How To Fix Faulty Headphones

In Guides

Wire headphones and earphones are perfect for listening to music solo or on the go. However, sometimes no matter how much we take care of our pair of headphones we can end up with faults or defects. Fortunately, figuring out what the problem is is a relatively simple process, and some faults can even be fixed at home with a little know-how. Don’t throw out your Sony headphone wire just yet – keep reading to learn how to repair a broken pair of headphones or earbuds without paying a professional.

Make sure the fault lies with the headphones themselves

The easiest way to make sure that you’re dealing with damage to the pair of headphones or ear phones themselves is by plugging them into a device other than the device you were using. For example, try plugging them into another phone or audio source with a working headphone jack. If you still experience a fault, then the problem lies with your headphones. However, if you notice that the headphones are suddenly working, then the problem is with audio source you had your headphones plugged into initially.

Check your warranty

If you discover that your head phones or ear phones are broken it may be worth checking your packaging or purchase information. Sometimes your purchase (e.g. Dr Dre Beats) will come with a supplier warranty. This means you could get a professional to repair Beats headphones for free. This usually only applies if you’ve had the product for under a certain amount of time (often this is 2 years). Always keep your receipts when purchasing a new piece of technology so you can check when its warranty ends. Remember: once you begin cutting into wires and cracking open earphone casing to start your DIY repairs, your product will usually no longer be covered by any pre-existing warranty!

Seek manufacturer advice

Though the below tips will generally be sufficient, some branded headphones might require more detailed advice. For example, to repair Beats headphone wiring you may need to look up the specific earbuds model information before following generic advice. Faulty Bluetooth headphones in particular require more complicated troubleshooting. Always do your research and seek advice from the relevant wire headphone manufacturers. Contact them via telephone, their social media page or their website before you try fixing it yourself.

Why is one of my earphones not working?

A common issue experienced by earphone users is the pair of ear phones cutting out on just the one side rather than altogether. This means you can still hear sound in one ear, but not in the other, which is frustrating! Folding up the wires and shoving ear phones into your pocket makes them much more prone to damage. Below we will touch on the common causes of headphones/ear phones cutting out in one ear, and detail their solutions.

Electrical short in the wire

This is perhaps the most common of the reasons for one broken earphone in a pair. However, this issue can also occur further down the wire near the audio jack or in the wire of over-ear headphones. The good news is that often this can be fixed without cutting the wire open. If your issue is fixed when you hold or twist the cord into a certain position, you should be able to duct tape the cord in a way that makes the severed wire ends brush together. This should fix the audio problem. The duct tape method and other ways to fix an electrical short are detailed down below.

If manipulating the headphone cable doesn’t fix the broken side of your headphones, the problem might be inside the plastic earpiece. Skip down to the relevent section of the article if you think this is the case.

HOW TO FIX AN ELECTRICAL SHORT IN HEADPHONES/EARBUDS WIRE: DUCT TAPE

You will need:

  • Duct tape (of course!)
  • Multimeter (optional)

1) Firstly, twist or squeeze the broken wire until you have it in the right position (when the sound fixes itself in the earphone and you can hear sound once again). Alternatively, use a multimeter to locate the fault. You may need to bend the earbuds cable over itself until it creates a kink. (If this doesn’t work, try other solutions detailed below.)

2) Once you have found the perfect position, hold the cable tight and steady. At this point, secure the cable with enough tape to maintain the pressure and stop the severed wires from separating again. Check the sound.

HOW TO FIX AN ELECTRICAL SHORT IN HEADPHONES/EARBUDS WIRE: SPLICE THE WIRE AND SOLDER

You will need:

  • Wire strippers (or a pocket knife)
  • Lighter
  • Scissors
  • Third hand with alligator clips
  • Solder and soldering iron/gun
  • Electrical tape
  • Shrink tube and heat gun (optional)
  • Multimeter (optional)

1) First you should manipulate the headphone’s cord until you hear the audio repair itself in both ears, or use a multimeter. You will be able to pinpoint the location of the broken wire this way. Mark the problem area with masking tape. (If manipulating the cord doesn’t work, try one of the solutions detailed below.)

2) Make sure the headphones are not connected to a power source. Then expose the wire in the affected area. Use the wire stripper or pocket knife to carefully remove the insulation around the broken wire. Cut away half an inch each side of the electrical short and expose it.

3) Look carefully at your cable. If it looks like two cables stuck together, these will each contain an insulated wire (the signal wire) and a bare wire (the ground wire). Single cabled headphones/earphones like those made by Apple will contain two insulated wires (left signal and right signal) and one or two ground wires. The left signal will be white or green depending on whether the coating is enamel or rubber. The right signal will be red and the ground wires will be copper wire or black. If you have two ground wires you can join them together so you have three wires altogether.

