Repair Smarter: 5 More Tips for Electronics Repair

This is the third in a series of posts we’re calling “Repair Smarter,” with tips and tricks for how to make your repairs go more smoothly.

Sometimes, repairing electronics is hard—especially if this is your first time at the rodeo. Don’t worry. We got you covered. Here are five more tips for electronics repair that we think everyone should know:

1. Stuck on You

As we’ve noted, some electronics manufacturers are overzealous with adhesives. Consumer electronics are often plastered with glue, double stick tape, and thermal pads. While adhesive shouldn’t bar your repair, you don’t want to damage electronics when trying to get around the sticky stuff. Try gently peeling or prying up the adhesive. If that doesn’t work, you can apply heat to loosen some adhesives. A heat gun or hair dryer usually does the trick. Always start with minimal heat, as heat can warp some electronics. Keep the heating element a good distance from the device.

If you are still stuck, try a chemical adhesive remover, like Goof Off, which can get through some sticky stuff. It is particularly useful for cleaning up that annoying residue once the adhesive is gone. Be sure to apply any chemical adhesive remover in small amounts to sticky spots using a Q-tip or lint-free cloth.

2. Using Force: Tame Your Inner Wookiee

When it comes to electronics, think like a Jedi and use your mind power first. If some component is stuck, yanking things apart Wookiee-style will simply leave you with electronic crumbs. You should never force anything free. Take some time to think through the problem, determine what it is stuck, and use your Jedi mind tricks to come up with a solution. If you can’t readily see the problem, take a break and give the project fresh eyes.

Some problems are easy to identify, like a dead battery or a shattered screen. Other problems can be trickier. For anything that isn’t an obvious fix, pull out your sleuthing cap and SPIT:

  • Symptoms—Make a list of all the symptoms you observe.
  • Possible causes—Make a list of all the possible causes for each symptom.
  • Inspect the device—Look for visible damage, discoloration, burn marks, or anything that looks out of place.
  • Trace it back to the source—If you can’t find an obvious problem, trace it back to the power source. Somewhere in that chain, something went wrong.

3. Don’t Get Screwed

Magnetic project mat used for electronics repair

Wherever you are spared adhesive you will most likely find screws holding things into place…lots of teeny, tiny screws. Don’t leave these helpless screws on their own. They get lost faster than a two-year-old at a carnival.

A screw tray or FixMat keeps everything organized and out of the carpet, which is good news come reassembly time. Labeling screws, components, and the order which they came out ensures that the toaster will work again and spares the junk drawer from yet another Ziploc of assorted screws.

Take pictures as you go. Not only can these pictures become a great contribution to our ever-growing online repair resource, but they can be a lifesaver when it comes to figuring out exactly where everything belongs.

4. Enjoy Yourself

Remember: you are learning. Take your time; be patient with the device and yourself. Repair should be an enjoyable process. It may not be the easy at first, but rest assured that you are gaining skills and confidence. Your first few tries, you probably won’t get everything right. That’s okay. Mistakes are just learning experiences. Don’t have unrealistic expectations. It’s even okay to ask for help. Your efforts will be rewarded when you turn on your device and it works again because you fixed it yourself.

5. Share Your Story

You did it. Pat yourself on the back and, if you’re in the mood, do the dance of joy. Next step: brag about your success. Share your repair stories on iFixit.com! Sharing your repair story forever documents your MacGyvering skills. But it isn’t just about reveling in your moment of repair glory—stories empower others to repair the stuff they own, too. Happy repairing!