Repairing a water-damaged DS Lite

Discussion in 'NDS - Flashcarts and Accessories' started by Dteyn, Apr 27, 2009.

Apr 27, 2009
  1. Dteyn
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    Member Dteyn GBAtemp Fan

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    For those who don't like reading long posts: the DS works fine in GBA mode, just not DS mode. It's like the water-damage only affects DS mode.

    I personally have never had any problems with my own DS Lite (got it at Christmas, I treat it like gold).. but a friend of mine has two kids, one of them lost his DS and while borrowing his sister's DS, managed to drop it in the toilet. Apparently he took it out right away but left it for like 3 days without telling anyone. They already plan on buying a new DSI for the girl anyways, so I'm basically trying to repair a DS Lite that would have been thrown in the trash. Meanwhile the little turd that dropped it in the toilet has obviously lost his DS privileges. [​IMG]

    When he first asked me about it, I considered it a complete write-off due to the fact the kid left it for 3 days without telling anyone, I figured all the electronics would be corroded beyond use. Furthermore the toilet did have pee in it (yuck!), so there's the factor of the salinity in the water possibly affecting the electronics.

    The most my buddy did was dry it, clean it, take the battery out and let it sit in front of a fan to dry out as much as possible. I said I'd try to help out since I have a tri-wing screwdriver from my Wii experiences. I did a complete disassembly of the NDS right down to the bare bones, literally every piece taken apart. I followed the instructions in this excellent Teknoconsolas video: Disassembling Nintendo DS Lite

    Once disassembled I put all of the separate components on the counter and in front of a fan over the weekend. Today I reassembled the DS using the video as a guide and managed to get it back into it's original form (quite an interesting experience I must say!)

    So here's the bottom line, and the symptoms it shows:

    1. The DS charges fine, plugging in the charger turns the orange light on and charges until the battery is full, then turns off. So the charging fuse is not blown.

    2. When trying to turn on the NDS with either (a) a DS game or (b) nothing in either slot, the power light turns on dim green for about 1 second, then bright green for half a second and then turns off.

    3. The top screen also flashes white during the above process, when a DS game is inserted or when both slots are empty. From searching on Google this seems to be related to a top screen failure or short. However the next point negates this theory in this instance.

    Here's the strange, and totally unexpected part:

    4. When the DS slot is empty and a GBA game is inserted, the DS works perfectly fine in GBA mode! All of the buttons work, the sound works perfectly, in other words it's like nothing ever happened to it. I've tried several GBA carts and an EZFlash 3-in-1 (flashed with Mother 3 translation) and all work flawlessly.

    5. If nothing is inserted in either slots, holding L+R+A+B+X+Y while turning on the DS results in the Gameboy logo being displayed on the top screen (along with the Gameboy sound playing on the speakers), then freezes since no game is inserted.

    I realize the effects of water damage can be far reaching, however I'm wondering if anyone has experienced something similar (water damage only breaking DS mode, yet GBA mode works fine). There must be some DS-related component that has failed, looking at the board there doesn't seem to be any visible component damaged, obviously it's something my naked eyes can't see.

    Anyone?
     
  2. mercluke

    Member mercluke ‮҉

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    sounds like this guy has flashme on his ds and the firmware was somehow corrupted, try flashing this to the 3in1 and using the key combo you mentioned to boot it then follow this guide
     
  3. Dteyn
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    Member Dteyn GBAtemp Fan

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    I tried flashing FlashMe to the 3-in-1 (using a working DS) and then put the 3-in-1 in the water-damaged DS. It shows the Gameboy screen but then it goes white, nothing happens after that.

    I have a feeling it's something with the hardware and not the software, the guy didn't have FlashMe installed before the water damage.
     
  4. barf

    Newcomer barf Member

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    Look at the pcb very closely for any whitish coloring between IC or connector pins. You need to clean this crap off as it may be causing an electrical short even if it appears dry.

    Get some isopropyl alcohol and a small paint brush with somewhat stiff brissels. Modify the paint brush by cutting it shorter and thus making it stiffer. Use your modified paint brush and clean the pcb with the isopropyl alcohol. Use the paint brush to really get in between the fine pitch pins. The alcohol will evaporate so don't worry about putting too much on.

    Good luck
     
  5. Dteyn
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    Member Dteyn GBAtemp Fan

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    Excellent advice barf, thank you. I did notice a bit of residue on the screen ribbon cables, I used a Q-tip wetted with isopropyl to clean the residue off the connectors, taking digital pics on high resolution macro setting just to verify how clean everything is.

