How does Nintendo Switch charging port get damaged?

Nintendo did a pretty good job when it comes to engineering and assembly of the Switch. However, as with all portable and pluggable devices, there are still situations where accidental damage happens. Be it a tripped wire or anger management issues during a Mario Kart mayhem. The 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 there are a few options. To either go back to the retailer, get in touch with Nintendo for a repair or look for a local electronic equipment repair centre, which specialises in Nintendo Switch repairs.

Damaged Nintendo Switch charging port repair at TFix

At TFix, we are continually looking for new ways how to improve and repair consumer electronic equipment. As a result, we have been searching 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 we received it, we actually realised that this USB-C port is an SMT part. Which means it cannot be replaced manually using a soldering iron because it consists of 2 rows of pins soldered onto PCB. And there is no way to access the second row of pins as it is directly beneath the 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

This time we won’t go into details on how to remove the Nintendo Switch motherboard itself. As you probably should know it already 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 you have completely disassembled it. Make sure you haven’t left any parts which could melt unnoticed and remove them if you found any.

Mount the board 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 you mounted it safely and not too tight to account for micro expansion during heating stage. Also, please ensure you supported the board 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.

The next step is to place the thermocouple on an empty area besides the port. Take extra care to ensure the 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 on 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 a temperature reading of 350C, airflow setting at mark 7. Once IK reading reaches 160C remove the thermocouple completely.  Next, start heating the top of the port area. Slowly circulate 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 move it carefully. 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. Furthermore, make sure your position on the workbench is completely stable and comfortable. It is important 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 lift the port from the PCB slowly. You won’t need any force to raise the port. 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 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 an 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. Then, with the 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) apply a moderate amount of SnPb solder to 2 grounding through-hole pads located next to the very edge of the PCB. Make sure solder has fully melted and flowed all the way through. Keep soldering iron tip on the pad for an extra 2 – 5 seconds at an angle, which provides the best heat transfer.

Then, using de-soldering wick, clean through-hole pads one by one, by ensuring they are clean all the way through. The key here is making sure that SnPb solder has flowed completely which will result in lowering the melting point of original Pb-Free solder. The bottom heater will also help you.

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

In addition, the most crucial point is to ensure there is enough solder left on the pin pads. We will be reflowing the new port in place and will not be able to apply any more solder later on. Using a soldering iron and SnPb solder, apply moderate amount of solder to 2+2 grounding pads at the back of the port. Ensure 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.

Lastly, clean the PCB 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. Then, 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 sits on top of pins. The port should sit at a steep angle.

If all went smoothly, 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 the required temperature apply hot air from the top by carefully circulating hot air wand approx. 10 – 20mm above the port and observe the 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. It will help the port to sit completely flush with the board. Once the port is in the 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