You are doing your favorite activity and listening to music on your headphones. Suddenly the music just stops or its interrupted with a loud crackle. How annoying! Weather it is your old Sony Walkman, MP3 player, new Apple iPod, iPhone, iPad or your lovely laptop, the thought of an audio malfunction could be shocking. Most likely your audio interruption is caused by a problem with your Headphone Jack Plug.
Sometimes it’s the simple things that count. With all the complicated circuitry and programs going on inside today’s audio capable gadgets, it may be the common headphone jack that causes the most problems. A set of headphones and the headphone jack gives us the capability auditory interaction with today’s popular electronic devices. Depending on the type, a headphone jack costs anywhere from a fraction of a dollar to a few dollars. That is why it can be very frustrating when you realize you may have paid hundreds of dollars for an electro-gadget that doesn’t work because of a relatively cheap!
The term headphone jack or headphone plug refers to both male and female metal connectors that come in various sizes. The most common sizes are a 6.35mm or 1/4″ jack, 3.5mm miniature jack and a 2.5mm sub-miniature jack. The malfunction of a simple headphone jack can be a big headache.
There are a few different causes for its malfunction. The female part of a headphone jack is most prone to causing a failure because it us an opening into the inner circuitry of any device that has one. Allowing sand, dust or water to get inside could cause a problem. Some of today’s latest audio devices have a “moisture” detection sensor. If liquid or excessive moisture gets inside the headphone jack, a small LED light will change from white to red to indicate unacceptable moisture levels. Such indication may cause the device to shut down in an attempt to avoid further damage. Another common cause of headphone jack failure is a bad connection do to the spreading of the internal metal contacts. This is the reason for most repair requests or returns for MP3s, cell phones and iPods. It has been noted as one of the most discouraging problems for audio technicians. Technicians have stated that it is a shame that such beautifully designed devices fail because of a jack malfunction.
So, what can be done to avoid and/or repair a problem with headphone jacks? If you think dirt or dust got into the jack, you could try blowing out the jack hole. You can blow into the hole yourself or buy a can of compressed air commonly sold in electronic and computer stores that are made specifically for cleaning electronic devices. If you think liquid or moisture got into the hole, just let it sit for a while in a dry warm place for a couple of days, the device might dry out and begin working properly. If none of these works and your device is under warranty, send it back to the manufacturer for repair.
Although not recommended, you could try a do it yourself fix. To do this, remove the cover of your device. This may require you to remove a number of screws around the perimeter of the cover. If you have soldering skills you can remove the old solder from the jack by heating up the old solder with a soldering gun and tabbing it off with a toothpick. Then apply new solder using proper soldering technique. If you do not know how to solder try cleaning jack connectors with an alcohol swab. Test your device to see if it works. If not, you may want to re-solder the connections. Soldering properly requires some skill.
If all of the above methods do not resolve your jack problem, your best bet may be to send it back to the manufacturer for a repair. Follow the instructions in your user manual for the repair process. But there are ways to avoid problems with your headphone jacks. Be gentle when inserting the male jack into the female receptor. Angling when injecting may cause the female connectors to spread, thus causing a loose connection, which may require constant jiggling. Use device clips to secure your device to your belt or pocket to avoid pulling on the jack if your device falls or is pulled.
Sometimes the best way to avoid jack damage is prevention. Some devices come with jack covers but others do not. If you have a device that does not have a headphone jack cover you can buy one at your electronics store or go on-line and search for “headphone jack cover”. Protect your investment, avoid dust and moisture and get a cover if you don’t have one.