Blog Repair

New Setup and Staying Busy

Photo of a workbench in a residential garage
A perfect fit!

It’s been a while since I’ve had an update. I wasn’t able to get up to much in the apartment due to space and due to not having much of my gear moved down here yet. Towards the end of last year, we bought a house, and one of the great things was that the garage in finished, air conditioned, and a perfect place to set up the workbench! The layout is similar to my old setup, and it fits perfectly where one of the garage doors has been walled off.

So what have I been working on here? Quite a few things — I just haven’t taken much video or documented it as much as I should have. There’s a few reasons for that. Most of these repairs have been pretty straightforward (things like recapping a power supply portion, or swapping parts around), as well as just being interested in getting things done. I was in the process of trying to set up a retro game room, which has come along nicely, but had a lot of things I needed to spruce up before that was possible.

Retro Game Room
It’s getting there

A non-exhaustive list of things I’ve been working on:

  • The receiver, power supply issues
  • VCR, new belts and power supply
  • LaserDisc player needed new belts
  • A Sony Betamax VCR, with a burned up voltage regulator
  • My original Xbox wouldn’t turn on, and needed a full recap
  • PS2 wouldn’t read DVD discs, replaced the laser assembly
  • Refurbished some DualShock 2 controllers
  • Guitar Hero 3 wireless guitar wouldn’t turn on and needed new caps
  • Sony 300-disc CD changer needed a new laser assembly, lubricant, and cleaning
  • Refurbished my Nintendo 64 controllers, two of which were barely usable due to loose sticks

And that’s just what I can think of off the top of my head! Obviously, some of those repairs were more involved than others. Sometimes the diagnosis was more involved than others. But I’ve been trying to have projects throughout the week and on weekends to keep myself occupied and my gears turning.

Xbox Recap
Look below the heatsink and you can see the vented caps

One thing that’s been pretty frustrating is the amount of repairs needed for items that don’t really seem all that old, things that I was playing with regularly as “recently” as college! My PS3 Guitar Hero guitar, my softmodded original Xbox, and so on. If you want to quantify it, it’s been about 15 years since I was regularly using some of these things and they’re close to 20 years old in general, but still.

When I recap something like the Xbox, I’ve become fond of ordering a capacitor kit from the Console5 store. They have kits for most of the popular systems and the prices are reasonable. Granted, they’re a bit more expensive than building out the kits yourself, but you don’t have to do any of the legwork and research. For example, I knew from some research that the caps causing this power issue on Xbox needed to be replaced with low-ESR caps (and that using regular caps didn’t fix the issues for some people), and in the interest of time it’s easier to outsource that type of part selection. I’ve always been happy with what I’ve gotten from them.

Cracked joints
Cracked joints that prevented the amplifier display from working

Another interesting one was refurbishing the N64 controllers. One thing that’s always sucked about those controllers is how beat up the sticks feel close to 30 years after the console was new, and how unsatisfying it is playing N64 games with anything other than an original controller. If you’ve tried N64 emulators or things like that, you know what I mean. No other controller is laid out like the N64 and no other stick really controls like it does.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are modern solutions for this issue. Apparently, there’s really just one pair of gears in there that can be replaced and get you about 85% of the way there. The controller isn’t 100%, but it’s certainly the best I’ve felt this side of 1999. I tried a couple of different products but ultimately I was most impressed with the ones from N64Gears, which are injection molded. They’re pretty cheap, and they work so well that I would not hesitate to recommend this to anybody that wants to keep their N64 in rotation. It’s super straightforward to swap them out.

I should be getting into some more involved repairs sooner or later, and I hope to more regularly document those and hopefully get back into recording videos again. Stay tuned!

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