    I'll go over the board with the modified paintbrush as you describe and try to get everything as clean as possible. Hopefully I'll be able to revive the DS mode... otherwise I'll have to tell my buddy his kid just downgraded the DS to fancy looking Gameboy Advance. [​IMG]
     
  6. Psyfira

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    You've got it backwards; this indicates a problem with the bottom screen because it isn't responding. The DS runs a hardware check on startup, if anything's amiss it'll power off. (I'm assuming this DS is set to auto-boot, and the GBA mode uses the top screen. Maybe booting straight into GBA mode skips the hardware check on the unused hardware, just a theory though I don't know enough about the DS to know if that's right or not). The top screen flashing indicates it's working but the bottom screen remaining blank implies that one might be the cause of the problem. Those ribbon cables are an absolute bastard to re-assemble, have you checked it's pushed in all the way? (google it, they go in a lot further than most people expect)
     
  7. Dteyn
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    Member Dteyn GBAtemp Fan

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    Thanks for the clarification, Psyfira. I'm pretty sure I've got the ribbon cables all the way in, the first time I reassembled the DS, it wouldn't even work in GBA mode so I double checked the cables, and indeed they weren't in far enough. I pushed them in (carefully) as far as they'll go in, and have very carefully latched the connector down. I actually find it more difficult to insert the top screen cable all the way, I'm sure the bottom screen cable is in all the way since the little 'tabs' on either side of the ribbon cable butt up directly to the connector.

    I read another post somewhere that a faulty Wifi module can also cause this problem, so I tried simply disconnecting and removing the module, which results in the DS turning on, power light staying green, but nothing happens on either screen.

    I disassembled my working DS (something I never would have attempted before this project) and tried swapping the Wifi modules. The Wifi module from the water damaged DS works fine in my working DS. The Wifi module from my working DS doesn't make a difference in the water-damaged DS, so that rules out the Wifi module as a problem.

    I've disconnected and reconnected the bottom screen several times, so barring an actual failure of the connector or cable, I think the problem must lie with the bottom screen itself. Psyfira, like you mentioned I'm sure the GBA mode was set to the default top screen, which is likely why the DS works only in GBA mode.

    I'll see if I can muster up the courage to disassemble my working DS further and swap the bottom screen. If it results in the water-damaged DS working, then I'll simply order a replacement screen off of eBay and away we go. [​IMG]
     
  8. Dteyn
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    Member Dteyn GBAtemp Fan

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    Success!! [​IMG]

    I swapped the touch screen from my working DS into the water damaged DS, and voila! It works perfectly! I played a couple races on Mario Kart DS just to be sure all the buttons work and the unit functions properly.. even Wifi works, it's amazing! (more amazing to me is the fact that I was able to swap the screen back into my DS and it still works just like it always has, lol)

    So now I'll get my buddy to order a new screen from eBay, once it comes in the DS should be back in action. I also cleaned the board very meticulously as per barf's suggestion, there were several areas on the board that needed it. It looks much better now, still a few signs here and there of water damage but nothing too major.

    An interesting observation (and confirming Psyfira's theory): the DS works in GBA mode with no bottom screen installed at all! I reassembled the water-damaged DS without the bottom screen, and by holding L+R+A+B+X+Y it seems to cause the DS to skip the hardware check for the bottom screen and forces it directly into GBA mode. It even plays GBA games with no bottom screen installed, kinda weird looking at the DS motherboard while playing games. [​IMG]

    Thanks guys for the great suggestions, in this case it was just a matter of isolating the problem, figuring out exactly which component had failed, in this case the bottom LCD/touch screen.

    As a side note I really like the way the DS is designed in terms of disassembly, I really only had to watch the Teknoconsolas video once and now it's elementary (with great care and attention) to open and disassemble the DS Lite entirely. I only consider myself moderately experienced at electronics fiddling (I'm certainly not an expert) and this task, although challenging, turned out to be less of a hassle than I thought it would be.

    Anyways that's enough rambling for now.. I'm just glad (and equally surprised) that this DS will be able to be revived and back in action, especially considering it would have been thrown in the trash if I hadn't tried anything! [​IMG]
     
  9. Dteyn
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    Member Dteyn GBAtemp Fan

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    I ordered some new screens off eBay before I realized they're slightly cheaper (by $4 overall) at DealExtreme.

    For future reference, for anyone repairing a water-damaged DS who needs to order bottom or top screens in the future I would recommend DX (all items have free shipping), they have the best price I've been able to find anywhere:

    Lower Touch Screen Replacement - $2.74
    Lower LCD Screen Replacement - $8.60
    Upper LCD Screen Replacement - $10.11
     
  10. Psyfira

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    Awesome, glad you got it working [​IMG]
     
  11. Dteyn
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    Member Dteyn GBAtemp Fan

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    Just wanted to post a follow-up, the DS Lite works perfectly now that I've installed the replacement bottom screen. I tried with the original touch screen, it booted up but the touch screen didn't work so I had to replace that too. The only thing wrong with the water-damaged DS Lite now is the L-button is kinda iffy, so I've ordered replacements for it and plan on replacing the switch which will be another journey entirely.

    For anyone else that has a water damaged DS, replacing the screens might be the way to go.. once the screens get water in them (especially the bottom screen) it seems to be the point of failure. Plus they are very cheap from DealExtreme and relatively easy to install so long as you're careful and follow the YouTube video instructions to disassemble the NDS Lite.

    Way better than paying Nintendo to do it! [​IMG]
     

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