How to Repair a Remote Control

No matter how good your remote is, it will get dirty and wear out from frequent use.  Even if some of the keys have stopped working or have to be pushed really hard, they can be fixed. The most common problem has to do with the keypad’s conductivity with the circuit board. Open up the remote, clean it out, and apply a new coat of conductive paint to get the keys working again. If you’re looking for a quicker fix, use foil in place of the paint. The electric contacts in the battery chamber also wear out, so scrub them clean if they look corroded. With the right treatment, you can make an old remote last for years.

Opening the Remote Control

Snap a picture of the button configuration before opening the remote.

It’s best to do this before opening the remote. Some of the buttons may come flying out when you open it. Use your phone or draw a diagram if you don’t have a user manual with one in it. Also, note and document the position of any screws on the remote.

  • The solution used to fix on the remote takes some time to dry. Forgetting the button positioning is very easy when you’re forced to wait before putting it back together. Fortunately, you will have a handy picture to make it easier!
  • Putting back the screws can also be confusing, so make sure you have pictures of all of them and know where they belong.

Take the batteries out of the remote control.

Undo the cover on the back of your controller to pull out the batteries. Removing the batteries will deactivate the controller. It’s always a good idea to deactivate the controller this way before applying any sort of fluid to the electrical components inside of it.

  • Depending on the remote, you may need to remove the batteries to open the casing anyway.

Find and remove any screws keeping the remote together.

All remotes are different, so taking them apart isn’t always a straightforward process. Most of them have a couple of screws in the back. Use a mini Phillips screwdriver to turn the screws counterclockwise until you’re able to remove them. If you don’t see any screws on the back, check the battery compartment and also look underneath any stickers or sliding covers.

  • Some remotes may not have any visible screws. These types of removes usually just need to be pried open with a dull blade.
  • Be cautious when removing the screws. If the screwdriver slips, it could scratch up your remote.

Open the remote with a butter knife or another dull tool.

Look for a crack running along the side or edge of the remote. Most remotes consist of 2 plastic halves. By separating the halves, you can access the internal electronics. Wedge the knife into the crack, pry up the cover, and use your hands to pop it off.

  • Handle the remote carefully to avoid scratching it. Never attempt to open it with anything sharp.

Using a Keypad Repair Kit

Purchase a keypad repair kit that can be used to fix the remote.

A keypad repair kit comes with several brushes and a bottle of conductive paint. Plan on getting one that includes a cleaning fluid as well, such as rubbing alcohol or acetone, so you have everything you need for the repair. Getting a repair kit is well worth the price, especially if you’re trying to fix an expensive remote or one that is no longer manufactured. A typical repair kit costs between $20 and $30, although you may find smaller kits for less.

  • Repair kits are available online and at some electronics stores.
  • These repair kits work for other devices, including garage door openers, calculators, and even keyboards.

Wash the rubber buttons off with soap and water.

Remotes either have individual buttons or a sheet of plastic with all the buttons attached. Remove the individual buttons or the entire sheet and take it to your sink. Fill a bowl with warm water, then mix in at least 1 US tbsp (15 mL) of a liquid dish detergent. Soak the buttons and scrub them clean with a soft brush.

  • Use one of the brushes in your kit or get an old toothbrush. Rub away any noticeable debris, but spend extra time scrubbing any buttons that stick when you press them.

Rinse the buttons and plastic case off under running water.

Get some warm water running in your sink. Move all of the buttons there. The parts of the plastic case, as long as they don’t contain any electronic components, are also safe to wash this way. Make sure you get all of the soap and remaining debris before allowing the components to dry.

  • Test the buttons. If they stick or feel sticky, then spend more time scrubbing them. Look closely for any debris that could cause them to stop functioning.

Set the buttons in a spot with good air circulation to dry.

Spread out a towel on your countertop, for instance, and put the buttons and case parts there. Keep them in a relatively secure place out of direct sunlight. Decrease the drying time by keeping them out in the open.

  • Make sure the remote control components are out of the way so they don’t end up getting knocked over and lost.
  • The parts have to be completely dry before going back into the remote or else the moisture could damage the circuitry.

Wipe the circuit board with rubbing alcohol.

The best solution to use on the electrical components is rubbing alcohol. Dip a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol to dampen it, then wipe away any debris you see inside the remote. Make sure the cotton ball isn’t dripping, or else you could apply more liquid than you intend.

  • The electrical parts are delicate, so apply rubbing alcohol sparingly by using something soft, such as a cotton ball.

Apply conductive paint to the keypad contacts.

The contacts are underneath each button and rest against the remote’s circuit board. Most kits include a small paper match or brush you can use to spread the paint. Dip the match in the paint, then apply a thin coat of it to the bottom of each contact. Make sure the rubber contacts are all well-coated.

  • Check the repair kit instructions before opening the included jar of paint. You may need to prepare or mix it in a certain way in order to use it.

Let the remote dry for up to 72 hours.

The conductive paint dries in about 24 hours, but it doesn’t completely cure until 72 hours have passed. To ensure the repair is successful, wait the full 72 hours if you are able to spare the time. In the meantime, keep the keypad on the towel you set out when letting it dry earlier.

  • Leave the keypad with the contacts face up so the paint doesn’t rub off on the towel.

Put the remote back together and test it.

After having to wait for 3 days, you may have forgotten how all the pieces fit together. It’s not a problem, since you took a picture of the remote earlier. Refer to the picture while putting all sliding bars, loose buttons, screws, and other components back where they belong. Replace the batteries when you’re done.

