A weekend with my iron

Over the weekend, I spent a lot of time with my soldering iron and a bunch of console controllers from my brother. The analog stick in a Gamecube controller was defaulting up so when the game started the character would start running up. The analog sticks in a PS2 controller were physically getting stuck in certain directions. The plan was to desolder the sticks, wash them with water and let them dry, then soldering them back in. It was a good thing I picked up that new soldering iron tip recently because I don’t think I could have done any good desoldering with the thin tip I was using before.

IMG_0002I love seeing how PCBs are laid out in commercial products. One interesting thing I saw this weekend were vertical pieces of the board soldered on at a 90º angle. I suppose you’d only do that to fit the form as they did this for the shoulder buttons. I think it looks cool but I don’t think I’d ever have an application to try it.

Also in the picture is one of the bare analog sticks before it was desoldered, cleaned, and soldered back in. The box itself is soldered down to the board, with two potentiometers on two sides of it to get analog readings in the x and y axes. The box isn’t electrically connected but I did notice that at least one controller PCB had one of the box pins connected to the ground plane. It sounds like a good practice that I hadn’t considered before, even though I realize it’s pretty much the equivalent to grounding electrical boxes in your home for light switches and lightbulbs.

This was the Gamecube controller that had the problem with the character running up when the game starts. I figured it was some dirt or sweat that got into it so I washed it in water and let it dry for a while. It worked when my brother tested it, but it started acting up again, so I desoldered it again and soaked it in alcohol. I haven’t heard any complaints yet so hopefully that was the solution. I wish I had taken pictures before and after because the alcohol made it really shiny.

I don’t have a picture of it, but one of the tiny wires from the cable came off from the PCB. I had an easy time soldering it back on. I also added more hot glue to the hot glue that was already there…IMG_0002The next controller was the PS2 controller. They worked but were physically sticking in certain directions. I tried the water and alcohol cleaning again but it was still sticking. In the end, it was decided that the two smooth sticks from a used controller would go into this original one.IMG_0001Here’s a picture in the middle of desoldering the two analog sticks from the PS2 controller. Up to this point, I was “lazy” and was using soldering wick. I was never happy with my technique of desoldering with a pump because it would either leave behind solder I could never suck up or I’d end up burning off the pad. With so much wick being used this weekend, I decided to try my hand at using the pump again.

I got the technique down a little better, though I did burn off half of a pad from the board but it was just one of the pins holding down the analog stick box. I found that adding more solder and trying to get the pump perpendicular to the board (nearly inserting the pin into the pump) was a technique that worked well.

So that’s it. Hopefully my efforts work out for the long run. Thanks for reading!

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