You aren’t alone if you’re experiencing a pair of headphones that only work on one side. This can be a major sign that something isn’t working right. The question is: where is the problem?

Through normal wear and tear, your headphones may be on the fritz. You could have sound in one earbud or none at all. It doesn’t matter the device you use them with, it’s always the same problem. Chances are it’s the wiring that’s causing problems.

There’s a few solutions you can take advantage of.

The Twist-and-Tape Method

Inside your headphones is copper wiring wound together. These can become severed in worse case scenarios. With that connection severed, you can end up without sound in your headphones on one side or both. The twist-and-tape method aims to reconnect the wires without soldering them. All you’ll need is some electrical tape.

Here’s how it’s done:

1. Inspect the length of the wire, twisting it as you work your way back and forth on the wire. If music pops back into the earbud that’s giving you problems, you found the issue.

2. Now, twist the wire where the problem is located until the music is coming in continuously.

3. Take electrical tape and tape around the twisted wire, and do keep it twisted.

Soldering the Wires Back into Place

People have a bad habit of yanking on the cord to remove their headphones. That is an absolute no-no. Always grab at the base and pull away from the audio port. Unfortunately, this can cause the wiring to be yanked free of the audio jack, completely disconnecting any sound from traveling.

Don’t try this method if you aren’t comfortable working with a very hot tool. It can be a serious hazard if you have zero experience with a soldering iron. You’d be better off just buying a new pair.

You will need:

  • Solder
  • Soldering iron
  • Wire stripper
  • Scissors
  • Heatproof workspace
  • A replacement 3.5mm stereo plug

1. If your audio plug can be unscrewed (some can) then by all means do that to expose the wiring inside before making any cuts.

2. Start by taking your scissors and, brace yourself, cutting the plug off the headphones, the end with the audio jack. Cut back about an inch or so.

3. Take your wire stripper tool and from about 3/8 to 1/2 inch from the of the wire, strip it the rubber away from the wiring. This will expose the copper wire, which is usually color-coded red, black, transparent or none at all.

4. Take a bit of solder with the wires in their proper places on the terminals, and heat the end of the solder while on the wiring. Do this for both ends. In doing so, you melt a bit of the solder over the wires to secure them.

5. Leave solder to dry and harden.

If You Have a Warranty…

If you bought yourself an expensive pair of headphones, then it may be more advantageous to you to take advantage of your warranty before making any rash decisions. Attempting to repair your headphones may void your warranty. You can avoid making the situation worse by having your warranty take care of it, especially if you have zero knowledge with soldering or repairing headphones.

It would be terrible if a simple call could get your headphones fixed only to be denied because you fiddled with the device yourself.

Tips to Avoid Further Damage

Whether you were able to fix your headphones or you bought new ones, keeping your headphones happy is just a matter of creating better habits. There’s a number of good habits you can make to extend the life of your earbuds. There’s one habit especially that many people avoid or never realize they’re doing it that can cause serious damage over time.

Put Your Earbuds Away

Yes, it’s easier to simply stuff your headphones into your pocket, but sooner or later you’ll cause a kink in your headphones. Repeatedly bending the wires, and yankin them around just to untangle the cord is only going to lead to a pair of faulty headphones.

Instead, invest in a headphone case. Your headphones can be looped together and lay snug in your headphone case. You wouldn’t have to worry about tangles, nor would you be bothered by unnecessary disconnection.

Keep Them Clean

Even a pair of headphones, as small as the nooks and crannies are, still need proper cleaner. Headphones come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, but all are susceptible to dirt, grime, dust and earwax. That kind of stuff can worm its way into the tiny holes your headphones have, causing a blockage that reduces the sound quality of your headphones. Use a dry toothbrush to scrub away any gunk on your headphones, especially the ones that have rubber tips (you can use water to clean the rubber tips after they’re removed).

In a worst case scenario, if you can, you’ll have to pull apart the plating to clean the inside–provided you can clip the plating back together. Don’t try that if you can’t.

Of course, if you end up using water, don’t use it on the headphones themselves. If you do, you may find yourself buying a new pair.

Pull At the Base, Not the Cord

This right here, pulling the cord to remove a pair of headphones is by far one of the worst habits you can make when taking care of a set of headphones. In fact, this may have been the exact reason your headphones weren’t working in the first place.

The wires inside your earbuds are attached to specific places, perhaps by a bit of solder–maybe not at all. That’s not exactly the strongest of bonds. With enough force, you can yank the wires free from their bed, resulting in a pair of headphones refusing to work until the connection has been remade.

To avoid this, grab the base of the wire, where the audio jack is. Once you have a hold on it, gently pull away from the audio port. Do NOT pull at an angle or you run the risk of bending the audio jack. Never, ever pull by the wire.