Carlos’ 10-year-old son Charlie tripped on his headphone cable back in early March, when “things were just starting to unravel,” Carlos said. The sudden force damaged the headphone jack on Charlie’s Nintendo Switch. Headphones still worked if you wiggled the plug, but you could hear something was wrong. Eventually, Charlie’s friends couldn’t hear him when they played Fortnite together.
Things unraveled, and so did Charlie.
“He was so desperate to play, to connect with his friends, he would get the house phone, put that on speaker near the Switch, then get the iPad and use those speakers, too. Just to communicate with his friends, talk about the game and everything else,” Carlos said during a phone interview, after his repair story caught our attention.
Carlos looked into Nintendo’s repair program, but that involved mailing in Charlie’s Switch. He checked with local repair shops: one said maybe they could fix it, if he left it with them. Taking the Switch away entirely for a fix seemed untenable.
Carlos and his wife normally limit Charlie’s Fortnite time to an hour or two per day. But while stuck at home, they relaxed their rules. Playing in Creative mode and running his own room gave Charlie a way to play, talk, and put energy into something. “He does his homework, his piano lessons, his chores, he’s a good kid, so we have to adjust,” Carlos said. “A lot of parents are adjusting, I think.”
Searching online, Carlos came across iFixit’s guide to replacing the Switch’s headphone jack and game board. It looked like something he could do. Charlie saw it, too, and told him, “Daddy, you fix everything, you can do this.”
Carlos is not generally afraid of tearing things apart. He’s a landlord, in addition to his job in reinsurance, so he’s used to DIY repairs. Carlos had once bought a couple of remote control helicopters, excited after reading a guide to upgrading their batteries for far better flying time. One of them worked great after the soldering job, but the other one “just died,” he said.
He ordered a headphone/game board Fix Kit. He turned over the Switch, stuck his screwdriver in, and made his first discovery. “Listen, the screws? They’re tiny.” He grabbed a magnifying glass and brought some lamps closer. He moved along, stopping at Step 12 to check out how the flip-up ZIF connector worked. “I think I can do this,” he thought at the time.
At Step 17, you have to gently reach in beneath the Switch’s copper heat pipe to disconnect the headphone board, then re-connect it in Step 19. This is where doubt crept in. “I’m pretty handy, but I’m not a … finesse-handy guy. Once something starts getting really finesse-y, I start getting a little impatient.”
But Carlos got the headphone and game card board out, pressed the board connector evenly back into place (the hardest part of the job, he said), and put everything back together. It took about 30 minutes, and he rated it as “Moderate” on our site.
The moment of truth arrived. He turned it on, it booted up and worked, and headphones sounded fine. Carlos wanted to surprise Charlie, so he put the Switch in its usual place.
“This moment is so important to me, this whole thing is finally over, but that night, for whatever reason, he said, ‘Eh, I don’t want to play Fortnite right now,’” Carlos said. Eventually, Charlie did turn on the Switch. “He said, ‘Oh my God, this thing’s working!’, and I said, ‘Why do you think I was trying to get you to play!’”
Charlie has his Fortnite realm back. Carlos is looking at his next Repair Dad job: de-soldering and replacing the joystick on the Nintendo Pro Controller. It’s starting to get wonky, and it’s affecting Charlie’s ability to select items while building in Fortnite. Carlos thinks that, with some new confidence, he’s probably got this.