Another IC that apparently can fail in Super Nintendo consoles

Is the S-APU in SNS-CPU-APU-01 and all 1-chips boards

Is the S-APU in SNS-CPU-APU-01 and all 1-chip boards

I mostly repair the older SNES revisions with 2 PPUs, but sometimes I do get 1-chip and Mini consoles. But basically my repair knowledge about those is nothing much beyond “clean the cartridge slot with alcohol, look for broken traces and if it still doesn’t work, toss in the parts box”.  Since they don’t have a CPU or PPU that’s prone to failure (to my knowledge, at least), it’s not like there’s much of anything I can replace on them.

Eventually I accumulated a small pile of 1-chip boards that all would freeze at the publisher splash screen. This is a common issue on all boards and is caused when the system fails to communicate with the sound hardware for whatever reason. You can induce this problem in SHVC consoles by simply removing the sound module. On other boards it’s usually due to broken traces somewhere.

When I find this issue on consoles without a removable cartridge slot and I can’t find broken traces anywhere else, I don’t waste my time and just toss them atop the heap. Among those boards are about a half dozen 1-chips, most of which I found inside housing that was full of roaches and had lots of liquid damage and broken traces. Though I had fixed all the broken traces I could find on the boards, they would all still hang on the publisher splash screen, so I made the assumptionwhich seemed reasonable at the time considering the condition in which I acquired themthat there were more broken traces that I simply hadn’t found, probably under the cartridge slot, and gave up on them.

Years ago when I first started repairing SNES consoles I had, in fact, tried replacing the DSP and S-SMP chips on some GPM consoles with this problem. Of course, it didn’t fix the problem and I later found the broken traces on them that were really causing the issue. Ever since then I’ve always assumed the audio chips are pretty much okay and don’t just die for no good reason like the CPU and PPUs.

But I was digging through my parts boards pile today and found those 1-chip boards I had tossed aside. Earlier in the day I had fixed a Mini when I removed the VRAM and found broken traces beneath. Inspired by that success I decided I should check underneath the APU on a few of them that had rust in that area to see if the traces that ran beneath it had breaks in them. So I removed the APU from a few boards and walked away while they cooled.

When I came back I looked for broken traces, didn’t find any, and then soldered the APUs back onto the boards. But just for the heck of it I decided I would replace the APU in one of them with an APU I had salvaged from a trashed board. To my great surprise the problem was solved when I tested the board.

 

The donor board on the right was totally beyond repair.

The donor board on the right was totally beyond repair.

To be sure this wasn’t a fluke, I grabbed another board that would freeze at the splash screen and removed the APU from it. I then soldered in the APU from a console that had a totally unrelated video problem. Once again, the problem was totally fixed.

This is both good and bad news to me. The good part is that now I can fix an issue with the later SNES revisions that few people probably realize is so easily fixable. The bad news though is that it may mean all of our 1-chips are probably prone to the APU failing and may be ticking time bombs, just like the older revisions. Heck, maybe even the Mini could be prone to this.

 

My SNES troubleshooting workflow for “black screen of death” systems

SPOILER ALERT: They ALL have dead CPUs.

SPOILER ALERT: They ALL have dead CPUs.

I have dozens of these black screen systems. I have a basic flowchart for troubleshooting all SNESes in my head. It’s simple and progresses from the easiest fixes to the most difficult. But I’ll spoil it and reveal ahead of time that they almost all have dead CPUs that need to be replaced. It’s never the easy stuff.

The first steps are disassembly and cleaning the housing. Of course, the latter doesn’t fix anything, but time is money, and by cleaning the housing first I can leave it to dry while I work on the motherboard itself.

Step one is to clean the cartridge slot with a toothbrush and 91% alcohol. 99% is better but it’s more expensive and harder to find. 91% is good enough. Most folks recommend wrapping a credit card in a cloth, dipping it in alcohol, and then inserting and removing it repeatedly to clean the cartridge slot, but I’ve never understood this method at all. I don’t understand how that could possibly be very effective. A toothbrush seems like the obvious answer to me. For one thing, with the credit card and cloth method you’re only cleaning the removable top part of the connector, which is completely pointless if you don’t also clean the pins beneath it that are soldered directly to the board. For RGB, APU, and 1CHIP models I suppose the credit card method may be all right, since you can’t just lift the connector off on those. But a toothbrush just seems like a far better method to me. You need to use serious elbow grease when cleaning these things, and there’s no way to put the kind of force necessary behind your scrubbing if you’re just using a credit card wrapped in cloth.

