Remote Control Rehab ~ Repairing Remote Controls

Remote Control Rehab:  a cheap and easy solution  to your Big Screen addiction?

Send a surrogate to Betty Ford in your place?
Sorry. . . . “…that dog won’t hunt…”

This rehab is for everyone out there who has a remote with a button or two that are either cranky or don’t work, offering solutions that have bought at least another 3 years of life for this 16 year old TV remote.

First check to see if the remote control pad’s contacts are dirty with food, drink, or accumulated gunk.  If so, open the remove & clean the contacts with a little alcohol to remove the contamination.**   …. If that doesn’t help much, then the most likely remaining problem with a single dead or dying button is that the carbon contact on the underside of the well-used button has worn out (dying = you really have to mash it really hard or wiggle it “just right”).

Since the “Power” , “Volume”, and “Channel Up & Down” get the most usage, they can be the first to go. If you can turn on the TV with the buttons on the TV, but you can still change TV channels by entering the Channel Numbers, then the “Power” button’s carbon contact is worn out. Occasionally the problem might be pop or food residues inside the remote, but usually it’s a worn-out contact. You can also test whether the remote is working by pressing a remote control’s button while aiming it at a video camera, web cam, digital camera, or cell phone camera, and taking a foto while pressing a button (The remote’s IR LED shows up as a little light by the camera’s light sensor.)

The Solution:
Super Glue a small piece of aluminum foil onto the underside of the failed button, renewing the contact, & wipe the old carbon dust off the circuit board button contacts.

16 yr old TV remote

**Take your old remote, find any screws on the back, or under the batteries, or under a label, or under one of the little rubber feet.


Like the taped-on cardboard cover securing batteries?

Remove any screws and remove the batteries.

Now comes the challenging part. . .


It’s time to gently pry the remote’s plastic case open. Remote cases are like a clam-shell with a top and a bottom. You might either use a dull putty knife or the dull-backside of a typical table knife. The goal is to pry the case open without scratching or scarring the plastic. … This is when you find out if a carbon contact is worn out … or if the remote’s number pad and circuit simply need to have accumulated food or drink residues removed with a Qtip and alcohol.

A successfully opened case looks like this
Hey, look!

Someone has already glued little pieces of aluminum foil onto some previously “dead” buttons”.

I guess our work is done here…
Actually, opening the case can be the hardest part, but here are some tricks. Many remote cases have little latches/catches: tab & slot affairs, where a little plastic hook clicks into a slot. Gently pressing inward into various points of the groove around the sides of the remote with a wide bladed blunt screwdriver or dull putty knife can often flex the plastic enough for the case to open. Most cases require inching along, releasing one catch, moving on to open the next catch, sequentially releasing all the catches until the clam-shell opens. Sometimes there are only screws at the battery end of the remote and plastic catches holding the other end together.


Once opened, the back-side of the rubber button pad assembly will look like this.

The next operation is obvious: gently prep the offending button’s carbon contact by cleaning it with a little isopropyl alcohol and a Q-Tip or soft cloth – make it residue free – test for residue by gently wiping the button with a bit of white paper; cut out little carbon-contact sized pieces of shiny (thick?) aluminum foil to make new electrical contacts; apply a small drop of Super Glue to back-side of the dead button (where the carbon used to be); use your finger to gently smooth the foil to make it very flat and unwrinkled; using tweezers place the foil, shiny side UP – greyish-non-shiny side down onto the glue on the dead button’s carbon contact.

Once applied, very gently smooth out any wrinkles in the foil, so it appears just like the foto – and to help it make a good bond to the button. Let the glue dry for 5 minutes – you may have to blot up extra glue off the rubber button base with the corner of a bit of paper towel – but don’t disturb your new foil contact.

Note the shiny 2 year old aluminum foil contacts.

Now that the Super Glue is dry, gently clean any visibly dirty carbon contacts with a Q-tip and alcohol, or wipe/polish scarred contacts very gently with a bit of white paper. Paper is slightly abrasive and it grinds off a little of the carbon contact with every rub – so, you can easily wear off the carbon by rubbing too much with a cloth or paper.

It’s time to clean the remote control’s circuit board.

