Remote Control Repair

Remote controls come with televisions, room air conditioners, heating systems, gas fireplaces and more. This Fix-It Guide on remote control repair tells how a remote control works, what often goes wrong, how to identify a remote control problem, and what parts and tools you will need to fix it. It then gives simple step-by-step instructions for how to service a remote control. You may need to refer to household battery repair. (You can order replacement parts at

How Does a Remote Control Work?

A remote control is a hand-held device for turning on or off, selecting features, and adjusting electronic equipment such as televisions, VCRs, DVDs, stereo equipment, and many other household devices including your garage door opener. When a button is pressed, the remote control unit sends out an infrared (invisible) signal that’s read and interpreted by the device. A remote control is a battery-powered transmitter.

What Can Go Wrong with a Remote Control?

Remote Control Repair

Remote controls typically consist of circuit boards, batteries, a touch pad, and case. Usually the problem is caused either by low batteries or damage from dropping or immersing the remote.

The very thing that makes remote controls so useful–their portability–makes them vulnerable to damage. Circuit boards can be cracked and soldered connections can fail. Water or other liquids can be spilled and leak into the case. Damage can sometimes be repaired, but a new remote is not that expensive so many people opt to replace rather than fix. Think of all the adventure they’re missing!

How Can I Identify a Remote Control Problem?

  • If a remote control unit stops working, first check the battery compartment (see Household Battery Fix-It Guide) to make sure the batteries are making good connections. Clean the tips if needed.
  • If the batteries are inserted correctly and the remote still does not work, replace the batteries.
  • If the remote still won’t work, try gently cleaning the battery contact points with a pencil eraser or a dab of electronic contact cleaner.
  • If the device stops working after being dropped, disassemble it and check for a cracked circuit board.
  • If water spills on the remote, disassemble it and let it dry.
  • If soda or other beverages spill on the remote, disassemble and clean it out as well as possible (see below).

Fix-It Tip

Don’t remove the batteries unless you know the programmable remote codes! Can’t find the code for your programmable remote? Check your owner manual for the code or instructions on how to make the remote search for the code. If you have Internet access, visit for a list of codes for various manufacturers.

What Do I Need for Remote Control Repair?

Many remote controls are difficult to open, except for the battery area, which is where most problems occur. Some control cases have screws while others use clips to keep the two halves together. Here are the tools you’ll need:

  • Screwdrivers
  • Cotton swabs
  • Old toothbrush
  • Electrical contact cleaner

What Are the Steps to Remote Control Repair?

Service a remote control:

  1. Open the battery compartment (see Household Battery Fix-It Guide) and remove all batteries.
  2. Remove any housing screws located in the battery compartment or on the bottom of the case.
  3. Remove the case and inspect the circuit board for damage. If the board is dirty, spray it with electrical contact cleaner and use cotton swabs to dry it.
  4. Remove the keypad and gently wipe the surface with mild soapy water and let it dry.
  5. Use canned air to blow out dust and debris from the housing.
  6. Once all components are dry, reassemble the unit and install fresh batteries. You may need to reprogram codes in the unit following instructions in the owner’s manual.