Of course, rather than clean it, it’s faster to just grab a known working cartridge slot connector to test the system quickly. Keeping one handy saves time.

It's pointless only cleaning the removable top part of the cartridge connector if you don't also clean beneath. How would you possibly clean a system like this with the credit card method?

It’s pointless only cleaning the removable top part of the cartridge connector if you don’t also clean beneath. How on earth could you possibly clean a system like this with just the credit card method?

Cleaning beneath the connector is very important. If someone spilled something on the console long ago, you have to consider where gravity would have taken it. Soda spilled on top of the console wouldn’t have just sat on the top removable piece of the connector for all those years, so it’s rare to find much corrosion on the removable part. Any liquid spilled on top of the system would have run down through the connector and settled on the pins beneath. That’s why you tend to find rust and corrosion on these pins. Sometimes they look all green, like the Statue of Liberty. I scrub these with a brass brush to remove any corrosion, then clean them off with a different toothbrush and some cotton swabs. Deoxit is also good to use here.

Knowing how gravity works allows you to predict this before you even fully disassemble the console.

Knowing how gravity works means this kind of result is predictable.

At this point you can test the system. If it works, great. You’re done. But the premise here is that these simple things usually don’t work. Most consoles don’t have so much corrosion, so, while cleaning is always a good idea for sanitary reasons, it rarely actually fixes anything. Ordinary dust and dirt won’t stop the console from reading games. So let’s move on to the next step in my flowchart.

If you hold the reset button on a working console while powering it on with a game inserted, you get a black screen until you release the button. The idea here is that if the reset button is very dirty (again, think spilled soda) then it can be stuck in the activated position, causing the same symptoms as if it were actually being held down. I’ve never actually seen this personally, but it’s an explanation that makes a lot of sense to me, so it has a place in my flowchart and I always first try cleaning the reset button with a toothbrush and a bit of alcohol. If it seems sticky I temporarily desolder and remove it just for testing. It never turns out to be the culprit, but it’s pretty quick to remove so it’s not much of a waste of time.

C62 and the reset button.

C62 and the reset button.

C62 is a small 2.2µF capacitor right above the CIC chip, near the reset button. I’m told that if this is bad it has basically the same effect as holding the reset button down, resulting in a black screen on all games. Again, I’ve never actually come across a system where this had happened, but it’s an easy thing to replace, so I sometimes try replacing it if it looks funny. It has never fixed anything for me though.

I’ve seen this next thing once and only once. Since it happened once though, it does have a place in my flowchart, since I suppose I could come across it again.

I flip the board upside down and do a visual and tactile check of the solder joints on the bottom of the cartridge slot. When I say “tactile” what I really mean is that I press on them one at a time with my fingers to see if they’re cracked. It doesn’t hurt to quickly reflow them all. It almost never fixes anything, but it can help you eliminate the cartridge slot completely as a possibility. If you are an insane person you can get a multimeter, connect the top removable connector, and then check each pin on the bottom of the board for continuity with the corresponding pin inside the removable connector. This is a colossal waste of time though and you should only do this if you are a masochist. Even with a third hand tool, you’ll nudge the board constantly, your hand will slip, you’ll drop one of the probes, you’ll lose count of which pin you were at and have to start over and you will want to off yourself in no time. Besides, you really don’t need to test. It’s never the cartridge slot that causes these issues. When it comes to the cartridge slot, if everything looks good, it is good. The one time I had a system where this sort of thing was an issue, the solder joint was so badly cracked on the underside of the board I could wiggle it with my finger. If something is wrong it will be obvious.