Screwdriver pointing to circuit board

Just like with the button’s carbon contact cleaning, use a Q-tip and some rubbing alcohol (Isopropanol / Isopropyl Alcohol), clean any residues of gunk off the electrical contacts that are opposite the buttons. You can also use white paper to gently wipe the contacts clean.
Almost done.

All that’s needed now is to gently touch (use a very clean finger) your shiny new aluminum button contacts to be sure that the Super Glue has cured and that the aluminum foil is secure. If your glue job didn’t hold, try again. Try not to get too much glue on the rubber – or it will look like this remote – grey and oxidized.


Final Re-Assembly:

Make sure the rubber button assembly is positioned properly in the top half of the remote cover, then snap the two-halves of the remote’s cover back together. Re-install screws gently. Reinstall the batteries (cleaning the electrical contacts on the remote’s battery compartment, if they are oxidized); and you’re done.

(Hint: if you damaged the case getting it apart, you might have to use some custom-cut pieces of invisible Scotch tape to secure the 2 halves of your remote.)

(Or if like our 16 yr old remote, it lived a hard life with 3 teens, then you’ll definitely have to get out the tape.)

Re-Assembled 16 yr old TV remote – looks as good as when we started!

* * * *

Feel free to copy with proper attribution:
YucaLandia/Surviving Yucatan.

© Steven M. Fry



Read-on MacDuff . . .

My apologies to everyone who read this article hoping they could go through re-hab without going to a clinic –

24 Responses to Remote Control Rehab ~ Repairing Remote Controls

  1. Pingback: Remote Control Rehab | Surviving Yucatan

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  3. MaX says:

    Wow. It works! You saved my bacon. Many thanks!

    Fixed remote:
    SRU3040/10 Philips Universal remote control SRU3040 4-in-1 TV/VCR/DVD/SAT
    SRU 3040

  4. MaX says:

    UPDATE. Actually, the Super Glue (instant glue) did not work with the Philips Universal remote indicated above, since the aluminium foil came off the rubber buttons. For it to work I had to use shoe glue (that one that is yellow). Just for the records, in case it may be helpful to someone.

  5. MaX says:


    First, I used SuperCeys (transparent instant glue), yet it did not work as explained above:

    Then, I used ContactCeys (yellow glue for shoes, etc) and it worked OK:

    Just for the record.

  6. Raymond says:

    I have a remote that has one key not working, the woofer vol + key doesn’t work, so my bass in my home theater does not work properly. This remote is for a vsxd606s pioneer receiver which is from way back in 1997 whose remote now runs between $27 and $79. All the buttons work except that one, I’m gonna try the aluminum foil trick and hope it works, if it does I’ll let you know. Thanks for the great advice.

    • yucalandia says:

      Hi Raymond,
      Good luck getting the clam-shell case open. Simple screw and tab attachments are a joy vs glued or plastic welded joints.

      • Raymond says:

        Hello, well I tried and and unfortunately after years of pressing hard on the button to make it work, I wore down the material that is actually on the card itself. No matter in what position I put the aluminum foil it just would not work. I know it would have worked had that not happened. Thanks for the tip and I know it’s helped many.

  7. Bradley G. Hyde says:

    Gorilla glue has been recommended to glue the alum foil pieces; I’ve used rubber cement but it doesn’t hold more than about a year. Cleaning the PC board helps, esp. if graphite is laid down enough to partly connect the key — the key pressed detection depends on a change in conductivity. If the PC board is worn away, you might try pounding a piece of solid copper wire into a flat foil and using solder and glue to replace the missing contact.

  8. Chris says:

    On mine it looks like the black conductive paint covering the copper on the circuit board itself has worn off on one tiny spot for the button that has failed. I’m guessing this is the why this button is not working as the tape method or using a new button pad isn’t working. Does anyone know where to get that black paint?

  9. My friend heard that wrapping the remotes tightly with plastic wrap will keep the moisture and corrosion out. He just did it. The buttons work fine under the plastic. He was able to get the plastic wrap very tightly sealed…he is a little anal about that sort of thing, so “your mileage may vary” depending on your attention to detail…We will see if the plastic and the whole idea works long term.

