Tag Archives: repair

Broken Kindle Screen Repair, yet I find myself now asking “Why?”

Chalk this up to some sort of compulsion to fix things instead of throwing them away. The scenario: I found myself owning a 3rd generation Kindle with a broken screen. At the time that the screen broke, replacement screens were about as expensive as just buying a new device. By the time you paid for shipping halfway around the world, getting a new one was a winner.

Fast forward about three years: I’m rooting around in a bunch of junk for some obscure reason and I come upon said Kindle, broken screen and all. A little Google-Fu and I find a replacement screen for $20. I don’t really know anything about the screen, but I go ahead and order it. While I’m waiting for it to arrive, I tear apart the old one. Rather than repeating the whole story, I’ll just provide a link to the teardown guide at iFixit. Behold, a pile of parts:


Now to be certain, the new screen wasn’t truly new. It arrived with a page of text displayed on it (e-Paper will hold an image indefinitely even disconnected – that’s how it manages to use so little power). My guess is that it was pulled from a dead Kindle returned under warranty and shipped halfway around the world for repair. Maybe it made sense to repair them at the time. That would have been around 2012-2014. I can’t remember when it was that it got sat on.

Assembly is the reverse of the above steps:


(That has a ton of lens distortion. Still, the little Olympus TG-2 is usually better than the iPhone 6S, except maybe in this case)

After a few minutes to charge back to a safe level, and a few more minutes as the device reboots from a totally cold start, up comes the Kindle UI and it’s ready to go. All the previous Young Adult fiction was safely in place, along with a good bit of Project Gutenberg texts (yay!). I have to figure out how to get the cheesy vampire novels off of there.

Well, deleting them assumes I’m going to use the thing. After the effort to fix it, and the $20 screen, I’m stuck with it. The problem I have with it is simple: it’s complete crap for reading PDFs. Every issue of Byte Magazine, for instance, is available as a PDF. The archive also has links for the ePub format, which is almost the native format for the device, but the files genuinely suck. The problem is how they’re made. When the magazines were scanned, the images were fed through optical character recognition. The OCR can’t tell the difference between article text and an advertisement, it often gets punctuation wrong, and it sometimes goes on on a tangent and doesn’t become human-readable again for a dozen pages. When they went to make the ePub files, they took the OCRed text and converted to ePub.

So I’m reminiscing with old issues of Byte in PDF, and the Kindle doesn’t cut it. Now what I can do is find interesting books to read. Project Gutenberg texts, for instance, are lovingly edited by hand. There are some textbooks, particularly for Computer Science topics, that are free. In theory, the Kindle can be used as some sort of obscenely oversize iPod. I think I’ll just keep the fourth generation iPod on hand, thank you.

So, the point of this exercise? Didn’t really have one. Maybe I’ll finish reading the introduction to Erlang that I have on there. But it works, darn it, and I only sank $20 into fixing it.

Fluorescent Flashlight Repair

Pretty soon, I’m going to have to change the name of this place to “Secret Underground Flashlight Repair Center”, but whatever.

Symptom – approximately 20 year old combination fluorescent and incandescent flashlight suddenly loses the fluorescent side. Incandescent is fine. Try the obvious stuff – new batteries, fiddle with the switch a few times, remove and replace the fluorescent bulb a few times. No joy.

Disassemble, completely.


Visual inspection: broken wire on the transformer. This shot is actually after desoldering two of the surviving connections…


I hauled out the desoldering braid to completely and cleanly remove the transformer, then I soldered some bare copper wires (probably 28ga – salvaged out of an old PBX installation) to the leads. Reassembly is the reverse of takedown, but much, much more fiddly.  Once its finally back together, switch it on and it works.


I really need to go back in there one more time and squirt a bunch of silicone to stabilize the wires and hold the transformer in place. It’s a miracle the transformer didn’t break loose before now. Roughly twenty years of rough handling finally caught up with it.

Fixing Battery Corrosion in a Mini Maglight

About twenty years ago or so, I bought a Mini Maglight to supplement one I had bought about twenty-seven years ago. Both of these use the itty bitty incandescent bulbs, neither one being anywhere near new enough for the fancy modern white LEDs. They work, anyway. Or, they did – until the batteries in the newer one leaked.

Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal. You replace the batteries and get on with your life.  In this case, though, there was a complication. The leaking battery was completely stuck inside the flashlight barrel. I tried banging the open end against the back of legal pad, and I tried that a lot. No good.  Evidently it was time to take it apart and push out the dead cell.

There are at least two versions of the incandescent Mini Maglight running around, and my two were of different generations. I had taken the old one apart before, but the new one was a bit befuddling. First, field strip the easy parts – take out the bulb and then just pull on the “do not remove” outside bulb holder until it pops off.


This leaves you with the inside bulb holder, the barrel of the flashlight, and one immovable battery. It’s time to move the immovable. I didn’t have a pin punch the right size, so I grabbed a cheap, junky Torx screwdriver that would fit in the access holes at the very back of the inside bulb holder and whacked it with a hammer.


This resulted in squat. I was deforming and slowly hammering my way into the battery instead of pushing it out. Judo is too subtle, I’m switching to Kyokushin: hit it harder.  About ten good whacks with a small hammer and I started to actually move the battery.  A bunch more and it finally came out.  Finally, switch to a larger drift (in this case a, uh, Uniball Vision ballpoint pen…) and gently tap on it until the inside bulb holder falls out of the threaded end.


Inspection of the flashlight barrel revealed the reason the battery wouldn’t come out – when the cell leaked, it dumped potassium hydroxide into the bore.  This reacted with the aluminum barrel forming hydrogen gas (always a crowd pleaser) and potassium aluminum tetrahydroxide – aka “crud”.  Oh, and it also formed a corrosion pit in the aluminum – luckily not all the way through the metal.

Cleaning out the corrosion is done with a 20ga shotgun bore brush threaded into a cleaning rod and the tool spun with a drill.  Wear a dust mask and eye protection.  Bear in mind that the friction will heat up the aluminum, so pay attention and stop to let it cool at intervals.


Assembly is the reverse of dismantling.

Bose Headphone Repair

I have a pair of Bose Reality-Cancelling Headphones – not too effective against human voices, but they do a good job of cancelling steady noises like air conditioners and computer fans. I like them well enough, but I wouldn’t recommend them anymore.  Maybe the Panasonic version?

The problem is that after five years or so, the pads that go over the outside of my ear have started to come apart at a seam, exposing the foam. The solution is simple, of course: sew them back together. The hard part is the lack of room to work. I cut off a sewing needle to roughly 3/8″ and ground it back to a point. Surgical forceps work well to hold the seam back together temporarily, then a pair of long-nose pliers is what it takes to jam the short little needle through. I ending up using a second pair of forceps as an anvil and as as extra set of fingernails to grab the needle when it comes through. I didn’t even attempt any kind of running stitch or fancy lacing/trussing/macrame, I just tied off each stitch as I completed it and moved on to the next one.

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Now, the failure is running around the inside of the cushion – when I repair one section, another one pops loose.  Pretty soon I will have sewn all the way around, and shortly after that I suspect the material will simply fail entirely.  At that point, I don’t know.  I’ve been known to limp stuff along just for fun.

Current score:  Patience vs Rampant Consumerism: 1-0.