Dell laptop's AC plug being a pain

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Splendid
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Dell laptop's AC plug being a pain

Postby Splendid » Wed Jun 17, 2009 5:35 pm UTC

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Hello, Helpful Internet Masses.

In order to charge my laptop now (the cheapest model when I bought it May 2005) I have to push in the plug and wiggle it and bend it and shove it in different directions until I see the green charge light in front illuminate. Then I have to hold it there. It won't charge if I let go. It also won't charge if I turn on the laptop. Basically if I want to charge it, it has to be off and I have to hold the plug in place after finding where it likes to be.

Is there a good solution? Can I hardwire anything anywhere (I have about eight years worth of experience with soldering irons, solder, and flux with slot cars, RC cars and helicopters but have never soldered anything PC)? Thank you, knowledgeable xkcd forums.
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BumpInTheNight
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Re: Dell laptop's AC plug being a pain

Postby BumpInTheNight » Wed Jun 17, 2009 7:04 pm UTC

Yes.

Well likely, but you'll have to open the thing up entirely to look at the plug and see it from the other side of the plastic casing to see what has decided to come loose. It could be the ability for the housing to touch the motherboard or just the plug itself has something bent that could be twizzered back into proper position. Those situations tend to come from the plug getting pulled from something like the cable was plugged in but then pressure was placed upon the head which in turn levered the housing in some way. Really though you're going to just have to open it up and poke around to spot any places where the contact is being lost.

What you do have working for you though is there probably aren't many if any circuits near that area on the motherboard so less worry about accidentally joining two paths that shouldn't.

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Splendid
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Re: Dell laptop's AC plug being a pain

Postby Splendid » Wed Jun 17, 2009 11:08 pm UTC

Thanks, Bump. I'm not too worried about messing it up. I don't use it much anyhow. It'd just be nice to have it back is all. A guy in a computer store said that it's a common problem and that it would be about $200 to fix it. I said, "HA!" and walked out. I figured at the time it was just a wire that had come loose.

I've tried opening it up before, but I never found a real way good way in. I'll have to give it another go.
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Splendid
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Re: Dell laptop's AC plug being a pain

Postby Splendid » Wed Aug 19, 2009 4:51 am UTC

Okay. I thought continuing this thread was better than starting a new one. I finally was motivated enough to break into it, but I don't know if it'll go back together. Regardless, I got images of the inside of the plug. If anyone could maybe see what I could do to fix the issue described in the first post, I would really appreciate it. I tried wiggling that little box that houses the female part of the plug and it seems solidly in there. What's wiggling is the little prong that's inside the plug (picture one).

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Now here's the little plug that the lithium battery actually attaches to.

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It's solid also. I think it's the first plug. But if the plug shown in the first set of images can't be repaired, then my follow-up question is: can I buy one of those plug and hook up my own lithium charger? I used to race 1/10 RC hobby-grade cars and fly helis that used lithium batteries. Special separate battery chargers are $180, and that's ridiculous.

Thanks in advance!
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Zamfir
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Re: Dell laptop's AC plug being a pain

Postby Zamfir » Wed Aug 19, 2009 9:19 am UTC

Waht happens if you put aluminum foil or something else conductive inside the male plug? If the problem is that it doesn't contact the inner tube in the female plug, this might help

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Splendid
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Re: Dell laptop's AC plug being a pain

Postby Splendid » Wed Aug 19, 2009 6:02 pm UTC

Thanks for the reply, Zamfir.

I tried putting tiny pieces of aluminum foil about the size of a fingerprint inside the end of the cord itself, hoping the pin would connect better inside, but nothing was improved. Plugging it in though, I noticed the little black/silver box the pin is located in moves back and forth maybe a millimeter or .75mm in most all directions. Should I try taking off the entire motherboard to look on the underside of the pin's box? That looks like a lot of work though. I think the cord is making a fine enough connection to the pin itself, I think the problem lies maybe in the pin connecting to the little box it's in or in the connection to the motherboard from there.
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Zamfir
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Re: Dell laptop's AC plug being a pain

Postby Zamfir » Thu Aug 20, 2009 9:18 am UTC

have you cinsidered the possibility that you might be screwed? :) I guess you could try to remove the motherboard, solder the box loose from it, try to fix, and solder it back. I give you 25% chance it works... I might do it for the fun of it, not because it is worth it.

Have you considered that a 2005 Thinkpad on ebay will probably cost you 100 bucks and might be a better laptap than your machine ever was?

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Splendid
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Re: Dell laptop's AC plug being a pain

Postby Splendid » Thu Aug 20, 2009 2:44 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:have you cinsidered the possibility that you might be screwed? ... Have you considered that a 2005 Thinkpad on ebay will probably cost you 100 bucks and might be a better laptap than your machine ever was?