Next is to check for broken traces. There are no shortcuts here. You just need a jeweler’s loupe and a lot of time on your hands. What I’ve learned from experience though is that you shouldn’t waste your time on this step unless you have good reason to suspect there will, in fact, be some broken traces. Basically that means if you have a system that had liquid damage or was in a very damp, wet, humid, or dirty environment you may want to spend some time looking at it carefully under magnification. So if you open it up and find lots of rust or dead bugs, it may actually have some broken traces. But if you open it and it’s nice and clean, don’t waste your time. Unless, of course, someone else worked on it prior to you. If that’s the case, you should absolutely check for broken traces, scratches, lifted solder pads, and that sort of thing, since you never know what the last guy may have done to it.

If the system is an SHVC model, yes, you can try swapping out the sound module. Some games will give a black screen if the sound module is disconnected or bad. But many games actually load to the first screen and freeze when the sound module is bad or disconnected, so if you’re using a game like that and you get a black screen, don’t waste your time, since it’s not the sound module. An Everdrive will load and display the contents of your SD card even with a bad/disconnected sound module. If you try to run a ROM, it’ll freeze.

An Everdrive, by the way, is something that can be very helpful when you’re not quite sure of the extent of the problem. Some systems may give a black screen on most games, but display garbled graphics on another. Still others give a black screen on 9 out of 10 games but might play one specific game just fine. Those consoles may have hope. To help understand the extent of the problem a bit better I see if it’ll read an Everdrive. If it reads the Everdrive and loads the burn-in test rom, I run it and see what it says. These black screen systems may not read any retail games, but sometimes they do read the Everdrive, though it doesn’t always actually load up fully. It often crashes when trying to display the contents of the SD card. But if it does load and I can get the burn-in test rom to run, it usually is very straightforward and simply says, “CPU —— FAIL”. That’s about as clear-cut an answer as it gets. Almost all the failures are CPU-related, but occasionally you do see some VRAM problems. Those are nice since you can easily grab the VRAM from another console. There’s also plenty of space between the pins so soldering them in is easy. But I’ve only seen bad VRAM two or three times and those had all been worked on previously. I don’t think the VRAM is typically prone to failure. Normally it’s a CPU problem.

At this point the only thing left is to replace the CPU. That’s not as hard as it sounds if you have hot air rework equipment. It’s very easy to remove the old CPU, but you do need to be moderately good at soldering to put in the new one. I usually end up with a few solder bridges at the end that need to be fixed. The hardest part though is locating a good CPU. The reason I have dozens of dead black screen SNES boards is because I have no good CPUs to put in them. Most, I’m sure, would work fine with a new CPU, but the trouble is that there’s nowhere to get them. I found a few IC dealers online that claim to have a small quantity in stock, but they are asking such high prices it would actually be cheaper to buy working SNES consoles for the CPUs than to buy from those bloodsuckers. When I get really badly water-damaged or otherwise screwed-up boards I take the CPUs. Sometimes they’re bad, too. But occasionally they’re good and I can revive one dead system from my stack. It always feels good. Plus I end up producing some unique SNES consoles like 1990 SHVC boards equipped with the later (and much more resilient) “S-CPU B”, which was normally only found in the GPM-02, RGB, and APU motherboard revisions.

Don't worry. I didn't cannibalize a working RGB board. It had been eaten up by roaches and was totally beyond repair with broken traces all over and the solder mask peeling up on the back.

Don’t worry. I didn’t cannibalize a working RGB board. It had been eaten up by roaches and was totally beyond repair with lots of broken traces and the solder mask peeling up all over the place.

Maggots? In my SNES?

It's more likely than you think.

It’s more likely than you think.

No, don’t worry, this isn’t my personal console. I got this one on eBay. Mine, of course, is immaculate, as you would expect. Incidentally, buy only from me or else this is the kind of thing that’ll show up at your doorstep after shopping online.

But wouldn’t you know it? This disgusting pile of filth and disease worked fine after I spent several hours washing it. I had to replace the capacitors, but otherwise it was fine. It’s aggravating that horrific-looking systems like this survive despite such neglect and abuse and yet so many well-cared for pristine-looking systems stored in safe and clean conditions by responsible, civilized people just die for no good reason.

