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How to Fix a DS Lite

As I mentioned in my previous post, I repaired my DS Lite yesterday. I had first noticed problems with the d-pad’s down button while playing Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer; just a regular press and hold wasn’t working, and I would find myself having to apply more pressure in order to get Shiren to walk southward for awhile. Once I encountered this same problem not long after starting Pokemon Platinum, I decided right then and there that I would be taking apart my DS sometime soon to rectify this situation.

Though the prospect of doing DIY repair on a home console is one I dread (case in point: I sold my busted phat PS2 instead of attempting to fix its disk reading problem), taking apart handhelds is something I’ve been doing for a long time now. Back in the day, it was a Tiger LCD game that would give me trouble. Fortunately, all it took was a clean work surface and a small enough screwdriver to take the thing apart and correct the problem, which typically involved inverted rubbery plastic nubs, the ones which serve as the liaison between the game’s buttons and the motherboard.

I have seen the innards of both these puppies.I was facing a similar issue with my DS, and one I thought would be relatively easy to fix. This would be the second Nintendo handheld I would ever open up. The first was the used Game Boy Advance I bought last year. After a bit of bad luck with an earlier seller, the Arctic White GBA I wound up with arrived in excellent condition and worked fine. There was, however, one little problem in the form of a big spot of dust in the space between the clear top layer and the screen itself. I borrowed a triwing screwdriver, brought out a can of compressed air, and got to work. This bit of minor electronic surgery ended up being successful.

I was a bit more nervous about repairing the DS Lite, though. When the touchscreen on my Phat went all wonky, I unloaded it on eBay, seeing my misfortune as a perfect excuse to upgrade. However, I am more attached to my lovely Ice Blue Lite. It’s a Japanese model that cost me more than any of the North American ones would have, and therefore would be expensive to replace if something went wrong. I thought about sending it to Nintendo of America for repairs if something really went wrong, but again, it’s a Japanese Lite and I’m not sure if they would fix something like that, one reason being the button action on the thing is very different from that on my husband’s, which is a North American model.

Still, after securing the tools and cleaning my desk, I took out my DS and began opening it up. The screws gave me the most trouble. There were a mix of triwing and Phillips heads, but that wasn’t an issue. What was, though, were two tiny Phillips screws in the bottom of the battery compartment. I couldn’t figure out what to do with them, and after looking up a repair guide online, found that they were not a set of screws I needed to deal with. The last couple that I needed to unscrew were instead under the two rubbery nubs on either side of the DS cart slot, nubs which I then carefully pried off. The underside of the DS came off fairly neatly after that, which was when I had to deal with my next problem: the spring-loaded shoulder buttons. Their construction is simple, and it is this very simplicity that caused them to come off with brief, inadvertent touches. Anyway, I didn’t worry about that for the time being and instead removed the last screw that held the motherboard (which had some kanji or kana scribbled on part of it in marker) in place.

When I took apart my GBA, I found that the rubbery plastic nubs for the buttons were moulded in large pads, with several contact points on each one—very much unlike that old Tiger handheld, which had one individual nub per button. This design, along with the pads’ construction in general, results in tough, high-quality parts which never suffer from inversion. I should’ve expected a similar setup when I opened my DS, but I had forgotten about it until then. Still, although the nub for “down” was not inverted, it did show signs of wear, as did its contact counterpart on the motherboard. It’s worth noting here that the “up” nub and contact were also noticeably worn, though not as much so as the “down” ones. I figured that my best option was to rotate the d-pad’s set of nubs so that the new “down” one would not be as worn out, and thus the old one would get assigned to a less worn contact.

With that done, I put the shoulder and volume buttons back into place, closed ‘er up, popped the battery in, put back said battery’s panel, then booted up the DS. The screens—both of them—flickered. Uh oh. I immediately turned the system off and retraced my steps. All the wires and other circuitry looked fine, so I began closing up the case again. However, this time around, putting the shoulder buttons back was an even bigger pain, and the power switch supplied its own share of annoyances. Case closed, battery in place (but with the cover left off for the time being), boot up the system again. Both screens still flickered.

At a loss for what to do, I did some Googling and came across this page. The “best” suggestion was the one that worked for me—turns out that those two “screws” I had fruitlessly noodled with earlier serve as calibration controls! I adjusted them until I got satisfactory results, then replaced the battery cover.

So, how did it go? After re-entering some basic settings (which the DS forgot due to the removal of the battery) I popped Pokemon Platinum back in and gave it a whirl. All the directional buttons worked nicely, as did the others besides. I played for a little while, then put in a longer play session in the evening. Again, no problems. Mission successful! I am now, once again, the proud owner of a working DS Lite.