electrical tape will also work. No weird smells or worries about the tape melting, because the heat doesn't increase all that much without the kinky frayed wire in there. But it might not be as secure or clean, and because it's tape there is a stickiness factor.
Step 6: It Works! (Hopefully)
It works! It's charging! Without me having to hold it at a certain angle! Also, that's what the heat shrink tubing looks like after using a heat gun on high for 30 seconds. If you can get heat shrink tubing that matches the color of your charger, it's a pretty clean fix.
Let me know if this worked for you and if you found any better ways to go about this. I opted for this wire wrap acting as a bridge rather than cutting the wires entirely and re-soldering all three of the internal wires.