Broken earbuds can be annoying if you just want to listen to something. Fortunately, in some cases they are easy and inexpensive to repair, depending on the cause of the problem. If one of your earbuds occasionally falls out, try twisting the wire and tape it over until sound comes through again. If twisting doesn't work, you may need to open the earbud and solder the connection, if you know how. In some cases, you may just have to buy new earbuds. But if you protect your earplugs when you're not using them, you can keep them healthy for a long time.
Method 1 of 3: Sticking broken earplugs
Step 1. Find the problematic spot
Put in the earplugs and turn on music. If they start to falter, pay close attention to where the problem is coming from. If only one side fails, there is likely a short circuit in that earbud. If you don't hear any sound at all, the break could be close to the plug, or even in the metal pin that goes into your device.
If you still have a pair of earbuds lying around, you can use them to make sure it's not your device's connection that's causing the problem. For example, if both sets of earbuds don't work with your iPhone, you probably need to fix the output of your iPhone instead of your earbuds
Short circuits are most common in the parts of the cable that are close to the plug and the earbuds. These parts undergo the most wear and tear.
Step 2. Twist the cable until the earphones work again
Bend, stretch and move the cable around the problem area. Hopefully you will now hear music again, when the ends of the broken cable come together. Hold the position of the cable the moment you hear the music again.
- Slowly twist the cable so you can stop as soon as it works again.
- In some cases, the break is closer to the center of the cable. So always check the entire cable to find the break.
Step 3. Tape the cable to hold it in place
Hold the cable in position with one hand, and use your free hand to wrap a piece of electrical tape or duct tape around the damaged area. The tape presses the sheath tightly around the wires, keeping them together. Your earbuds should now work again, as long as you don't remove the tape.
If possible, bend the cable in half at the break, and tape it where the cables meet. This way you reduce the slack in the cable
Step 4. Consider buying replacement earbuds
With the tape, your earplugs may work again, but this is only temporary. If you continue to have problems, you may still need to invest in new earbuds or have them repaired. Fortunately, earplugs are not that expensive these days.
- You can find new earplugs in most electronics stores and online stores for €10–20.
- If your earbuds are under warranty, you may also be able to exchange them for new ones or get your money back. You can usually find out whether there is a warranty in the user manual or on the receipt of your earplugs.
Method 2 of 3: Soldering a broken connection
Step 1. Find the source of the problem
Put in your earplugs and listen carefully to find out where the sound breaks down. If only one side doesn't work, the problem is probably in that earbud. If you don't hear anything at all, the problem is probably in or around the plug.
Step 2. Pry open the plastic case of the broken earbud
You need small and thin tools for this, such as a small slotted screwdriver or pocket knife. Pry the end of your tool into the groove between the two housing halves, then push and twist to separate them.
Unless your earbuds are made to be disassembled, you'll probably need to glue them back together with superglue afterwards
Step 3. Check the earbud for wiring problems
In the earplug you should see two copper wires, both of which lead to their own end point on the edges of the round circuit board. Look for wires that are broken, or that have come loose from their endpoints.
If both wires look good, the break may be lower in the cable, near the plug
Step 4. If the problem is there, remove the sleeve from the plug
Sometimes the break is not in one of the earplugs, but in the jack plug with which you connect the earplugs to a telephone, laptop or stereo system. In this case, you will need to remove the protective sleeve from the plug, and pull back the rubber sleeve to expose the wires underneath. Now that the sleeve is out of the way, you can solder freely.
With some plugs you can simply unscrew the sleeve. With others, you can pull the sleeve off with a little force
If there's no way you can remove the sleeve, you can't help but cut the plug and buy a replacement plug to solder back on. Plug repair kits usually cost as little as $7–10.
Step 5. Remove the old solder from the earbuds before you solder them again
Lay the end of the desoldering tape flat over the clump of solder where the cable is pulled away from the end point. Heat the ribbon with your soldering iron where the two materials meet. The tightly woven copper brings up the remains of the old solder, making room for the new solder.
- Desoldering ribbons can be found in all hardware stores and do-it-yourself stores.
- Once you have removed the clump of solder, cut the end of the desoldering ribbon and repeat the process for any clump of old solder that has loosened the wire.
Step 6. Solder the broken wires back to the ends in the earbuds
Now that the old solder is gone, you can put the loose wires back at the end point and press 0.8 mm solder into the connection. Melt the solder with your soldering iron and secure the wire. Repeat this process for each broken wire.
- If both wires are broken, you can connect them to each of the terminals on the circuit board.
- It may be helpful to hold the cable and earbud together with a table clamp or pliers while you work on the wiring.
Step 7. Connect each colored wire to its end point to fix the plug
When soldering broken wires into the plug, it is important to first check that they go to the correct end points. With most earbuds, the copper wire should go to the large end point in the center, the red wire to the smaller end point on the right, and the green wire to the left end.
- If you connect the wires incorrectly, the problem may not be solved yet.
- If you previously had to cut the plug to access the broken wires, purchase a replacement plug and solder the wires to the colored terminals as described in the new plug's instructions.
- With some replacement plugs, you can simply run the broken wire through the hole in the end point and tighten it instead of soldering it.
Step 8. Test the earbuds
Plug in your earbuds and turn on music to check if you can now hear sound from both earbuds. After repairing the damaged wires, they should sound like new again. Have fun listening!
- If you still don't hear anything, it could be because the solder has come loose, or you attached the colored wires to the wrong terminals. You will have to try again to correct your mistake.
- With a break in the middle of the cable, it really isn't worth the cost and effort of repairing. If you think that's where the problem lies, it's probably best to buy new earbuds.
Method 3 of 3: Improve the life of your earbuds
Step 1. Always pull your earbuds by the plug of a device, and not by the cable
When putting your earbuds in or out of a device, grasp the plug's shell. That way you don't pull any wires loose. Also, always pull them out slowly.
Wrap a layer of electrical tape around the plug's casing to make it extra sturdy and prevent the cable from bending.
Step 2. Keep your earbuds rolled up or in a case when you're not using them
Remove your earbuds from your device and roll them up into a loose-fitting loop around your hand. Then place your earbuds on a flat surface so they don't get tangled. For extra protection, you can put your earbuds in a hard or soft holder so that you can easily take them with you.
- Never leave your earbuds loose in your pocket or curled up around your device. This can cause them to become tangled or put tension on the cable.
- Earbud holders can be purchased online or at an electronics store.
Step 3. Clean your earbuds regularly
If your earbuds have loose rubber tips, remove them and clean them with soapy water to remove wax and dust. Use a dry toothbrush to clean the speakers and remove any buildup. Allow the rubber caps to dry completely before reattaching them.
Never get your earbuds completely wet, as this could cause them to stop working
If your earbuds do get wet, immediately place them in a container of rice to let them dry. Leave them there for two or three days so hopefully they don't get too damaged.
- Soldering is a simple job. If your earbuds cost more than $25–45, you can save money by repairing them yourself.
- Another alternative that may be cheaper is to take your earbuds to an electronics store for repair if you don't have your own soldering iron.
- Clean the output of your phone or MP3 player to see if a buildup isn't causing you problems.