Friday, September 16, 2011

Repaired PS3 Controller

Today I found that my favorite PS3 controller (my white one) had stopped working properly. Of the shoulder buttons, only R1 was working.

“Oh no! It’s broken!” I thought. Fortunately, despite my lack of formal training in consumer electronics, I am foolhardy enough to open up things that aren’t working and tinker around inside.

Ok, that’s not really a good thing, but it has led to a few less broken toys (and a couple broken further). Today’s escapade turned out in my favor.

What a beaut'

It was actually surprisingly easy to take apart. This isn’t like when I fixed my GBA SP and I had to order a special type of screwdriver (triwing) in order to open it up. I just flipped it over and took out five small screws (I used a #0 Phillips screwdriver). After that, it just opened right up. I’m glad it didn’t have pull any awkward snapped together parts, because those never go back together quite right.

Don't try this at home. Well, at least not unless you have a good reason.
This is what I was greeted with once I got it open. That grey box in the middle is the battery. Just so you know, if the battery on your controller finally gives out, it’s trivial to replace. Just order a new battery, open it up, and swap it out. Just a single screw behind the battery and the circuit board lifts out and you have access to the front.

Now, I was uhh, careless, and neglected to unplug the battery when I did this, so at this point the only thing that was working on the controller was the analog sticks, since they’re hardwired to the board. Everything else was connected via ribbon cables. If you’ve taken many newer electronics apart you’ve probably come across these cables, and if you’ve tried to put them back together, you know how obnoxious they can be.

And it turns out the ribbon cable was the problem!

I hate these things

It’s kind of hard to see on this image because it’s kind of small, so here’s what happened. The ribbon cable sits on a small plastic stand in the highlighted spot, and it has two small holes in the cable that slide onto pegs as indicated by the red arrow. Somehow, probably through some sort of dark magic, the hole that is indicated had come off of the peg and folded in over itself.

Because the plastic ribbon had folded, and since these ribbon cables rely on precise alignment of the contacts on the ribbon with those on the board, the shoulder buttons were unable to sent their signals to the board, hence the broken buttons.

Fortunately, the fix was easy: Unfold the ribbon and place it on the peg, and then press it down with the board and seal the whole thing back up. The shoulder buttons were a little tricky to get back in, but once I figured out that they snap to the little brackets they sit against it was pretty simple.

All in all, I’m very pleased with how the repair went, and although I hope I don’t have to do it again, I am confident that I can fix any minor problems that may crop up in the future.

As a (somewhat humorous) aside, I should tell you that you, uhh, really want to remove the battery and make sure the controller is off before doing stuff with the board. I neglected to do this, and while I was tinkering with the board I was setting off all sorts of controls to the game I was playing when I decided to fix the controller. Permanent damage? I hope not, but I should have played it safe.

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