How to Repair Headphones - A Step by Step Guide

You wake up. Splash some water on your face. Put on some workout clothes and your favorite pair of running shoes. You're feeling good, all set to head out the door for an intense morning run. You grab your headphones, stick them in your ears, and get ready to take in the flood of your high energy blood-pumper playlist. But, something' s wrong. Though the playlist is rolling, you hear none of it. Great, time for new headphones, right? Wrong! Time to read this post about how to repair headphones.

What Will You Need to Get Started?

So, to fix headphones, there are a few items you can get that will make the job easier. It' s important to mention though, that for some of the items you really want to make sure you know how to use them before attempting to make your repair. If you don' t know how to use any particular item involved in your headphones repair, refer to instructions or find a good tutorial to help you.

Here are some tools you may need:

  • Multimeter
  • Knife or scissors
  • Wire strippers
  • Soldering iron and solder
  • Shrink tubing
  • Sand paper

Let' s Figure Out What The Problem Is

There are a number of things that could be wrong with your headphones. You' ll need to start by finding out what part of your headphones isn' t working. You should also just check a couple of things to make sure it isn' t something that' s being overlooked. There are a number of simple things to check that could end up saving you a lot of time or even money.

Once you've determined it' s not just an operator error, you can work on figuring out where the issue lies in your headphones. Follow these steps:

Step1: Make sure that it' s your headphones that aren' t working and not the device you're plugged into. You can test this by plugging in another set of headphones.

Step2: Check to see if there are issues with the wires. You can bend the wire while you' re wearing the headphones to see if anything comes through when you move the cable around. If you can hear something some of the time or some kind of crackling, then you' ll need to check the section below for how to repair headphones wires.

Step3: Next check the jack. Push in on the plug. If something comes through when you push it in, then follow the steps in the section below for repairing your headphones jack.

Step4: With many Bluetooth headphones, there' s a detachable cable you can use to connect the earpieces. You can test the cable by using other over-the-ear headphones with it. If you can hear through the other ones, then your earpieces are most likely the problem. In this case you should refer to the manufacturer' s guide for how to fix the earpieces.

Step5: If you've tried all of these steps and you still don' t know what the problem is, you can use a multimeter to locate where the issue is. You can find a multimeter at any hardware store.

how to repair headphones

  • You want to set it up to test for continuity. Plug the red lead into the place marked with the ohms sign, or possibly mA, or a sound bars image. Plug the black lead into the place marked COM.
  • After setting it up, you'll then start testing the wires. Here's how:
  1. Make a small cut in the wire close to the plug end of the cable. Make a second small cut close to the earpiece.
  2. If the copper wire inside the cable looks like it is coated with anything, scrape that away with the knife or scissors you used to make the cuts.
  3. Touch one part of the exposed copper wire with the black lead and the other exposed part with the red lead.
  4. If you hear a beep, then there is no problem with the wires. The issue is most likely with the earpieces or the plug. If you do not hear a beep, then repeat the process by placing cuts in the wire but bringing them about halfway closer each time. You want to do this until you narrow down the spot on the wire with the problem to within just a few inches. The multimeter won't beep between the two points you're testing when you've found the problem spot.
  5. When you know where the problem is in the wire, you can see below for more on how to repair headphones wires.

How to Fix…

Headphones Wires

It' s important first to know just where the issue is with the wire. Above we discussed using a multimeter to find the problem. You can also start with your thumb holding the wire at a right angle closest to the plug.

Start there because that is ultimately where a lot of problems are, due to the stress put on that area. Then just run the wire over your thumb continuing to keep the right angle. Wherever you hear crackling or something like it, is where your issue is. Mark the spot with a piece of electrical tape.

Then follow these simple steps carefully:

Step 1: Start by stripping the wires of their outer coating. Then, pull them apart by color. Usually there are two colors of wires that are insulated and one that is just copper. The copper is the ground wire. The others are where the sound travels.

how to repair headphones

Step 2: Next, slip the shrink tubing onto the wire. (Don' t forget this step because you'll kick yourself later if you do.)

how to repair headphones

Step 3: Sand the wires down. Before you do any soldering, you' ll want to sand down the insulated colored casings, so you can see the copper underneath, as well as, the copper ground wire.

how to repair headphones 1

Step 4: Twist each color of wires together. For example, red with red, white with white, and ground with ground.

Step 5: Coat each wire with a thin layer of solder.

how to repair headphones 1

Step 6: Cover each soldered wire with a small piece of electrical tape to prevent a short circuit.

how to repair headphones

Step 7: Slide the shrink tubing over the wires with the electrical tape. Apply a heat source. You can use a match, your soldering iron, or maybe a blow dryer set to hot. When you see the tubing nicely adhered to the wire, you are finished.

how to repair headphones

Just like that, your headphones should be up and running again!

