DIY Computer Repair – Power cord will not stay in – not charging

DC jack imageIf your laptop isn’t charging, this is usually a symptom of either a damaged DC jack or a damaged power cord. Any time you find power issues or difficulty charging to be an issue, it is a good idea to save your work, stop using your laptop and start looking for the source of the problem. Power issues can lead to bigger issues, including system damage and data loss.

Check the Power Cord

First things first, unplug and take a look at the charger. If the plug no longer fits snugly into the power port on your laptop, this means either the plug or the port have been loosened, usually due to stress damage. Unfortunately, this is a problem virtually every laptop will eventually suffer from if used enough, though some are built more durably than others. Look at the charger tip, see if the metal plug is bent or cracked, and if there is a center pin make sure it hasn’t broken off. If you have a multimeter and feel confident you can leave the charger connected to an outlet and perform a simple voltage check to make sure the charger hasn’t simply stopped working. Also check for frayed or exposed wiring, this can lead to connection drops and potentially even starting electrical fires. When it comes to power sources, if it looks questionable, replace it.

Check the Power Jack

If the charger is good, time to look at the charging port – the DC jack. First, look closely at the casing around the port, making sure it isn’t cracked, deformed or missing pieces. These are indications of physical stress or overheating due to electrical shorting. If the port area is cracked, there’s a good chance the jack itself has been damaged as well. The jack may even be pushed deeper into the laptop body if there has been excessive pressure applied or a sudden impact, such as being dropped or bumped.  Some DC jacks are designed to have a “little wiggle” in the connection and some are soldered down solid.  This means that just noticing the amount of “play” the connector has now is not a conclusive test BUT a significant change in that amount of “play” would be a good indicator of a jack issue.

Once you reach this point, the next thing to do is disassembly. From here you may choose to try your hand at teardown and repair – youtube has lots of tutorials  – or you may decide it is not worth it. If you don’t want to mess with it, we’ll be happy to help. For lower-end laptops it may not be cost effective unless you are in an emergency situation or want to try it yourself. The parts are usually inexpensive. When you pay to have it done, the price is 90% labor in most cases.

Jack Types and Soldering

Once you have it torn down, you’ll find one of two DC jack types on the inside, either a “harness” type plug-in jack or a solder-in type. There is a bit of variation here, you may see what looks like a harness-type that ends in a solder connection, or a soldered jack that is part of a plug-in module board. If you have soldering equipment, patience and a steady hand you can probably handle doing the replacement. That said, some are trickier than others. A DC jack module board, for instance, gives you the choice of paying more for the whole module for an easy replacement, or the less expensive jack only that requires a more delicate soldering approach. Use care and discretion as the jack and circuit board are easy to mess up when working with extreme heat and you can’t just glue a broken PCB back together.

Continuity Check and Reassembly

Once the jack replacement is complete, using a multimeter, test for continuity between the circuit board connections and the internal surfaces of the jack.  Clean and resolder any connections that fail until all lines pass the test.  Then just reassemble in the reverse order of disassembly.  Be especially careful route all the power, wifi and speaker wires correctly to avoid repeating the process.