Fixing a bluetooth headset with a shred of paper towel
I’ve bought quite a bit from Geek lately, which if you’re not familiar, is basically a direct to consumer way for Chinese manufacturers/wholesalers to sell to US buyers. Honestly I think things like headphones and cell phone cases and so on are vastly overpriced for most brands, but are still made in China much of the time. In general, many of these are manufactured with similar or in some cases the exact same set of specifications (“knock offs”). What you’re paying the extra money for is technical/sales support, quality assurance of the product, faster shipping, better tolerances in the manufacturing process, and so on. Personally, I prefer to pay 90% less and figure the rest out myself, and I don’t mind waiting 3 weeks or sometimes more to receive the items.
Philosophical views aside, I bought a very small Bluetooth headset I thought looked cool for $7 a little while back. It worked fine, pairing and playing decent quality sound. After a couple weeks of light use came time to charge it. As you can see with the charger on the left, the part you plug in is a thin adapter that fits into a small hole in the headset. At first, this worked fine, but I noticed the second or third time I attempted to plug it in that the red light indicating charging mode no longer came on. Disappointed, I wrote it off as a waste of $7 and put it to the side of my desk while I focused on other things.
Weeks passed, and after another success with opening and diagnosing a power issue with a remote control car, I decided to crack this thing open and see what the issue could be.
I mentioned tolerances briefly in the opening paragraph, and in the case of miniaturized components, it’s extra important since everything is so tightly packed. A variation of a few millimeters can cause a device to fail, not charge, and so on. In this case, the charger element relies on a small clip with a piece of metal touching another to make a contact, right about where the charging cable plugs in. This is where the tolerances come in. When pushing the charging cable in, it turns out that this was pushing the clip just slightly enough to lose contact and fail to charge.
So, after opening the casing and finding this, I grabbed what I had on hand and figured out a solution. By placing a small piece of paper towel between the case and the charging module, inserting the cable no longer pushed it out of of alignment, and boom, the red light came on again when I plugged it in. Success!
Update: A few weeks later after starting this post and leaving it in drafts, the piece still charges and lasts for hours. :D