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Unusual original Nintendo 3DS motherboard revision: CTR-CPU-40

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I received a 3DS console today that had been cracked in half at the hinge. As I opened it up to remove the motherboard I immediately noticed that the tiny little IR board that normally connects to a plug next to the P7 connector was missing. The IR module on this motherboard was integrated and not removable. Also strange was the fact that the little piece of tape used at the factory to secure the touch screen connector was black, rather than the typical white. I’ve seen a few boards with black tape rather than white, but in the past I always assumed this was because they had already been worked on before I received them and the last technician had used black tape. Now I know I was probably wrong. This was an entirely new motherboard revision.

The back of the board

The back of the board

Integrated IR

Integrated IR

There are some minor yet consistent differences I’ve noticed from one console to the next, such as the color of the mainboards, color of screws, slight variations in the labeling on the WiFi board, and the fact that most special edition consoles and consoles bundled with a game have the charge ports soldered much more securely to the board than the original black/red/blue models. Normally, however, the motherboard itself is basically the same. This is different from those types of minor variations because it’s a completely different motherboard revision from what I’ve seen before. Though it’s not something I normally pay attention to, I don’t think I recall ever seeing anything other than CTR-CPU-01 and the occasional CTR-CPU-20 boards.

Big blobs of solder secure the charge port in place, unlike the weak connection in earlier models

Big blobs of solder secure the charge port in place, unlike the weak connection in earlier models

The label on the WiFi daughterboard differs slightly from most models, but the board itself is the same DWM-W082 as all 3DS consoles.

The label on the WiFi daughterboard differs slightly from most models, but the board itself is the same DWM-W082 as all 3DS consoles.

In any case, this board does look more or less the same as any other model besides the fact that it has integrated IR and some silver screws in a few locations that normally have black screws. The color of the screws does differ from model to model, but I’ve never seen silver screws in these locations before. It’s fairly common for the external screws for the housing to be silver on special edition or bundled consoles, but I’ve never seen anything other than black for the screws beneath the SD card slot. Additionally, some special edition and bundled consoles have only two, rather than three, screws securing the L button in place and only three, rather than four, screws for the R button. This console follows that pattern but it also replaces the normal black screws for the shoulder buttons with silver ones.

Silver, rather than black, screws beneath the SD card slot.

Silver, rather than black, screws beneath the SD card slot.

Silver, rather than black, screws for the shoulder buttons as well

Silver, rather than black, screws for the shoulder buttons as well

Unfortunately, the previous owner used super glue in a misguided attempt to repair the cracked housing and even glued the battery cover in place, leaving no possibility of salvaging it. But the serial number sticker inside was still legible:
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For now I’m keeping this board. I put it inside one of my own consoles and sold the motherboard it replaced. I’ll probably keep it around for a while to tinker with and maybe I’ll eventually sell it.

Quick and easy fix for a Super Nintendo suffering from “black screen of death”

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One of the most common problems people seem to have with Super Nintendo consoles is they find that the console powers on but only displays a black screen with no audio, even with known good games. I don’t have a tremendous amount of experience repairing Super Nintendos, but it is something I do occasionally for fun and because I find that I usually learn something in the process. I generally stay clear of consoles with this type of problem though, since it could be caused by just about anything. Determining the exact cause can be next to impossible. Normally these boards look perfectly fine visually, so figuring out where there’s a broken trace can take forever. They’re usually not worth repairing. Sometimes, however, you get lucky and there’s something very obviously wrong that you can see visually. It still may take some careful inspection with a magnifying glass, but if there are any signs of corrosion or other damage, it’s always worth trying to fix it, even if it doesn’t look that bad visually or strike you as something that’s likely to be the cause of your problem.

You can see here I've put down a bit of solder along a trace running near U15. This trace had a lot of corrosion on it and appeared broken visually. It is so tiny that, rather than fix it with a wire, I just lay down a bit of solder along the broken length of it to repair it. In the end I determined that it was not, in fact, the cause of the problem

You can see here I’ve put down a bit of solder along a trace running near U15. This trace had been broken due to corrosion, but it was so tiny that, rather than fix it with a wire, I just lay down a bit of solder along the broken length of it to repair the problem.