A Headphones Jack

It' s pretty common for your headphones jack to be the culprit behind the loss of your favorite tunes. A lot of stress gets put on the end of your wire where the jack plug is located. Think about all the things you do while using your headphones. There' s a lot of movement at the jack area.

Sometimes you probably even unconsciously twirl the wire around your finger, your headphones might hang loosely putting strain on the jack end of the wire, or you yank the plug out of whatever chosen device you were using (a very bad habit by the way). No matter what the reason is, follow these steps to repair headphones jack:

Step 1: Your first step is to cut the jack off of your headphones

how to repair headphones

Step 2: Remove the covering from the jack. In some cases, you can strip it with a knife, others you may be able to screw it off. If there is anything like plastic coating on the jack, make sure to scrape that away as well.

how to repair headphones

Step 3: Use the continuity function on your multimeter to test for if your jack is still working. If it' s not, you' ll need to buy a new jack. Do the necessary research to make sure you' re buying the right size. Most headphones use a 3.5 mm stereo jack plug. You can get them at most electronics parts stores, or just order one online.

how to repair headphones

Step 4: To repair your jack, clean it up and use your soldering iron to remove the wires.

how to repair headphones

Step 5: Strip the end of the cable to your headphones. There should be four wires. Typically, there are three different colors, green is for “right,” red is for “left,” blue is for “microphone,” and a copper ground wire.

how to repair headphones

Step 6: Now you need to solder. The wires should be soldered in this order: left channel to the tip, right channel to the first ring, ground to the second ring, and microphone to the sleeve.

how to repair headphones

Step 7: You need to test your jack before you go any further. If you've soldered properly, the headphones should work right at this point. Plug them in and test with a song. (If for some reason your headphones still aren' t working, then check your soldering job, or you can check with the manufacturer to make sure the wiring hasn' t been changed to something different that what' s in this post.)

how to repair headphones

Step 8: Slip some shrink tubing onto the repaired jack and apply your heat source to finish up the job. You' re all done!

how to repair headphones

A Headphones Headband

If you use headphones that have a headband, that can get broken as well. I know it seems like that can' t be fixed, but it too can be mended. Don' t throw your favorite headphones out just because some plastic broke. Here's how to fix headphones with a broken headband:

Start by creating a smooth edge on the pieces of the headband where the actual break is located. You can sand it down if it' s a little rigid, or just cut away jagged edges.

Step 1: Roll a pea-sized ball of Sugru in your hand.

Step 2: Place the Sugru ball on one end of the broken headband and make a tiny pyramid out of it.

Step 3: Push the two pieces of your headband together smashing the Sugru between them. It is ok if it squishes out the sides.

Step 4: Press the Sugru around the outside of the break. You can even add a little more around the break for added stability.

Step 5: Place your headphones in a position where they will be undisturbed while the Sugru sets and creates a strong bond between the broken pieces of the headband. Give them a full 24 hours for this process to complete. Then your headphones will be as good as new!

Damaged Ear Cushions

The ear cushions on your headphones are meant to provide you with some comfort when you're listening. When they get damaged they can be quite uncomfortable though. And they might not look very nice either. Fixing them is pretty easy. Here' s how you do it:

Step 1: Remove the material of the ear cushion. Be careful not to remove any earcup lining material.

Step 2: Most ear cushions have some kind of mounting flange or flap. Place the mounting flange from the new cushion onto the outer rim of the earcup.

Step 3: Make sure the flange is pressed smoothly around the whole edge of the earcup and then snap it into place.

Let' s Wrap It Up!

Yeah, it was a bummer suffering through your run without the songs that rev you up for the workout, but now, hopefully we've helped you out with this post about how to fix headphones.

You don' t need to throw them away and go drop a ton more money on a brand-new pair. It' s really pretty easy to just spend a couple of minutes to investigate what the problem is and then follow the simple steps we' ve provided to get you back in business.

Headphones range from super fragile to really solid. But any of them can develop issues. Our headphones take a beating with most of us. They go with us on our vigorous runs, tromp with us across school campuses, travel with us on our work commutes, and go from gym bag to weight room and back to gym bag several times a week. Our hope is that we've given you the information you need to feel confident enough to fix any of the issues you are having with your headphones.

Let us know if this post has helped you with problems you've run into. And please, if you know of any other ways to repair a different problem that you maybe had with your headphones or even another way to fix one of the issues we mentioned, can you leave us a comment with the details of what you've found to be helpful? As always, we appreciate you all you have to share!


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