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Guide to repairing video game cartridges
By chronodev (Ron)
Published on 09/28/2008
This tutorial will walk you through the steps that need to be done if a video game cartridge is not working

Have you ever pulled out an old video game cartridge from the attic and plugged it into your Nintendo only to be welcomed by an empty, black screen? Are you terrified that this experience will happen again? Worry no more, as this article will walk you through the steps necessary to make your video game cartridge function again!


There are many ways to tell that a cartridge is not working:
  • Screen is black - Usually you should expect to see whatever game you loaded. If you see nothing, then something is wrong.
  • Screen is fuzzy or otherwise distorted - The game loads, but has distorted lines or other funky images on it.
  • Smoke comes out of the console - That's never a good sign.

Is the problem really in the video game cartridge?

This is the first question you need to ask yourself before following any of the steps mentioned hereafter. The problem could not be related to the cartridge, but to the user (yes, we are talking about you). Check if any of the following apply:

  • Correct System - Did you insert the cartridge in the correct system? Just because it is a cartridge doesn't mean it will play in any cartridge based system. Make sure you are not attempting to insert your Super Nintendo SNES Chrono Trigger cartridge into an Atari 2600

  • Correct Orientation - Did you insert the cartridge the correct way? There's only one way in which a cartridge will fit the slot. Look at the picture below to see if you are doing it correctly.

  • Power - Is the electric cord plugged into the outlet? Just because the video game is from ancient times doesn't mean it doesn't need electricity. Plug the cord into the outlet.

Finally, before determining if a cartridge is broken, try inserting it again using a different angle and different force pressures. Each cartridge is different in the way you have to insert it; This is like a cartridge's fingerprint. The angle is usually between 170 to 190 degrees and the force needed to apply while inserting the cartridge is 1 to 4 Newtons. Experiment with each cartridge until you find the correct insert settings, and once you do make sure to write it down in a safe place.

Repairing a broken cartridge:

Once you have determined that the cartridge is indeed broken, start following the steps listed below. After each step, attempt to reload the cartridge; If it works then you are done, otherwise move on to the next step.

Horizontal blow: This is also known as the Harmonica blow and is the essence of being a gamer. All gamers should be familiar with blowing into a cartridge to make it work again. While it may seem silly at first, there is a strong scientific logic to this method. When you blow on a cartridge, it heats up the datastrip and the molecules start moving around in circles. When the molecules cool down again they come to rest at their natural position (ok so we just made this part up, but still it doesn't change the fact that blowing on a cartridge will fix it 99% of the time)

To blow on the cartridge, hold the cartridge up 3 to 6 inches away from your mouth with the datastrip facing you. Start blowing on it with a soft, yet steady blow from the left to the right and right to left (Move the cartridge, not your mouth). Repeat 3 to 4 times. If you are having problem comprehending this, think of it as playing a harmonica.

Intermittent blow: Same as above, but instead of blowing on the cartridge like a harmonica, blow on the center of the datastrip 3 times with a 1-2 second interval.

The Tap: Tap the bottom of the cartridge 3 or 4 times gently.

Excessive force: When all else fails, it is time to resort to force. (Caution: The steps specified here may cause permanent damage to the cartridge, the console, yourself, and your surrounding).
This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Push the cartridge applying excessive force (up to 2000 Newtons of pressure)
  • Bang the cartridge on the console
  • Bang both the cartridge and the console on the wall

By now, either the cartridge is working or it is destroyed way beyond repair. We hope this guide has been useful and your cartridge is once again operational.

Game on

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