  10. Greg says:

    Just found your site as I was looking for ideas to repair a half-functional remote for an Aiwa AV-D30 remote. Your explanation for how the unit works was perfect (was wondering how it worked without physical button switches… new to electronics in general.)

    Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be my problem. I removed the rubber button mat completely, and wrapped a piece of aluminum foil around the tip of a screwdriver for testing. Using the foil as a contact, I tested all of the buttons. The buttons which worked normally when the remote was fully assembled worked with the foil as a connector. However, the buttons which were *not* working correctly with the remote assembled still did not work using the foil as a connector.

    I’m wondering if it might be a problem with the IC or one of the resistors on the board (there’s not many and they’re quite tiny) since about 1/3 of the buttons no longer work while the rest still work as they always have.

    Any ideas?


    • yucalandia says:

      I think your troubleshooting approach was superb.

      If the button contacts on the board are clean, (isopropyl alcohol or freon or chlorinated circuit cleaning solvents work fine), and the button functions do not work when you bridge across the contacts with fresh bright Aluminum foil, then look for gunk or debris on the board that might be shorting out some circuit(s). If the board is clean, with no shorts, then look for “opens” and any burned components – using decent magnification. If you find any “opens” or “cold soldered” connections , then use a soldering gun and feed fresh solder into the crack, “open”, component leg that separated from it’s connection, or into a cold-soldered connection.

      Also look for broken connections or corroded connections – and re-solder them. Corroded contacts or traces may need to be bridged-around using a jumper wire.

      If these things do not recover the lost button functions – the problem is likely with an IC,
      …you’ve done your best …
      and it’s time to buy a new remote, (universal ones work for the simple on-off, volume, and channel changing functions)…

      Note that if you have a DirecTV remote or Dish Network remote, they can be programmed to work on your TV set, VCR, DVR, too…
      All the Best,

  11. Thanks a Ton man! I’m in Cancun. I was browsing for some american expert on these thingies and found you on yucatan! so crazy.

    I´ll give this a try for my AC remote controlers 🙂


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  14. Charles Wohl says:

    OK, all you people out there with remotes with failing buttons, read this post and I guarantee it will save you some time and maybe money, and the repair will be closer to the original specs of your remote.

    Forget the double-stick tape or glue and you can forget the aluminum foil as well.

    Open your remote as described above and locate the squiggly contact on the circuit board as well as the black carbon pressure pads of the offending buttons. Make sure you have the right ones.

    All you are going to need is a fresh pink pencil eraser on the top of the pencil, a couple of Q-Tips and some isopropyl alcohol – I’d recommend the 91%, but the regular concentration in your medicine cabinet will work fine as well.

    Dip the Q-Tip in the alcohol. You want it moist, not dripping. In a circular motion, clean off the squiggly pads and the carbon pressure pads. The Q-Tips are going to turn black. Don’t worry about this; just keep on cleaning for about a minute at each location. Now dry all the locations off with a clean dry Q-Tip.

    Take hold of the back end of the pencil (eraser side) and rub the eraser in a circular motion on the offending squiggly pads and the carbon pressure pads. You’ll begin to see a brushed sheen from the mild abrasives in the eraser. Blow off any fragments and again clean the areas with a moist Q-Tip, then wipe the area down with a dry cloth or dry Q-Tip. Let it dry for five minutes then put the remote back together.

    The faulty buttons on your remote will now work like new, and the remote won’t have any non-original materials in it.

    I worked as an electronic tech and engineer and used this method in the past for many years. Before sending this post I performed this repair on two flakey remote power buttons, one for an older Pioneer plasma screen TV, another for an older Yamaha receiver. Both remotes are now functioning like they were new!

    • yucalandia says:

      Agreed, your method works for dirty contacts on the board.

      Unfortunately, contact cleaning alone doesn’t help with frequently used buttons whose carbon contacts are worn off.
      Happy Trails,

  15. philbe says:

    Excellent tutorial from Charles Wohl:
    Cleaning erratic buttons with a combination of eraser-tip, Q-tip and alcohol works like a charm. The hardest part is opening the remote control case !

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