How does Nintendo Switch charging port get damaged?

Nintendo done a pretty good job when it comes to engineering and assembly of the Switch, however, as with all portable and pluggable devices there still are accidental damage situations. Be it a tripped wire or anger management issues during a Mario Kart mayhem charging port is the one who mostly suffers. Once that little USB-C port is damaged the console is only good for the time of battery life that’s left on it. Once that runs out the only option is either go back to retailer, get in touch with Nintendo for a repair or look for local electronic equipment repair centre, which specialises in Nintendo Switch repairs.

Damaged Nintendo Switch charging port repair at TFix

At TFix, we are constantly looking for new ways how to improve and repair consumer electronic equipment and been looking for Nintendo Switch parts for quite a while, so once the USB-C port popped up from our suppliers in China, it was a no brainer to buy it, try to replace it and see how difficult it is.

Once received, we actually realised that this USB-C port is an SMT part and cannot be replaced manually using a soldering iron, due to the fact that it consists of 2 rows of pins soldered onto PCB, and there is no way to access second row of pins as it is directly beneath first row of pins (we’re sure this makes sense to someone who is related to SMT soldering…). Therefore, the only way to remove and replace the port is by using a soldering rework station. In this particular case we decided to use a preheater and low end manual hot air station to remove the port and solder the new one in place.

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Step 1 – Board mounting and preheating

Damaged Nintendo Switch charging port repair

As always, if you do decide to take this guide seriously, consider all precautions, such as PPE and ESD and carry out any repairs on your console at your own risk.

Tools you will require:

  1. Rework station, we used Termopro IK-650 Pro
  2. Soldering station, we used JBC with T-245-A soldering handle and 939 tip
  3. Hot Air station, used Atten 850D
  4. Heat resistant material to place de-soldered part
  5. Tweezers
  6. Side cutters
  7. Small PCBs mounting bracket, we used one from Ersa
  8. De-soldering wick
  9. SnPb solder in 0.35mm thickness
  10. Gel flux dispenser with 1mm needle
  11. PCB cleaning solution
  12. Lint free wipes
  13. New USB-C port

We won’t go into details how to remove the Nintendo Switch motherboard itself, as you probably should know if you attempt a mission of carrying out usb-c port repair.

The Nintendo Switch board is pretty small so take extra precautions when mounting it. Before you mount the board, please ensure to double check if it has been completely disassembled and no parts which could melt have been left unnoticed and remove them if you found any.

The board has to be mounted inside the small PCB mounting bracket, which is manufactured for ERSA IR-650 rework station. Suspend the board inside the bracket using adjustable pins. Ensure it is mounted safely and not too tight to account for micro expansion during heating stage. Also, please ensure it is supported all around and no corners are left unsupported as this will likely cause the board to sag and will allow development of cold solder joints.

Once mounted, place thermocouple to an empty area besides the port. Take extra care to ensure thermocouple is completely flat on the circuit board, as this will ensure the best possible heat transfer for the most accurate temperature reading.

Set Termopro to heat only one of the sides, depending where you mounted your PCB. Adjust the temperature to 300C, by using either one of the presets or manual plus and minus buttons and turn on the heat. Monitor the IK reading as this will show you PCB temperature during this pre-heating stage.

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Step 2 – Port removal

Set your hot air station to temperature reading of 350C, airflow setting at mark 7. Once IK reading reaches 160C remove the thermocouple completely and start heating the top of the port area by slowly circulating the hot air station wand on top of it. Keep a distance of approx. 10 – 20mm.

Keep heating the top of the port and at the same time check for solder liquidity by gripping the port with black tweezers and attempt to carefully move it. Observe the solder, it will slightly change in colour and will appear shinier once liquid. Take care not to melt any plastic parts around the port as well as make sure your position on the workbench is completely stable and comfortable to avoid any unpredictable movements, which can cause damage to the PCB.

Once you are confident the solder is completely molten all around the port, try to slowly lift the port from the PCB. No force will be required to lift the port and if it does not budge, it is most likely not yet liquid. In that case be patient and carefully apply more heat from the using using circular motions with hot air wand.

When removing the port, ensure your grip with tweezers is tight and secure. Remove the port and place it in the safe area on your workbench. Preferably on earlier prepared piece of heat resistant material.

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Step 3 – Board cleaning and re-tin

When you removed the port, it is time to clean the PCB. With bottom heater still on, decrease its temperature to 200c and apply gel flux on the PCB pads. Using T245-A soldering iron (temperature set at 320C) and SnPb solder apply moderate amount of solder to 2 grounding through-hole pads located very next to the edge of PCB. Make sure solder has fully melted and flowed all the way through by keeping soldering iron tip on the pad for an extra 2 – 5 seconds at an angle, which provides best heat transfer.

Using de-soldering wick, clean through hole pads one by one, by ensuring they are clean all the way through. The key here is ensuring SnPb solder flowed completely is lowered melting point of original Pb-Free solder. Bottom heater will also help you.

Once all residual solder from 2 through-hole pads is removed, use PCB cleaner to clean all port pads. No more residual solder removal is necessary. Inspect PCB for damages, such as missing pads, track damage and repair them as a separate procedure if required.

The most crucial point is to ensure there is enough solder left on the pin pads as we will be reflowing new port in place and will have no ability to apply any more solder later on. Using soldering iron and SnPb solder, apply moderate amount of solder to 2+2 grounding pads at the back of the port by ensuring the solder flows all the way through the via. Inspect the solder condition and amount on the pins and if they lack consistency, re-tin those pads using more SnPb solder. Watch out for bridges.

Clean the PCB are using your favourite PCB flux cleaner or IPA.

Step 4 – New port soldering

Damaged Nintendo Switch charging port repair

Prepare the new port by taking it out of the packaging, inspect the pins to make sure they all are straight and have no excess residual solder leftover. If you found any excess solder, clean it using soldering iron, de-soldering wick and flux under a microscope.

Apply flux to the pads and place the port on top of the PCB so that only the front grounding pins go all the way through the PCB via through hole pins and the back of the port actually sits on top of pins. The port should sit at steep angle.

If all went smooth you should have never switched off the bottom heater and your PCB temperature should be around 160 – 180 degrees. If you had to turn off the bottom heater, gradually raise the board temperature to 160C using the same principle as described before. When the board reaches required temperature apply hot air from the top by carefully circulating hot air wand approx. 10 – 20mm above the port and watch carefully to solder liquidity.

Ideally you should see the port lowering itself in place, however, in some instances it is OK to help the port by applying very light pressure on the top of the port using black tweezers. This will help the port to sit completely flush with the board. Once the port is in correct position visually inspect solder joint quality and reflow using hot air wand if necessary.

Once you are entirely sure all is sound, turn off the bottom heater and switch on the PCB fan to cool PCB back to room temperature. When PCB is cool enough to touch, clean it using your favourite PCB cleaning agent or lint-free wipe and IPA.

So, as you can see it’s pretty complex. Let us do it!

Damaged Nintendo Switch charging port repair
Damaged Nintendo Switch charging port repair