Learn the different ways on how to fix your frayed or broken headphone wires using this easy to follow step-by-step guide.
Headphone cables are one of the most fragile parts of any headphones but it’s also one of the most overlooked. With every yank, twists, and turns, your headphone wires get exposed to faster wear and tear, causing it to fray or be completely torn off.
What’s worse is if you take extra care of your headphones only to go home one day and find them chewed out by your pets.
If that happens, don’t throw away your headphones just yet! There are a few easy DIY fixes you can do to fix your headphones’ fraying/broken headphone wires. And this article will guide you through all that.
Are Exposed Headphone Wires Dangerous?
The general answer is no.
While headphone wires still run on electricity, these wires run on a very low volt. The voltage level of these wires depends on the headphones’ impedance.
They are generally not at the level that is enough to cause electrocution, though. This means that you won’t feel anything at all even when you accidentally touch it.
However, while exposed headphone wires aren’t exactly hazardous when touched, your audio device may not be as safe as you.
Exposed headphone wires are more prone to short circuits. This often occurs when the wire insulation is already worn out or exposed.
Short circuits happen when excessive charge flows to an unintended wire. It can cause overheating which can damage your headphones and your audio source.
How to Fix Headphone Wires That Are Beginning to Fray
Headphone cables, especially the part closer to the plug, are prone to fraying. This usually happens when they get exposed to frequent yanking, bending, and tugging. Or when the jack is constantly pushed inside the audio port when they won’t stay in place.
For fraying or exposed wires, there are quick fixes that require little money and effort to do.
Here are 4 easy headphone wire repair tips you should try:
Wrap it with electrical tape
You most probably have electrical tape in your home. You can try using it for a quick and easy headphone wire repair.
Follow these fail-proof steps:
- Prep your wire. Before anything else, make sure that your headphone wires are clean and that there are no traces of oil on them. This will ensure that your electrical tape will stick to the wire longer and more securely. You can do this by taking a clean cloth and pouring a small amount of isopropyl alcohol on it. Wipe the area and let it dry.
- Pre-cut your electrical tape. Electrical tapes vary in size. Pre-cut your electrical tape to your desired size before wrapping it around the wire.
- Wrap it. Wrap the electrical tape around the wire as tight as possible. This will not only protect the wire from fraying further but also insulate it.
Use heat-shrink tubing
For a more durable and long-lasting fix, you may also try using heat-shrink tubings/heat-shrink sleeves. These tubings are primarily used for repairing, reinforcing, and insulating frayed electrical wires.
Here are the steps on how to use them:
- Check the material. Heat-shrink tubings are usually made from plastic materials such as polyolefin, FEP, or PVCs.
- Choose the right size. Choose a heat-shrink tubing that matches your headphones’ cable size perfectly so that a snug and secure fit can be achieved. Depending on their material and composition, these tubings contract between one-half to one-sixth of their original diameter when heated. Popular shrink ratios (the ratio between the tubing’s original size and its shrink size) include 2:1, 3:1, and 4:1.For headphone wires, the recommended shrink ratio is 2:1 as this size offers the perfect balance between durability and flexibility.
- Clean the area to be wrapped. Make sure to rid your headphone wires of any excess debris or grease. Take a clean cloth and pour a small amount of isopropyl alcohol on it. Wipe the area and let it dry.
- Insert the tubing into the headphones’ cables. Carefully insert the tubings into your headphones’ frayed wires. If you’re using the wrap-around heat-shrink type, make sure to wrap it as tight as possible for a more compact finish.
- Apply heat around the area. You can heat the area by using the heating device that comes with the heat-shrink tubing kit, by using a hot air gun, or a lighter. You can refer to this youtube tutorial to see how to properly apply heat around the tubing.
Mould Sugru around it
Sugru Mouldable Glue is an all-around moldable adhesive putty made of silicone rubber. You can use this for DIY crafts, mounting needs, electrical repairs, and so much more. It is moldable, flexible, durable, waterproof, and has good insulation properties.
Here’s how you can use it to repair your frayed headphone wires:
- Clean the wire. Clean the area around the wire with isopropyl alcohol to rid it of any excess dust, debris, or oil. Take a clean cloth and pour a small amount of isopropyl alcohol on it. Wipe the area and let it dry.
- Mold it. Sugru Mouldable Glues are soft and malleable like play-dough. Roll the material in your fingers and mold it around the wire using your hands. You have more or less 30 minutes to shape and reposition it as desired before the glue sets.
- Leave it for 24 hours. Leave the material at room temperature for at least 24 hours to enable it to set permanently.
Use cable savers
If you’re not much of a DIY person and you want a quick and easy fix, you can try these Jetec cable savers. These are mainly used to prevent wires from fraying. But you can still use them on exposed wires to give your headphone cables added support and backing.
You can use them by following these 3 easy steps:
- Choose the right cable saver size. These cable savers come in different sizes. Look for the size that would fit your headphone cables the best.
- Wrap. Wrap the cable saver around the part where your headphones’ wire is beginning to fray.
- Adjust. Make sure to wrap the cable saver up until the very end of the wire (the part where the headphones’ cord meets the plug) so that it stays securely in place.
What to Do With More Severely Damaged Headphone Wires
In cases where the wires are more severely damaged (i.e. when the wires are completely torn off), hope isn’t lost.
