Easily the most susceptible component of any pair of headphones is the wires contained within the cable. Every movement you make can weaken the wires, especially when they are pulled or get snagged on something.
Letting your headphone cable become twisted when storing them is also a sure-fire way to weaken the wires. This is why often you’ll discover your headphones aren’t working due to the wire being damaged or even completely cut.
Therefore, I’ve decided to put together this guide on How to Repair Your Frayed or Broken Headphone Wires. So you can save any broken or damaged headphones you may have. And all that is needed is some basic DIY skills.
While there is a very small amount of electricity that runs through headphone wires to send a signal, it is extremely low voltage. Even high impedance headphones shouldn’t have enough voltage to cause any form of electrocution.
Even if you accidentally contact a wire with voltage running through it, chances are that you wouldn’t even notice it. However, the best practice is still to disconnect any wires or cables before performing work on them as a matter of habit.
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The main concern anyone should have when working on headphones or small electronic devices is the fire hazard. Short circuits are always possible, which can create sparks. Any spark can potentially start a fire or ignite any flammable liquids, gases, or vapors.
Short circuits are when the charge flows to an unintended location resulting in rapid overheating. Not only can this be a fire hazard, but it can also cause damage to both your headphones or any device they are connected to.
Fixing Frayed Headphones
You might have noticed on a pair of headphones that the cable jacket has become damaged, exposing the cables inside. This is what’s known as fraying and can easily lead to a short circuit. It’s often caused by the cable being pulled, twisted, rubbed, or even chewed by a pet.
It is best if you check your headphone cables for signs of fraying so you can fix this issue quickly. If not dealt with, there is the potential for your headphones and device to become damaged or that the cable will snap completely.
Luckily, there are some quick and easy fixes for frayed headphone cables that are both affordable and effective. I will include examples and recommendations of any products required to perform these fixes.
The first option is to use electrical tape. A slightly more effective option is the use of heat-shrink tubing. Another possible solution is a clever product called Sugru, which is a moldable adhesive.
This 10-pack of multi-colored electrical tape from TradeGear is perfect for repairing frayed cables. It is constructed from heavy-duty industrial-grade PVC that is flame-retardant and resistant to acids, alkalis, UV, oils, abrasions, and moisture.
Here are the steps for using electrical tape to repair frayed headphone wires.
- Ensure that your headphone wires are clean by pouring a small amount of rubbing alcohol onto a cloth. Wipe over the cable carefully around the frayed area and wait for it to dry. This will ensure that the electrical tape will attach much more securely.
- Once the cable is prepared, cut off a piece of electrical tape and wrap it around the frayed area as tight as you can. Your cable will then be both protected and insulated.
This heat shrink tubing kit from Pointool includes various colors and sizes and is great to have on hand. It is the perfect solution to frayed wires by being quick and easy to use. Constructed with polyolefin, the material is both durable and flexible.
Here are the steps for applying heat shrink tubing to frayed headphone wires.
- Once again, it is important to ensure that the area around the frayed cable is clean. Use the same method by carefully wiping the area with some rubbing alcohol on a clean cloth and allow it to dry.
- Next, select a heat shrink that matches both the color and the size. The tube should slide along the cable without any resistance but also not be too loose either.
- Carefully insert the tubing along the headphone wire until it covers the frayed area. Some tubes have a slit and can be wrapped around. If this is the case, make sure it is wrapped tightly.
- Finally, a heat source must be applied to shrink the tubing. A heat gun is the most efficient, but you can also use a lighter or even a hairdryer. But make sure not to apply heat for too long and melt the tubing.
This awesome product called Sugru is what’s referred to as moldable glue. It can be stuck and shaped to items and will then set strong into silicone rubber. A perfect solution to fixing frayed headphone cables.
Here are the steps on how to apply Sugru to frayed headphone cables.
- That’s right. You guessed it. The first step is carefully cleaning the frayed area of your headphone cable. Wipe the area using a clean cloth and some rubbing alcohol and allow to dry.
- Open a packet of Sugru and apply it to the frayed area. It can be shaped and molded like play dough. You have around 30-minutes to shape it to your desired finish before it begins to harden.
- For best results, wait for 24-hours for the Sugru to set permanently.
Fixing Wires That Have Completely Snapped
Sometimes headphones wires can be completely snapped in half. Don’t worry, though; all is not lost because, with a careful set of fingers, the correct tools, and a little bit of patience, it is possible to fix snapped wires. This is a guide on How to Repair Your Frayed or Broken Headphone Wires, after all.
I will start by introducing you to the tools required for fixing snapped headphone cables or wires. Most you might already have at home, but I will also include an example of products that I personally recommend for completing this task.
This handy tool from Irwin is great to have in your toolkit. It can strip wires between 10 to 22 AWG and is also a sharp cutting tool. In addition, it can even cut bolts leaving a perfect thread along with crimping both insulated and non-insulated terminals.
Any lighter will do the trick, but you can’t go past the classic BIC lighter. Featuring child resistance and also being one of the most reliable lighters ever made. You should always keep a lighter tucked away in a safe place away from children.
It is best to use both a combination of electrical tape and heat shrink tubing when repairing snapped cables or wires. It is possible to use only electrical tape, though. I have included the same examples and recommendations for fixing frayed wires.
Putting the tools to use
Now that you have everything needed to repair a broken headphone cable, it’s time to get started. Here are the steps on how to perform your very own repair.
- Using the wire stripper, first, remove the outer layer of the cable leaving the individual colored cables exposed.
- Make a clean cut on the end of each of the colored cables.
- Strip the coating around each colored cable leaving about 1.25-inches (3-centimeters) of wire exposed.
- Each wire will have a thin enamel coating. This can be melted using the lighter, which only needs to be held over the wire for less than a second.
- Twist each of the colored wires together using electrical tape to cover each individual connection each time. This is where colored electrical tape comes in handy.
- Once each of the individual wires has all been twisted together and taped, either slide over some heat shrink tubing or wrap them all with more electrical tape. If heat shrink tubing is used, don’t forget to use the lighter again to finish off the process.
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How to Repair Your Frayed or Broken Headphone Wires – Final Thoughts
Hopefully, this guide has helped you in repairing an item that otherwise would have been discarded and replaced. All that is often needed is some very basic tools, a little knowledge, along with patience and a bit of confidence.
Unfortunately, not every DIY project is always successful, and you might require either professional repair or a replacement. Even if this is the result, it is great to learn some new skills along the way that could be useful in the future. Prevention is always better than a cure, so always keep a lookout for any damage and repair it immediately.
Until next time, happy listening.