Best daily deals

Links on Android Authority may earn us a commission. Learn more.

How to fix headphone wires

It can be a tedious and delicate process.
By
June 10, 2022

Anyone whose headphone or earphone cables have ripped, torn, or frayed will usually give it up as a lost cause and buy a new set. There is, however, a way to repair affected cables in less than 30 minutes with just a few tools, so you don’t have to throw them away. Here’s how to repair and fix headphone wires and cables.

Read more: Headphone buyer’s guide

QUICK ANSWER

To repair and fix headphone wires and cables, you will need an army knife, a lighter, and heat-shrinking tubing. To complete the repair, you'll have to strip the cable, remove the wire coating, rejoin the wires, and use the heat-shrinking tube or electric tape.


JUMP TO KEY SECTIONS

What you will need

The goal is function over form, so it won’t look pretty. While you can run out and buy actual tools, we’re going the DIY basics route. If you want to dress the repair up, invest in heat-shrink tubing. This is only necessary if you’re traveling with headphones instead of using them at a desk. Otherwise, you can wrap the exposed wires in electrical tape. There are a few things you’ll need to fix and repair your headphone wires:

How to fix headphone wires

There are only a few steps from start to finish. The worst part is how tedious it feels. Before you start, clear the space of flammable objects, even though it’s unlikely anything dangerous will happen. The bathroom is a good, controlled environment.

Step 1: Strip the cable

A cable locked into place by an army knife to fix headphone wires
Push down the bottle opener against the handle. Then, push the blade against the cable jacket.

Assuming the cable is completely separated, strip the outer sheath away. If you’ve never done this before, practice on the longer piece. You can always chop off the mistake and try again if you mess up.

Insert the ~two inches of the cable into your knife’s wire stripper or notch. If it’s an actual wire stripper, this piece may lock into place at a 90-degree angle. If it’s a bottle opener, lower the piece while keeping the cable in place. Continue lowering it until it’s wedged between the knife handle and bottle opener. Now, sink the knife until it’s just cutting through the sheath.

Hold the longer side of the cable steady as you rotate the knife in a complete circle. It helps to add a bit of pressure on the handle as you rotate. Make sure you’re not pushing too hard and damaging the internal wiring. If damage does occur, that’s why we started on the longer piece of cable.

Pull the knife and excess cable in opposite directions once you’ve rotated the blade around the jacket. This will slide the sheath off, revealing three or four wires. In the case of the Razer Kraken X, there are four color-coded wires: red, blue, green, and copper. Set aside this section of the original cable and repeat this for the other part of the damaged cable.

If you’re working with a flat or ribbon cable, an X-Acto knife is more effective than an army knife. This is a more delicate process. Make a two-inch lateral incision running down the cable. You can then lift the flaps to reveal the wires. Pluck each one out individually, either by hand or with tweezers.

Step 2: Remove the wire coating

3.5mm cable with wires stripped and separated prepared for repairment
After stripping each end of the separated cable, the pieces should look like this. Then, individually burn the colored coating from each wire.

Once you’ve pulled each wire from the jacket, you’ll have to remove the outer coating. You’ll need to keep some of the colorings at the base of each wire to identify them. This way, you’re not guessing and checking when you attach red to red, green to green, and so on.

Burn each wire one at a time. The exposed wire only takes one or two seconds to reveal itself beneath the melted coating. If the flame begins traveling down the wire, blow it out. Push each completed wire off to the side as you move on to the next. Once all the coatings have been burned, clean the ash off. Set aside this piece of the original cable and repeat with the other piece.

Step 3: Rejoin the wires

If you went the extra mile and picked up some heat shrink tubing, slide it away from the exposed wires onto each cable piece. Now, you have to reattach each wire. We’ll use this later.

You need to wrap the corresponding wires together. This is the most tedious step. It must be done gently so as not to fray the strands. At the same time, the wrapping should be tight, preventing the wires from coming apart. While it doesn’t matter what order you go in, working in and moving out will save you a minor headache.

Step 4: Use heat shrinking tube

You only need to wrap two of the wires in a thin, pre-cut piece of electrical tape. Then, slide the heat-shrinking tubes back down over the covered wires. Hold a lighter below the tube; be careful to avoid touching the flame on the tubing. This will cause the tubing to contract and tighten around the wiring.

If you don’t want to use heat shrinking tubing, individually wrap each repaired wire with a thin piece of pre-cut electrical tape. Doing so will insulate and protect the wires. Wrap all three tape-covered wires in a single piece of electrical tape.


Read more: The best true wireless workout earbuds you can buy

FAQs

Headphones will have three or four wires — red, blue or green, and a copper or copper-colored wire. If you see four wires, the fourth will be another copper wire. Usually, red is the right channel, blue or green is the left channel, and copper wires are ground. When connecting split wires, make sure that you join wires that are the same color.

A good way to avoid frayed or torn wires is to stop the cable from twisting. Cables twist naturally when everyday use, so it’s a good idea to straighten them occasionally to keep them in good working condition. Hold the wire with your thumb and index finger, and slowly pull the cable through with a little pressure to straighten it out.

You will have to be careful when using your headphones to stop the wires from twisting. Keep the headphones on a stand and let the cable hang. Don’t forget to straighten the wires occasionally.

You can get a cable extender. However, this might create some noise and reduce the audio quality of your headphones.