  • If the remote still doesn’t work, it may be time to invest in a replacement. Take the old remote to a facility that recycles electronics.

Repairing Buttons with Aluminum Foil

Make a note of the buttons that do not function.

The buttons you most commonly used are likely to wear out first. This includes the power, volume, and channel buttons. Determine where these buttons are located before and after you open the remote. Write down the locations so you know which ones to fix.

  • Test all of the buttons before opening the remote. That way, you can repair them all at once instead of having to open the remote multiple times.

Clean the rubber contacts with rubbing alcohol if they are dirty.

Check all the buttons, but pay extra attention to the ones that aren’t functioning correctly. When they are new, they have a shiny coating of conductive paint on them. This paint wears off over time and may also collect dust or other debris. Dampen a cotton swab in a little bit of rubbing alcohol, then wipe away the debris.

  • If your remote needs a deeper cleaning, take out the removable components and wash them with soap and water. Scrub the electronic components with rubbing alcohol.

Cut pieces of aluminum foil to fit over the contacts.

The exact size of the foil isn’t too important, but try to cut it so it’s similar to the pads. If you have a hole punch, use it to create perfect circles that match the contacts. Otherwise, use a sharp pair of scissors. You can cut the foil into small squares that are about the same size as the contacts.

  • If the foil is too big, it may get in the way of the other contacts or fail to fit inside the remote. You really can’t make the foil too small, however.

Glue the foil to the non-functioning contacts.

Try using a contact adhesive, which is a very strong type of rubber cement. You may also have success with super glue or craft glue. Instead of squeezing the glue directly onto the contacts, dip the tip of something small, like a matchstick, into it. Use it to spread a thin but consistent layer of glue across each contact.

  • While you can squeeze the glue onto the contacts, you will usually end up using too much of it. It can lead to a mess that is difficult to clean up.
  • If you’re having a hard time placing the foil on the contacts, use tweezers or another tool. Positioning the small squares by hand can be difficult.

Wait at least 30 minutes for the glue to dry.

Check the manufacturer’s instructions for an exact recommendation. Contact adhesive and other glues you may use tend to dry relatively quickly. However, you may wish to leave the remote alone for longer to ensure the glue fully cures. Some super glues can take as long as 24 hours to cure.

  • Set the remote parts out on a towel with the contacts up in the air. This will help the glue dry and also prevent the foil from coming off the contacts.

Reassemble the remote and test it.

Put the keypad back inside the casing. Refer to a picture or diagram of your remote to position any loose parts correctly. Make sure the keypad contacts rest against the circuit board as well. When you’re done, put the batteries back in to use the remote.

  • If the buttons still aren’t working, you may need to replace the remote.

Cleaning Battery Terminals

Put on gloves and other safety equipment.

Battery acid is very harsh, so don’t let any get on your skin. Consider wearing long pants and a long-sleeved shirt as well. A safety mask, such as a dust mask, respirator mask, or even a face mask, is a must.

  • To make cleanup easier, take some time to prepare your work surface. Spread newspaper out under the remote to catch any corrosion.
  • Work in an area with good ventilation. Turn on ventilation fans or open nearby doors and windows.

Spread vinegar or lemon juice on any noticeable acid.

Pull the batteries out of the remote and set them aside. If the batteries have begun leaking, you will see white flakes like rust inside the remote. Squeeze a drop of the liquid onto the corroded spots to neutralize them. You can use a cotton swab to help spread the liquid around.

  • If you don’t see any signs of corrosion, you don’t have to worry about neutralizing anything and can focus on cleaning the electrical contacts inside the battery chamber.
  • You can mix in a little baking soda to clear stubborn spots of corrosion.

Scrub away the corrosion using a cotton swab.

An old toothbrush can also be helpful for removing the corrosion. Wipe the corrosion off the batteries first, then work on the battery chamber in the remote. When you’re done, check it over for anything you missed. Sometimes the corrosion is very small and can be easy to overlook.

  • Wipe the corrosion off onto a newspaper or sweep it into a garbage bag. Be careful to avoid spreading it throughout your home.
  • If you need to, use a toothpick or pencil eraser to reach anything you can’t remove with a cotton swab or toothbrush.

Clear the electrical contacts with 150-grit sandpaper.

If the contacts inside of the remote’s battery chamber look dirty, clean them. Try scrubbing them with a piece of 150-grit sandpaper. Wear off the corrosion, taking care not to rub the spots that appear clean. Throw away the sandpaper when you’re done.

  • Use a metal file to clean areas that are tough to reach. Another good tool to have around is a wire brush, which can also be used in place of the sandpaper.
  • When you’re done, install new batteries and test the remote. Corroded terminals can’t properly receive power from batteries, so cleaning them can make the remote work again. If it still doesn’t work, you may need to buy a new one.


  • Check your remote’s IR light by pointing it at a phone or video camera. If the LED doesn’t light up when you press a button, then you most likely need to get a new remote.
  • Remotes wear down over time, so sometimes your repair attempts won’t be successful. Fortunately, remotes are relatively inexpensive, but make sure you get one that is compatible with your device
  • If the coating on the keypad contacts is thick or dirty, it can flake off and cause the remote to fail. You will have to clean the solution off the circuit board and reapply it to fix the remote.


  • Battery acid is very toxic, so wear safety protection when dealing with corrosion. Keep in mind that your area may have special disposal rules for corroded batteries, so be sure to check local regulations.

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