Sadly, yes. I know a lot more about computers than I did then, and I'll never buy another Dell. I was young and stupid!
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ThomasS
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Re: Dell laptop's AC plug being a pain

Postby ThomasS » Thu Aug 20, 2009 3:37 pm UTC

It is very hard to tell what connection or wire is loose from pictures. Look for of electrical joints which wiggling the plug flexes. The most common sort of problem is probably for the connector to PCB joint to have a hairline crack around a pin. Perhaps the pin connecting the center post of the plug to the PCB. So long as it isn't too small, and you get the PCB out, you should be able to solder the crack away, but the "right" way to do it involves a temperature controlled soldering iron set to melt the solder without risking damaging any of the PCB components. It is also possible that there is internal damage to the plug, or that some other connection from the PCB is somehow bad.

If a crack around a pin is not visible, probably the best way to really tell what is happening is to beg, borrow or steal a multimeter for a day or two. Set it for ohms (or some modern designs can even be set to beep when there is a connection between the wires), connect one end to a part of the plug, and see if you can find an intermediate connection to something else. e.g. if the center pin seems loose, try to find where the center pin sticks out on the opposite side of the PCB. Does wire from the center pin connect reliably to the center pin? does the solder from the PCB to that wire look intact? These questions are easy to ask with an ohm meter.

P.S. If it is the plug itself which is bad, rather than the board, then it is probably possible to find a replacement in something like a Digikey catalog. However, being sure that you have found the right part takes care, and such places tend to have minimum orders in the $50 range, so you'd have to decide between that and ordering a new PCB from the Dell parts department.

Doodle77
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Re: Dell laptop's AC plug being a pain

Postby Doodle77 » Thu Aug 20, 2009 11:47 pm UTC

I happen to have the same laptop (an Inspiron 1100, right?), and had a similar problem (unfortunately i never fixed it)
This mouser part (mouser has no minimum order btw) fits your AC adapter (but not the motherboard). If you desolder the connector on the motherboard and solder wires from the leads of that to the right place, you should be able to get it to charge. Make sure to insulate the wires and such afterwards so that you don't zap yourself by mistake when plugging it in.

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Splendid
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Re: Dell laptop's AC plug being a pain

Postby Splendid » Sat Aug 22, 2009 8:58 am UTC

Thanks guys. I'm almost wishing there were a way to make everyone want five year old Dell laptop hardware so I can make a couple bucks back off this thing.
ThomasS wrote:P.S. If it is the plug itself which is bad, rather than the board, then it is probably possible to find a replacement in something like a Digikey catalog.

If "plug" means "cord", this is the third cord I've owned for this Dell. The third one I bought didn't improve anything from the second. I'll likely just start tinkering with it and take out the board to check pins like you recommend. If I mess something up, oh well.
Doodle77 wrote:I happen to have the same laptop (an Inspiron 1100, right?), and had a similar problem (unfortunately i never fixed it)
This mouser part (mouser has no minimum order btw) fits your AC adapter (but not the motherboard). If you desolder the connector on the motherboard and solder wires from the leads of that to the right place, you should be able to get it to charge.

I wish there were an image of that thing so I know what it is I'm ordering. It's hard to tell what it does because of my (very) basic knowledge of circuitry. Oh, and something is telling me it's a 500 series... or 5 series... or something involving a five. Or not. It was the basic model at the time (Spring/Summer 2005).
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ThomasS
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Re: Dell laptop's AC plug being a pain

Postby ThomasS » Sat Aug 22, 2009 5:03 pm UTC

Splendid wrote:
ThomasS wrote:P.S. If it is the plug itself which is bad, rather than the board, then it is probably possible to find a replacement in something like a Digikey catalog.

If "plug" means "cord", this is the third cord I've owned for this Dell. The third one I bought didn't improve anything from the second. I'll likely just start tinkering with it and take out the board to check pins like you recommend. If I mess something up, oh well.

In this case I probably should have used the word socket. Roughly speaking, the socket assembly is soldered to the board and the overall intention is for certain metal bits within the socket to have good electrical connection to certain solder traces on the board. That is all it does. Because the socket is stressed when you insert and remove the plug, the socket and the solder joints connecting it to the board are particularly likely to fail. If the joints fail you can probably redo them with a soldering iron and a bit of care. If the failure is internal to the socket it is more likely that you have to go looking for a replacement socket, and you might need to do the kluging described by Doodle. Alternatively, if you aren't concerned about the value and reusibility of your power supply you could replace both the plug on the power supply and the connector on the board with whatever you have on hand.

All this is assuming that the failure is within the computer, at or very near to the socket. This is likely because of the symptoms and the failure cause described above, but there is no way to be definite about this from here.


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