Electronics Repair

Knowing how to repair things is one of the more important tools a prepared person can have. While increased miniaturization and performance of electronics has resulted in many devices being cheaper to replace rather than repair, there’s quite a few things which one can do to keep ones electronics in top shape while also saving a bunch of money.

Take, for example, my Garmin StreetPilot c330 GPS unit. It’s served me well over the last three years, though after enduring a blazing Arizona summer (or two), the internal lithium-ion battery was no longer able to hold a charge.

Garmin wanted $150 for an out-of-warranty replacement of the battery, which I thought was a bit hefty, so I did a bit of research online. It turns out that the battery was an “18650” lithium-ion battery, which is available at a number of retailers, including the local BatteriesPlus store. Fortunately, the local shop also had a model (PDA-210LI) of the battery which included the necessary plug to fit the circuit board of the GPS unit. While it was a bit pricier than the bare battery, it made life quite a bit easier.

Installation was rather easy: I simply needed to de-solder where the wires from the original plug (which was permanently connected to the battery) connected to the internal speakers and solder the speaker wires from the new plug to those same points. After that, it was a trivial matter of plugging the battery in and closing everything up. The battery charged up as expected and runs the GPS just fine.

This particular problem was quite simple and required only the most basic knowledge of soldering, but it ended up saving me $120. Oftentimes problems found with electronic devices are fairly simple (blown fuses, dead batteries, worn-out wire, etc.) and can be repaired using inexpensive, off-the-shelf tools (e.g. a soldering iron) and basic knowledge.

In addition to saving money, knowledge of basic electronics (and their repair) can be quite fun.

Some New Goodies

While yesterday was BAG Day, between paying off a little bit of debt and putting money away for the wedding, money’s been tight, so no new guns for me.

However, I did put a little bit away for the last month or so that I ended up using on Tuesday: my laptop needed a new battery, so I replaced the standard 6-cell battery with the extended 9-cell battery. My old battery had enough juice to run my laptop on the “Dell Recommended” power settings at low usage (typing, web browsing, etc.) for a bit more than an hour. The new battery has a >5 hour capacity, which is nice.

Additionally, I picked up a few electronic goodies at RadioShack1 : an auto-ranging multimeter, some test leads, a breadboard, some jumper wires, and a few little electronic components — I’ll need it for some projects, both around the house and at the lab. My philosophy on electronics is the same as my philosophy on tools: if you buy and keep the tools required for a specific job, over the course of several jobs you’ll end up with a pretty well-stocked toolchest.

Of course, I’ve been using the multimeter to measure various electrical properties of things around my house. For example, I have a hand-to-hand resistance of about 1.7 MOmega, and I can work up a 1V potential between the leads if I rub one vigorously on the leg of my jeans2. More geekery as I get it.

  1. Yeah, I know they’re not really the highest-quality stuff, but the stores are ubiquitous and reasonably priced. []
  2. Yes, I use my pants for science. What of it? []