4) Cut the wire cord in half with scissors, severing intact wires to expose the copper wire. You can use the lighter to burn away the enamel coating and expose the copper ends of wires by moving your flame over them quickly.

5) Check to see if the wire is shredded. If so, cut the shredded part away, but cut the same amount off the left and right cords. If you don’t cut an equal amount off both ends the uneven length can cause electrical damage.

6) If you prefer to use shrink tubes instead of electrical tape, slide one over your cord so it’s ready. Match up the wire on one side to the same colour wire on the other side. Splice each side of the copper wires together using a twisting motion to connect the two halves of each coloured wire. You can achieve an in-line splice by overlapping the wires end-to-end and twisting them in opposing directions. This will make the wire more secure and so you can solder the wires together more easily with your soldering iron or gun.

7) At this point you need to use your solder and solder gun/soldering iron. Use your third hand and alligator clips to hold both sides of the cord in place. Take a piece of solder and melt it over the wire of each splice to solder the wires together. Do this for each splice and allow the solder to cool. This process is sometimes called tinning. You can use a damp sponge to remove solder build-up if you’re using a soldering iron

8) Wrap electrical tape around the signal wire or multiple signal wires. This will separate them out from the one or two ground wires. Use electrical tape to wrap up any bare wires. Finally, if you are using shink tube, slip that over your repaired wires and shrink it with a heat gun. Alternatively, wrap up your repair securely with electrical tape. Check the sound.

Problems inside the earbuds

If manipulating the headphones cord doesn’t restore sound to the broken side of your earphones, you might be dealing with an electrical short inside the ear bud itself. You can try fixing this by cracking open the earbud’s plastic casing to access the wires. This is more complicated than a standard wire repair.

We recommend contacting a professional or the model’s manufacturer before trying to mend a broken earpiece at home. More often than not your DIY repairs won’t work.

HOW TO FIX AN ELECTRICAL SHORT IN PLASTIC EARBUD: SOLDER LOOSE WIRE CONNECTIONS

You will need:

  • Flat-blade screwdriver or equivalent (a number of flat tools or knives will do the job)
  • Super glue (if your ear buds aren’t designed to be opened up)
  • Desoldering braid (sometimes called “desoldering wick” – buy this at a hardware store or electronics store)
  • Solder and soldering iron
  • Third hand with alligator clips

1) Use your flat-blade screwdriver or equivalent to prize open the plastic casing of the defective earbud. You will notice a groove where the two sides of the plastic casing meet. Wedge the tool tip into this groove to prize the two halves apart by pushing down and twisting. (You will have to superglue the casing back together later unless your earbuds are designed to be split apart)

2) Next, inspect the inside of the earpiece for faulty wiring. Inside you’ll spot two copper wires. These will each run to a different terminal around the edges of a circular circuit board. What you need to look for is wires that have broken or loosened and come away from their terminals. (If both wires look fine, the issue might be near the headphone jack.)

3) Before you can resolder the wires inside, you will need to clear away the old solder using your desoldering braid. Place the braid flat over the blob of solder covering where the shorted wire has loosened itself from its terminal. Use your soldering iron to heat the braid where the two materials meet. This will remove the remnants of old solder so you can use a new piece.

4) After you’ve removed one solder blob you should cut the used ends of the braid and use a fresh section for the remaining blobs where the wire has loosened.

5) You can now solder the loose wire into the correct terminal inside the earbud. You can use your third hand and alligator clips to hold everything in place. Reattach the wire to its terminal and press a piece of solder (.032-diameter) into the joint. Use your soldering iron to melt it so you can resecure the wire. Solder all the broken wires. Note that if both wires are broken you can reconnect them to either of the circuit board’s terminals.

6) Carefully superglue the casing back together and check that the sound works.

Problems inside headphones headpiece

If you use over-ear headphones and manipulating the cord doesn’t restore sound to the broken side you might have a problem inside the earpiece itself. Again, this is more complicated than fixing the cord.

We recommend contacting a professional or the model’s manufacturer before trying to mend a broken earpiece at home. More often than not your DIY repairs won’t work.

HOW TO FIX A BROKEN EARPIECE IN YOUR HEADPHONES: SOLDER LOOSE WIRE CONNECTIONS

You will need:

  • Size 0 crosshead screwdriver (if the earpiece contains screws)
  • Soldering iron

1) Start disassembling the broken earpiece. Check the headphones manual for guidance. Use the size 0 crosshead screwdriver if you notice screws in the earpiece. Gently tug at the earpiece’s padding to pull it away so you can check for any screws underneath it.

2) If you notice any severed wires you can reattach them to the headphone driver by soldering them to the bare pin. Check the manual to determine which wires go where if several are loose. Ensure that the wires are kept separate and don’t touch each other. Reassemble the earpiece and check sound.