I wish I had taken a photo prior to the repair, but the opening photo up above shows the area where I found damage on this GPM-02 board. There are two audio RAM chips in the opening photo. U15, shown here to the left, is the one where there was a problem. Pin 12 of U15 had a bit of corrosion on it. I checked for continuity between it and the via it was going to and the connection was not totally broken, but it wasn’t exactly sound, either. If I fiddled with the multimeter probes I would get continuity, but it wasn’t consistent. Something told me to try using a wire to connect pin 12 directly to that via, just to see if it would help things. I put a bit of flux in the via, insert the tinned end of a small wire into it, crossed my fingers, and hoped that the solder would flow into the via and secure the tip of the wire in place. Fortunately it worked out as I had hoped and I was able to solder the other end of the wire to pin 12.

Without really thinking there would be any improvement, I went ahead and tested the console. To my surprise my test game worked fine. I then tested with about a dozen other games and they all worked. I was very surprised that this broken trace would cause a black screen for all games. Since mostly audio-related stuff goes on in this area of the board, I would have expected that symptoms of this type of damage might have been games playing but without any audio.

It's not pretty, but it works.

It’s not pretty, but it works.

In the end, I’m not sure if the damaged trace running near U15 actually had anything to do with the black screen problem. It was the first thing I noticed though when I opened the console, so I thought scraping away the corrosion and patching it was worth a shot. Fixing it alone didn’t solve the black screen problem though. Before reassembling I tested the console without the wire from pin 12 to the corresponding via and was able to reproduce the black screen problem, so a bad connection to/from pin 12 was clearly responsible for the issue. The other damaged trace may not have even been bad enough in the first place to cause a problem.

Though it looks pretty sloppy, when reassembling the console I simply placed a bit of electrical tape over the blobby length of solder on the patched trace. The console has been working fine for some weeks now, so it seems nothing is shorting.

Even Nintendo repair technicians make mistakes sometimes

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I bought this Year of Luigi special edition console on eBay for $40 shipped. The seller listed it for parts or repair, but had no further information about what was wrong with it. The photos weren’t particularly informative either, but I decided to buy it mainly because the screens didn’t appear to be cracked from the photograph, so I figured that even if I couldn’t repair the system, I’d still have at least $40 worth of good parts, since the housing also appeared to be in good shape.
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I spotted the listing after sorting the search results page by “newly listed” in descending order. Since the item was listed BIN, I bought it immediately, since if I waited around to read the listing carefully someone else would have bought it. Only after buying it did I notice that the retail box was mismatched and had a sticker on it indicating the item was refurbished.

I’ve always wanted to disassemble a 3DS system refurbished at an authorized Nintendo repair center. I’ve disassembled numerous consoles that have been professionally refurbished by other companies and then subsequently broken once more, but never one that has been done by an authorized Nintendo repair center. It’s always interesting to see the techniques others use. For example, I’ve noticed that there’s one repair company whose consoles I’ve re-repaired numerous times with an idiosyncratic method of routing the cable for the WiFi antenna such that it serves to hold the microphone in the proper position, a technique that differs a bit from the way the cable is routed normally. It’s fun learning these kinds of tricks and shortcuts that others have discovered.

When I received the above console I was slightly hesitant to open it up, since there was a possibility it was still under warranty. I generally don’t work on anything that’s still under warranty, since I feel it’s a shame to void it. Nintendo have removed their warranty status check tool from the NOA website, however, so I decided I would go ahead and open it. The first thing I noticed was that the head of one of the screws was actually a bit stripped. It seems inconceivable to me that they wouldn’t have the proper size screwdriver at the repair center, so it’s possible that the owner of the console may have been responsible for this by attempting to open it on his or her own. I also noticed that the adhesive that holds the two rubber feet that hide a couple of screws on the underside of the console was weaker than normal, as though the feet had been pried off and then replaced without applying new adhesive beforehand.

The malfunction, by the way, was that when the power button was pressed the blue light would come on but the screens remained black. Neither the backlights nor the WiFi LED came on. If, while the console was in this state, I opened the ZIF connector for the speaker cable, the console would shut off, but it did not make the typical popping sound.

