AirPods Will Not Turn On

AirPods Will Not Turn On

Alisha C and 2 contributors
Last updated on

Before undertaking any of the more time-consuming solutions below, these are a few fundamentals to get you started.

  • Connect them to the charger. Try alternate power sources. It could be the cable, the USB adapter, or even the wall outlet. Try wireless charging if you have that option...
  • Perform a visual inspection of the Airpods and the case. This could point you in the correct direction depending on what you find. Eg. Debris in the charge port, corrosion on the contacts for the charge case.
  • Check the color of the LED when they are connected to a charger.
    • No LED light is either power source or charge case.
    • When the AirPods are in the case press and hold the button for five seconds. Does the LED flash white? It should prompt for setup on any nearby Apple devices.
    • If it flashes amber when trying to connect - firmware may be mismatched.

Causes

1

Electricity needs an uninterrupted path to do any sort of work. Debris in either of the AirPod bays or the lightning port could interfere with their ability to charge. No battery life means no power.

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  • The best way to combat this, is a simple visual inspection of the charge case.
    • Be sure to look into the bays for each AirPod. Debris could be caught at the very bottom where they receive incoming charge from the case.
    • Use a cotton swab with isopropyl alcohol to clean up any gunk, or corrosion that may be preventing good contact.
    • Check the lightning port for lint or other debris, especially if your charger doesn’t sit flush to the bottom of the case. Use a flashlight for easier viewing.
    • If it looks like anything is lodged in the port, use a toothpick or other non-conductive tool to fish it out. Be mindful of the pins, they are easily damaged. Steer away from using any metal tools for this purpose.
2

A device’s firmware is responsible for providing instructions to various parts of the system. Even headphones need some level of programming to accomplish all the things we expect of them. Damaged or outdated firmware can lead to any number of problems. Your headphones may be perfectly capable of powering on properly, but lack the correct instructions to do so.

  • Firmware mismatches often happen after you receive a replacement AirPod, but can also happen randomly.
    • To verify this is likely your issue, place both AirPods in the case and close the lid.
    • After about fifteen seconds, open the lid, then press and hold the setup button for five to ten seconds.
    • If the light flashes amber, you may have a firmware issue. Otherwise, the light should flash white, indicating that the AirPods are ready to connect.
    • To go the full mile, you can check if either AirPod will power on and connect individually using this same method. Just take one AirPod out and set it aside before closing the lid. You can also use this method to check the firmware, if you can connect to both individually.
      • Firmware can be found in Settings > General > About. Apple accessories will be listed here at the bottom. Selecting the AirPods will give you additional details, like firmware version.

If you cannot get them to connect to a device, this will involve some guesswork and finger crossing. Verifying firmware versions will require them to be connected (or for you to take them to an Apple location). AirPod firmware updates process in the background when they are charging and near to a paired device.

  • There isn’t a way to force a firmware update. You’ll have to use Apple’s only approved method. Leave your AirPods charging near your Apple device and cross your fingers. Check again in 20 minutes.
    • Apple Service Providers have a diagnostic tool which can process the update, but you’ll need to go to an Apple location for them to run this.
3

Batteries in any device are a common point of failure. Batteries don’t just fail slowly and with diminishing battery life. Sometimes they fail suddenly, with no warning and render a device inoperable.

  • If you have a friend or family member who has a set of compatible AirPods, see if their case will get yours to power up. If so, you can be sure the issue is with the case.
  • The other test is to use a USB multimeter to check for charge voltage and current when the case is connected to a charger.
  • Expected charge rates depend on the power source, but on a five-watt Apple charger, it should get 5 Volts and around 1 Amp.  Low or negligible current draw could be a sign of a bad battery.
  • Replacing the Apple Headphone Batteries in the charge case is doable. But be forewarned, the case can be tough to crack. Apple did not design it for this sort of repair. The iFixit teardown is evidence of how destructive you may need to open it up. Replacing the case might be more practical.
4

If your power issue is limited to one earbud or the other, it could be the battery or other hardware in the AirPod itself.

  • If your battery life had been getting steadily worse prior to the issue, battery replacement is doable, but not something the average person might undertake.
    • This repair requires soldering and is easiest with some specialty tools.
  • Other parts are likely to be difficult to find. Replacing the affected AirPod is the most realistic solution in this case.
5

Inside the charge case is very little, mostly battery and a small circuit board. Despite this, things still manage to go awry. A hard drop, or flat-out defect could cause something in your case to malfunction. It may be repairable, but it may be more sensible to just replace the case.

  • Be sure to double-check your warranty, especially if you don't recall any recent damage. Case failure is uncommon in the absence of a recent drop or liquid exposure.
  • Parts aside from Apple Headphone Batteries can be difficult to source, often making repair impractical.
    • Be prepared if you decide to undertake any repair attempts. Have a look at the Teardown so you know what you're getting into.
    • If you opt to replace the case itself be wary. Copycat AirPods and components are extremely common.
6

The chance of getting liquid into your AirPods may seem slim, but it would be easy to leave them in your pants pocket before throwing them in the wash, or run through a downpour. Depending on the level of damage this may be a replacement scenario. But if just your case got wet, you may be able to revive it.

  • The trick is that liquid damage is best handled quickly by disconnecting the power source (battery) from the board. In the case of AirPods, this is not the easiest process.
    • Batteries in the Airpods themselves are soldered to other components. The case may fare better in this sort of operation since it uses a connector.
  • Due to the amount of adhesive and force necessary to get into any of the parts, (thusly allowing for battery disconnection and appropriate damage control). Replacing any part that does not work properly after liquid exposure is a safe bet.

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