If there are no loose wires, you should try replacing the driver.

HOW TO FIX A BROKEN EARPIECE IN YOUR HEADPHONES: REPLACE THE DRIVER

You will need:

  • New headphone driver
  • Size 0 crosshead screwdriver (if the earpiece contains screws)
  • Knife
  • Glue

Note: new headphone drivers can be expensive. If the driver in your headphones is broken, it might be cheaper to replace the headphones altogether or contact a professional. There is a high risk of damage if you try to fix this issue yourself.

1) If you haven’t done so already, disassemble the broken earpiece. Check the headphones manual for guidance. Use the size 0 crosshead screwdriver if you notice screws in the earpiece. Gently tug at the earpiece’s padding to pull it away so you can check for any screws underneath it.

2) Cut the rubber seal around the conical driver with a knife. Remove the driver from the earpiece.

3) Carefully put the new driver into the old driver’s slot. Be extra careful so you do not touch the thin diaphragm.

4) Keep it in place with a little bit of glue around the edge if it doesn’t feel secure by itself. Reassemble the earpiece and check sound.

The sound is gone from both sides of my headphones?

Again, the reason will often be an electrical short. If you can hear the sound fix itself when you manipulate the headphones wire you can figure out where the electrical short is and mend it yourself using one of the methods detailed above in the ‘How to fix an electrical short in headphones wire‘ section. If these don’t work, the issue may be located around theheadphoneplug.

Broken plug

You may need to replace your headphones plug. You can buy a replacement jacks and plugs at electronics stores or online. You’ll need a metal jack plug with a stereo connection and a spring. It should be the same size as your old plug.

How to fix a broken plug: replace it

You will need:

  • Replacement plug
  • Scissors
  • Wire stripper (optional)
  • Lighter
  • Solder and solder iron
  • Sandpaper

1) Use the scissor to cut off the broken plug. Cut it approximately one inch above where the plug meets the cable. Even if you can screw the plug off it will be best to cut it. Most plug issues occur because of frayed wires inside the plug.

2) Use the wire stripper or just your scissor to remove around an inch of shielding from the end to expose the wires. You’ll be able to see two wires for the left and right earpieces and at least one for the ground. Separate these by colour/type. If you have a pair of ground wires you should solder them together later.

3) If the wires are rubber coated, strip the ends. Remove a third of an inch of the rubber from the bottom. If the wires are enamel you can skip this part.

4) Twist together the wires of the same colour. Do the same for the pair of ground wires if you have them.

5) Remove the enamel from the ends of the wires by touching your solder iron to them. Skip this step if you already see the copper ends of the wires.

6) Slip the sleeve of the new jack over the wires. The part that connects with the plug should face the exposed wires. Make sure the plug base has two pins (stereo).

7) Tin the wires by adding a drop of solder to the ends. Let it cool down fully before proceeding.

8) Add solder to the end of one of the pins in the plug’s housing and start heating the pin to melt the solder. Attach the soldered wires to the headphones jack. Use the sanded paper to roughen their edges as this will make it easier for them to connect to the pins. Touch the soldered ends of the wires to the soldered pin and connect them to the plug.

9) Reassemble by rotating the sleeve of the jack to screw it into the plug. Tighten the sleeve as much as possible. Test for sound. If you still have issues, check to make sure that your wires aren’t touching.

How to prevent future breakage and extend the life of your pair of earbuds

1) Don’t pull earbuds out using the cord as this will lead to damaged wires. Instead use the thick plastic part (the base) around the metal jack. This way you won’t disconnect any of the wires when you remove them from a device. Don’t yank the base, remove it slowly and gently. You can even wrap a layer of electric tape around the base to make it even more secure.

2) When you aren’t using them, wrap up your pair of earbuds or keep them in a case. Never leave them in your pocket or wrapped around your device. Unplug the cord from your phone or other device and wrap it in a circle loosely around one of your hands. After wrapping the cord, set the earbuds down on a flat surface. This will prevent them from tangling up. For extra protection you could even put the earbuds inside a soft or hard case. This will allow you to carry them around easily without tangling and breaking the wires. Earbuds cases are available to purchase online.

3) Be sure to clean your earbuds regularly and thoroughly. If your pair of earbuds uses removable rubber tips, take these off and wipe with some soapy water. This will remove excess wax or dust clogging up the earbuds. Carefully scrub the little speakers to remove any excess build-up that might be blocking them. Make sure you let the rubber tips dry off thoroughly before reattaching them to the earbuds. Never get your earbuds wet or they may stop working!

Tip: if you do end up getting your earbuds wet accidentally, try submerging them in a container full of rice to help them dry out.