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Inside the console looked beautiful. It was incredibly clean and looked very nearly like a brand new console. Just one thing was out of place: the connectors for the lower screen were loose. This really gave me a good laugh, because after opening the connectors for the lower LCD and the lower LCD backlight, cleaning each with a tiny bit of isopropyl alcohol for good measure, and then reinserting the ribbon cables, the console booted normally and now works flawlessly. The screens don’t have a single scratch on them and, contrary to the numerous complaints I’ve heard about Nintendo refurbished consoles, there is not even the slightest bit of dust underneath the plastic upper screen display lens. I just think it’s so amusing that such meticulous attention to detail went into this repair in order to ensure that not even a single speck of dust was trapped beneath the display lens, but then, at the very end of the repair process, some technician accidentally failed to push a couple of ribbon cables in all the way. It’s always the simple stuff that gets you.

In any case, I’m keeping this one. I could probably more than triple my money if I were to resell it, but it’s actually in nicer condition than my personal 3DS XL console, so it’ll be a good upgrade for me.

Unresponsive 3DS face buttons?

This is the same console owned by the blighted mudcrab whose shoulder buttons I had the pleasure of cleaning previously.

This is the same console owned by the blighted mudcrab whose shoulder buttons I had the pleasure of cleaning previously.

While unresponsive shoulder buttons are far more common, sometimes the face buttons of a 3DS or other console become sticky or unresponsive. If the button works when pressed very hard but not when pressed lightly, it’s almost certainly due to dirt accumulation. If the button feels sticky or jammed, it’s most likely because there’s dirt built up around and beneath the plastic buttons, as in the above photo where thick rings of filth have built up around the circumference of each button. If the button doesn’t feel jammed but it’s not as clicky as it once was, it may be due to dirt under the conductive pads on the motherboard. In either case, it’s necessary to remove the motherboard from the housing (or at least remove the screws securing it in place and flip it over, if you’re in a hurry, like I was).

Here's the rubber pad between the plastic buttons and the contacts on the motherboard. Doesn't look too bad, does it?

Here’s the rubber pad between the plastic buttons and the contacts on the motherboard. Doesn’t look too bad, does it?

But peel it away to reveal a cache of shit and grease.

But peel it away to reveal a cache of shit and grease.

Remove the buttons one by one and clean the slots. Toothpicks help.

Remove the buttons one by one and clean the slots. Toothpicks help.

Clean the buttons, too. As you can see, they're usually even dirtier than the slots in which they sit.

Clean the buttons, too. As you can see, they’re usually even dirtier than the slots in which they sit.

Of course, while you’re at it you should also clean the D-pad and power buttons. It’s the same nauseating process as for the ABXY buttons, so I didn’t bother photographing them. When you have to disinfect your camera after each part of the process, you’ve got a strong incentive only to photograph the most essential steps.

Don’t close up your console yet. The most important part is to clean the contacts on the motherboard. If you’re a particularly depraved slimebucket—or if the console has suffered liquid damage—you should clean beneath the contacts as well.

As with most things, these contacts don't look too bad from afar.

As with most things, these contacts don’t look too bad from afar.

But look more closely and you'll be horrified.

But look more closely and you’ll be horrified. We need to clean this sludge off with isopropyl alcohol and a cotton swab.

For the worst cases you will need to clean beneath the contacts as well. Mainly this is only necessary when there was liquid damage, but in this particular case the owner was such a slovenly clodhopper that there was a horrifying amount of dirt underneath the contacts even in the absence of anything else that looked like liquid damage.

You can peel the contacts up with a toothpick, but I actually find it easier to use my fingernail. As long as you’re careful, you can just stick them back down on the board when you’re finished cleaning. The adhesive is very strong, so it can be reused. However, if you do accidentally destroy the contacts you can replace them either from another motherboard or by buying replacements on eBay or Aliexpress for about $2, so there’s no great risk involved here. Just don’t scratch the motherboard.

It's amazing the D-pad worked at all with this level of accumulation.

It’s amazing the D-pad worked at all with this level of accumulation.

When cleaning it's fine if you don't remove 100% of the dirt.  It's not necessary to be perfect.  In this case the contacts are clean enough to restore completely normal functionality even though there is still a small amount of stubborn dirt left that I couldn't remove.

