What is the best thing to do with loose electrical jacks?
August 23, 2013 7:41 AM   Subscribe

I have two electronic devices with loose jacks or poor connections, one laptop where the power cord no longer has a solid connection, and a portable music player with a headphone jack that needs jiggling to get left-channel audio.

The music player is an inexpensive item (I think I paid $20 for it), but the laptop is otherwise in fine working order. It's a few years old now, but we have no intention of upgrading it any time soon. I've read about replacing the power jack itself, but that seems extreme, as the power cord still works but doesn't make a reliable connection all the time.

I don't have another laptop power supply available to verify that the issue is with the jack and not the cord, but I have checked my headphones in other devices, and I have no issues with the left channel audio dropping out.

I'm imagining some way to "tighten" the connection, but I don't know if that's realistic.
posted by filthy light thief to Technology (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Very likely a broken solder connection where the jack meets the board. If you're ambitious, and depending on the laptop, you might be able to open the case and touch a soldering iron to the solder joints to redo them. I did this to a Mac iBook and fixed the same issue.

With some laptops it's just a matter of a few screws and everything comes apart easily. With others it's almost impossible to get the case apart without breaking it. You can Google around for your laptop make/model to see what the deal is.

When working on any laptop you need to be good with tools and comfortable with small parts such as thin ribbon cables and their connections. Things are pretty tight in modern laptops.

If you're not ambitious and good with tools, or don't know anyone who is, then your best bet is to take it to a shop that is willing to replace (or resolder) the board.

For the music player, I'd toss it and find another one on eBay.
posted by bondcliff at 7:49 AM on August 23, 2013

As bondcliff says, it's probably a broken solder connection. These can usually be fixed by just re-melting the solder on the jack. Once you have the case open, it's fairly trivial to do if you're ok with a soldering iron.

When the problem seems to be the plug, which it often is, I carefully cut away all of the plastic on the plug, cut the wire back an inch or two, resolder to the plug, then make a new cover for the plug with epoxy putty. Works a treat.
posted by pipeski at 8:10 AM on August 23, 2013

If the music player is under warrantee, they will replace it. If not there might be people online who took theirs apart and fixed it. (For mine, I just got a new one.) If you're going to probably get a new one, you might try squooshing the jack with a pliers to see if you can get a better connection first. Usually this fails but I got this to work once.

For a laptop, most repair places won't solder and will try and sell you a new motherboard. Sometimes a new power adapter is sufficient, but, usually, the problem is on the socket end. I was told by one repair place that this is what happens when you buy off brand power adapters. On my next laptop I only bought brand name adapters and ended up with the same problem!
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:20 AM on August 23, 2013

Cheapo-short-term fix for the music player. I would tape the first inch or two of the cord to the music player when the jack is in a position that allows best listening. Then if you pull on the cord while listening, the jack isn't moved.
posted by BearClaw6 at 9:35 AM on August 23, 2013

Response by poster: Obscure Reference, good to know regarding repair places. I'll note that the power cord is OEM.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:14 PM on August 23, 2013

Answering for the laptop only (I'd toss the music player).

I had this issue with an Acer Aspire (newegg.com). The problem was two-fold. First, the internal power socket was not securely fixed in place. So every time you plugged it in you'd push the socket back a bit and then unplugging it would pull the socket forward a bit. Which led to the solder joint failing. It started by not working sometimes, then only working in certain position, and finally not working at all.

Assuming the above is your problem it is something that can be readily fixed. If you can't find a shop willing to do this. You can try it yourself*.

What you need: micro-screwdriver set, soldering iron, rosin core (electronic) solder, superglue flashlight.

First: Find good directions on replacing the motherboard (either from the manufacturer, google, or youtube). Read or watch at least twice.

Second: Setup a good work space. (I like the dining room table as it help prevent procrastination). You'll want good overhead light, a place to plugin the soldering iron, a place to keep track of all the screws, and a place to put the disassembled parts of the laptop.

Third: Get everything together and make sure it's working (in this case there's really only the soldering iron, but you don't want to get that far only to find out it doesn't work).

Fourth: Go over the motherboard removal instructions.

Fifth: Remove the motherboard (don't remove the processor though). I find it's handy to have several small containers (bowls work) for the screws. You'll want one for each kind of screw.

Sixth: Look at the power socket, shine the light on it. See if you can see where the connection is failing. Check if it's loose (mine was held in place by two posts on either side, and very poor adhesive on the bottom).

Seventh: If you can, solder in place. If not try removing the socket and then soldering. You may be able to remelt the solder that is already there. In my case I ran it until it failed completely so I needed to add solder to the connection.

Eight: Test it. It should light up the case lights even without the motherboard.

Ninth: If the socket was loose (or you had to remove it), glue it back in place.

Tenth: Wait for the glue to dry.

Eleventh: Check power again

Twelfth: Read motherboard installation instructions

Thirteenth: Re-assemble laptop.

Fourteenth: Check that laptop boots. Check that power works.

Fifteenth: Bask is praise of others for you awesome computer repair skillz.

*The usual internet disclaimers apply, if you brick you laptop following these directions, it's your misfortune and none of my own.
posted by zinon at 12:53 PM on August 23, 2013

that this is what happens when you buy off brand power adapters

As you've probably deduced, this is bunk.

zinon posts good instructions, but note that sometimes the socket itself can fail. I fixed a laptop recently where the socket was still firmly in place, but the jack would wobble slightly & make intermittent contact. If this is the problem, you'll need to replace the socket, which is quite inexpensive.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 8:15 PM on August 26, 2013

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