There are two ways to approach this: one involves soldering headphone wires and one does not. Additionally, if the damage involves the headphone jack, it could be better to replace the headphone jack as well.
These procedures prove to be effective most of the time. However, they always have a risk of not working, especially when the steps aren’t done properly. If that happens, it’s best to consult a professional or buy a new pair of headphones entirely. Just make sure to follow the necessary protocols on what to do with broken headphones, so you won’t encounter any issues.
But if you are willing to try it, be sure to follow these steps carefully.
Do it in a safe and well-lit place and be sure to wear protective gears.
Repair with soldering
Before you begin, you will need:
- Start stripping the wire. Strip-off the insulation to reveal the wires inside. If you see two wires that are stuck together, carefully separate the two using a knife/cutter. Remove the outer shielding by running a wire stripper through it little by little (1/4″ to 1/2″ cuts). Continue cutting until you see a broken wire that needs repairing. The inner layer of the headphone cable may reveal differently-colored wires. Generally, the colored wires ( red, green, blue, or copper) transmit sound, and the single bare and uninsulated wire is the ground wire.
- Cut the wire. If the wires inside are shredded and threads are showing, cut the headphone wire. Do this so that they’ll be more uniform and easier to work with.
- Sand the wires to expose the copper. Before soldering, sand-off the thin enamel coat on all the wires including the ground wire. Sand away until the copper is exposed. If you don’t have sandpaper on hand, you can also burn it off using a soldering iron or a lighter.
- Twist together and solder. Twist the wires together and solder the connections. Use your soldering iron to melt a thin coat of solder over the wires. Let the wires and solder set and cool completely.Before you begin soldering, make sure to wear proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This protects you from exposure to harmful chemicals as well as to avoid inhaling soldering fumes which can be dangerous to your health.
- Wrap each wire carefully with electrical tape. After the internal wires have cooled completely, wrap each wire with electrical tape to keep them from touching each other and avoid any possible short-circuit situation.
- Insert and heat the heat-shrink tubing to securely cover the headphone cord. Carefully insert the heat-shrink sleeve into your headphone wire and apply enough heat to it in order to constrict it. This sleeve will protect and insulate your newly-repaired headphone wire. Alternatively, you may also use electrical tape to wrap the wires if you don’t have heat-shrink tubing on hand.
Repair without soldering
If you’re not that handy with soldering, no worries! You can still fix your broken headphone wires with simpler tools.
To do this, you will need:
- Remove the rubber covering or sheath. Using a wire stripper (or cutter), remove the rubber covering of the wire to reveal the stripped wires. Be very careful not to cut through the wire.
- Separate the wires by color. Separate the colored wires (right headphone cable = red wires, left headphone cable = blue/green wires) from the other wires by twisting them together and moving them to the side. Also, do this with the ground wires (copper or gold wires). Repeat the same to the other side of the cable. If you want an illustration of how it’s done, this youtube video will show you how.
- Melt off the thin enamel coating. Melt-off the enamel coating (colored varnish covering the wires) using a lighter (sandpaper can also work). Repeat the same to the other side of the cable.Make sure to do this very quickly (almost only for a split second) as varnish burns easily and overheating it can cause the wire to melt. When the varnish burns at about 1 to 1.5 cm, blow on it quickly.
- Isolate the wirings. Splice the colored wires from either side by twisting them together. Afterwards, use electrical tape to isolate the colored wires and the ground wires from each other.
- Wrap it up. Wrap the wires together by using electrical tape or by using heat-shrink tubing.
Replacement headphone wires that you can try
If the discussed repairs can’t fix your headphone wires, replacing them may be the wiser move. We’ve listed down a few that are relatively inexpensive options. But if you’re thinking of buying high-end cables, see if it’s worth it by going through our in-depth guide on expensive headphone cables.
If not, feel free to go through our recommendations for some replacement headphone wires that you can try:
LANMU replacement cable
These LANMU Replacement Cables are made of high-quality transparent PVC. The wires are not easy to knot so it remains intact even with everyday use. Its durable structural support also gives it a good tensile strength.
Earla Tec replacement audio cable cord wire with in-line mic and control
This Earla Tec Replacement Cable is compatible with Beats Studio, Executive, Mixer, and Apple iPhones. Its cable material is TPU coated, soft, tangle-free, and durable. This is a good choice for those who are looking for a replacement cable that also has an in-line microphone and control setting.
Fancasee 2-pack replacement cord (wire open end)
This Fancasee 2-pack Replacement Cord is the perfect replacement for lost or worn-out headphone wires with a 3.5mm male plug connector. It is easy to install. Just connect the respective bare wires together and wrap them. Finally, secure the bare wire using electrical tape or heat-shrink tubing.
Not all broken things need immediate replacement. Sometimes, a little DIY repair can fix the problem. There’s nothing more fulfilling to an audiophile than to have that worry-free listening experience.
If your headphones are experiencing any other problems, feel free to check out our ultimate guide on how to fix broken headphones.
We hope this article helped you find the answers you’re looking for. If you’ve successfully ‘saved’ your headphone wires using the tips above, we’d love to hear it. Share your experience with us by leaving a comment below. Also, if you have any other tips and tricks you can swear by, do share them with us!