2014-06-01 Remote Control Keys Go Intermittent

Something like a year ago I just took a cheap universal remote control that I often use and opened it up and unsoldered the IR LED.  I soldered a few feet of speaker wire into its holes on the circuit board and then soldered the LED onto the other end of the wire.   I mounted the LED close to the TV and this allowed me to leave the remotes lying on the desktop without being pointed at the TV.

I’m constantly pressing the mute button to turn off the commercials or whatever.  Lately the mute button has taken 2, 3 or 4 presses to get the TV to mute. It has been getting progressively worse. Finally I’ve had enough and I took the remote apart to see what was going on. It’s the same thing that I’ve seen on other keypads on remotes,calculators, etc. The key presses a small button of carbon on to the circuit board and makes contact. But it’s getting a little worn, and the most unusual thing is there is a build up of a liquid. I can’t understand how this is possible because the keypad is a solid piece of flexible rubber so no liquid should be able to get through it. I cleaned the keypad and the circuit board with some alcohol and cotton swab. I reassembled the remote and tried it and it works much better, almost perfectly.

The mystery is how this oily liquid gets through the rubber pad. It might be going through the rubber, but it’s silicone or something similar and is thick. Perhaps the silicon itself has oil in it. As I said I’ve seen this happen on other keypads so it’s not something that’s uncommon. And it’s easy to fix if you can get the remote open without damaging the case beyond repair and clean the keypad. By the way, black electrical tape or duct tape works like magic at hiding the damage.

Update – It’s not even a week later and the intermittent problem has returned. I cleaned the contacts thoroughly and I have not spilled anything on the remote since I cleaned it. The only explanation I can think of is that the contacts or the silicone rubber are creating the oily problem.

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