playing at being a handy-girl: how i nursed my car’s remote back to health

Do you know that panicky feeling in the pit of your stomach when you press the buttons on the remote control and your car refuses to let you in? If you have my luck, it’s happened when you wanted to get home after a long day at work (and everyone else already left), or at the supermarket when you have loads of bags in hand, or when you are in a big hurry, or . . .

It’s happened to me enough times through the past 1½ years to cause me real worry when the intermittent problem now seemed to get worse by the week.  Since it all started I have:

  • replaced batteries
  • rigged something inside the gadget to keep the batteries in the “optimum” position – it only worked for a short while
  • armed myself with a 6pc precision screwdriver set – it stays in my handbag
  • thought about replacing the car battery
  • and lately, chased all the blood from my fingertips as I applied pressure on the ‘head’ of the remote where the batteries are to try and get a response to button pushes

So earlier this week, when I had constant problems with the remote, it made me more nervous than usual as I knew there was one evening when I would have to work late.  With the sun setting earlier in winter I did not look forward to standing outside in the dark while pleading with the remote to work.  Who knows what / who would be lurking?!  I’m not fearless.

I had about 30 minutes to kill that dreaded evening.  What was there to lose?  The thing was working about 1 out of every 10 attempts – surely it can only get better?!  I gathered some things, thinking that while I’m going to fiddle with the remote I might as well give the little circuit board a good clean.  Maybe it was just feeling grumpy from years of dirt – it is about 16 years old after all.  To set the mood I decided to listen to the LM Radio stream which Willie, over at Lisa’s, alerted me to.

Let’s see – silicone spray, 3mm screwdriver, remote, wipe.  Right, good to go.

While humming (sometimes singing, because I actually recognised some of the songs!) along with the music streaming through on my notebook speakers I got to work.  Luckily there aren’t a lot of small parts in these remotes so there was no need for me to dive after something that fell to the floor.

There didn’t seem to be a lot of dirt, but I did notice some green oozing at the rubber button pad.  The contact points at the bottom of the remote looked a little worse for wear.  Before I got too carried away I decided to double-check that the battery made contact. Even when I got the same results as with the closed remote, I had serious doubts that a battery pack that was bought three months ago could run down that fast.

Oh well, I thought.  Might as well clean that green goo away and see what I can do about that contacts.  The goo had me a little nervous.  It looked like it was coming from beneath the rubber buttons, which in turn seemed to be glued to the circuit board.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained – so off I peeled the pad.  Lots and lots more green goo inside.  I’ve already cleaned it away before taking the photos – in case you’re wondering.

It became clear that I had finally found the cause of the problem – it was that rubber buttons that were damaged after years of use/abuse.

The only solution I could think of was trying to firm it up a bit.  Who knew that the piece of cardboard that indicated the sizes of the precision screwdrivers would come in handy one day?  I cut a couple of small squares from it and used it to re-pad the rubber buttons so that the inside wouldn’t split over (and miss!) those little red buttons you see above.

After reading this rather boring post, I hope you can at least appreciate how ecstatic I was when the remote worked after this!  I realise it is not a real fix, but hopefully it will work until I can find a replacement button pad thingy.


11 thoughts on “playing at being a handy-girl: how i nursed my car’s remote back to health

  1. Go girl! Where there is a will, there is a way. I used to own a VW Citi Shuttle (aka the Shitty Subtle), which would conk out on me at random, but mostly at robots/traffic lights when they changed from red to green. Open bonnet, wiggle cables to battery and “Voila!” life again. No contacts were damaged. There were no obvious, fixable problems it was just how it was… Once I knew how to conquer the issue, I could live with it for a few more years… It has been traded in now, though!

    • Sounds like you had a trial worse than mine, Lu! You are right, though. It’s easier to live/cope with the quirks when you know how to nurse it 🙂

  2. Oh my word, you are a HandyWoman ExtraOrdinaire!

    I also have my remote acting up from time to time – the batteries seem to need replacing more than I think should be necessary (which is not to say that this isn’t entirely *normal* for the manufacturers, it’s just that getting replacement batteries invariably involves a frustrating series of trips to several hardware stores in the hope that at least one of them will have the correct size batteries…).

    I have never, though, dared to do a surgical operation like this! Good on you!

    • Sadly it seems I’ve nursed it for the last time.
      The night before last I had to try and get it working by candle and flashlight. That was the last straw for me, I’m afraid. I finally gave in yesterday and bought a replacement control.

      Sounds like your remote is displaying the same symptoms mine did. They told me at the dealer yesterday that it was really faulty. I’d have the remote tested if I were you, just to be sure. Luckily the jewelry stores around here stock the batteries used in remotes, maybe yours does too?

    • Oh dear, I’m sorry to hear your remote has bitten the dust, so to speak. By candle and flashlight??!! Good golly.

      I’ll find out from the local jewellers too – good tip!

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