fixing a dead remote control -- it works, but how?

The remote to my ancient DVD/VCR player died a few days ago, so while looking around for a way to replace it, was referred to, and from there I found this “how to fix your dead remote.”

Since I’d rather not spend $45 (!) on a new remote if I don’t have to, I tried it and hey! it worked!

But I’m boggled as to why it would work. What’s so magical about pressing all the buttons with no batteries in it? How does that work?

Pressing the buttons is just an extra stage that this person thought was a causal factor when he fixed a remote control but if you were to skip step two and three then you will have the same success rate. You can check my claim by setting up your own webpage replacing step two with ‘Phone someone you love but haven’t spoken to for too long’ and step three ‘Stand in a bucket of water’. That will also “restart 1 in 3 “Dead” Original Remote Controls”, or even unoriginal ones.

Most ‘broken’ remote controls simply aren’t getting any power due to poorly seated batteries, dead batteries or a hairline fracture, dry solder or wire break in the power connections. Checking batteries shouldn’t be a mystery.

The only lesson to be learned? Never trust technical advice that wishes you luck.

Well, you could have a stuck button that is overriding all of the other ones. Pressing each gives a chance to “free” the stuck one.

That is possible, and though I’ve never seen that or expect to see it, it might acount for a tiny, insignificant fraction of the repaired remote controls. I am sure it won’t even account 1% of the 33% repair rate claimed though. A more effective step would be give it a shake, bang it off the wall and then try it, but I’d still check the batteries first.

And yet, prior to trying this, I tried changing the batteries twice, and as the thing was fading, have been in a regular habit of whacking the thing against the arm of the sofa.

So, it wasn’t the batteries (I’d just changed them – first thing I did when it stopped working completely), and whacking it wasn’t working at all for the past several days.

It’s not perfect, but it works most of the time now, as opposed to the intermittent function I’ve been getting for the last year (?) or so.

One possibility is that the microprocessor in the remote has gone off into the weeds (executing code where it doesn’t belong). After you pull the batteries out there is enough charge in the capacitors to let the microprocessor continue executing wrong code. Pressing each of the buttons might use more power or just give the capacitors time to discharge. When you put the batteries back in it resets itself. If this is what is happening, a more reliable method would be to remove the batteries, short out the battery terminals for ten seconds or so and then put the batteries back in.

Whacking things should only be the last diagnostic step, as it generally does you more good than the device. If there is a dry solder joint it, a single core wire connection, a cracked but touching PCB track, then you may fix the problem temporarily but it was probably a previous whack that caused it and each whack will exaccerbate it.
You don’t get high capacity capacitors in remote controls so I don’t believe it would be possible to change the batteries quickly enough to encounter a live circuit.
I would seriously recommend investing in a good universal remote control, not just as a backup, but because it allows you to enter technical mode in many modern devices. For instance, you need to have one if you want to stick a bigger hard disk into a digital video recorder.

When my remotes die, I pull out and re-seat the batteries. That usually does the trick. If it doesn’t, I replace the batteries. I think all the button-pushing is just superfluous.

Well, it was the dude at Best Buy who told me to go to 1800remote in the first place, because he didn’t think any universal remote would work with my player. It’s old; and replacing the entire thing is about $200-250 more than I’ve got to spend. I spent 10 minutes or so pricing similar units after the universal remote idea was scuttled, since I was there and all.

And no, whacking was not a first resort (as I said, I changed the batteries first, to no avail), but it was the only thing that worked, even temporarily, until I learned of this “push all the buttons” idea. There will be less whacking now, certainly.

It’s unusual nowadays to come across any equipment that can’t be learned by a universal remote with ‘IR learning’ capability (pointing the old remote at the universal and pressing one key at a time).

If you have a laptop with an IR port you can use it as an universal remote control. More importantly, you can use it to store all your various controllers settings so that you can download any of them to a universal remote.

that was my thought. Between that and making a better connection by replacing batteries you’re bound to have success. I frequently spin the batteries in a remote when they get weak to the last vestiges of electrons from them.

I dunno man, that’s just what the Best Buy dude told me. It’s a Samsung V3650, FWIW. I don’t remember exactly when I got it, but it’s probably 6-7 years old.

And no, I don’t have a laptop. I get more power for less money with a desktop, so that’s what I did.