When cleaning it’s fine if you don’t remove 100% of the dirt. It’s not necessary to be perfect. In this case the contacts are clean enough to restore completely normal functionality even though there is still a small amount of stubborn dirt left that I couldn’t remove.

And that’s it. If people weren’t such swine none of this would be necessary.

Unresponsive 3DS shoulder buttons?

Well, have maybe you're a swamp dwelling slob, like the previous owner of this console.

Well, have maybe you’re a swamp dwelling slimelord, like the previous owner of this console.

The above is about average for consoles I receive. I’ve seen much worse, but it never ceases to surprise me how much dirt can accumulate inside consoles that look to be in decent cosmetic condition externally. This is the first time I had the idea to actually photograph it though. I doubt most people realize how much material gets transferred from their hands to the console and becomes trapped inside when they fail to wash their hands before playing.

I always clean beneath the shoulder buttons before selling a used console. I used to only do this for liquid-damaged consoles, but I’ve noticed it’s often necessary even on consoles that look like they’ve been taken care of responsibly. So now I don’t even bother testing the shoulder buttons first to see if they need it. I just assume they do and clean them.

Unresponsive shoulder buttons are almost always due to dirt accumulation. It’s really amazing what slobs people are. Fortunately, cleaning the shoulder buttons is very quick and easy, so even destitute mud farmers like the people who let this happen to their consoles can fix it themselves.

The left and right sides are pretty similar, so I only took photographs of the right side to show the process.

This is what we will be contending with.

This is what we will be contending with on the right side.

The left is not much better.

The left is not much better.  


First we remove these four black screws. On some consoles there will be only three.

First we remove these four black screws. On some consoles there will be only three.

Now we life the plate off and set it aside.

Now we life the plate off and set it aside.  

Next we life off this black plastic piece.

Next we life off this black plastic bracket.  

The button is held in place by a peg and a spring. Carefully remove them.

The button is held in place by a peg and a spring. Carefully remove them.

This would be the moneyshot.

This would be the moneyshot.

The best way to clean is with isopropyl alcohol. Not only does it make removing even tough dirt easy, it also eliminates most odors, which may be important if there’s liquid damage. You can do a good job with just a combination of a toothbrush, toothpicks, and some cotton swabs. Obviously you’ll want to focus your cleaning on the recess in which the plastic button sits, but you should also clean the button itself. If you’ve noticed that your shoulder buttons are unresponsive and don’t make as much of an audible “clicking” noise as they once did when you press them, cleaning them can sometimes help with that

Now we clean and dry the left side...

Now we clean and dry the left side…

and the right side.

and the right side.

While you have the console open, it’s also a good idea to clean out the area beneath the SD card slot and the slot in which the stylus is stored.

Remove the four silver screws that secure the stylus holder and SD card slot cover in place.

Until you open it up to check, you would never suspect how much dirt can be trapped in these areas.

Remove the four silver screws that secure the stylus holder and SD card slot cover in place.

Remove the four silver screws that secure the stylus holder and SD card slot cover in place.

Disgusting.

Disgusting.

Much better.

Much better.

Reassembly is easy as long as you haven’t lost anything along the way.

Make sure these two nuts are in there. The four screws on the battery cover screw into these.

Make sure these two nuts are in there. The four screws on the battery cover screw into these.

First, place the button into the recess.

First, place the plastic part of the button into the recess.

Then insert the peg...

Then insert the peg…

...and the spring.

…and the spring.

Now we can insert the button itself.

Now we can insert the button itself.

Next we replace the black bracket on top of the button. The ribbon cable for the button goes through a slot in the bracket.

Next we replace the black bracket on top of the button. The ribbon cable for the button goes through a slot in the bracket.

Replace the serial number plate and screw it back in. Take note that no screw goes in the upper left corner.

Replace the serial number plate and screw it back in. Take note that no screw goes in the upper left corner.

Here's what the left side should like like in the end.

Here’s what the left side should like like in the end.

The finished, disinfected product.

The finished, disinfected product.

If I get around to it I might write about how to repair most cases of sticky/unrepsonsive face buttons next. If I get around to it.