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Article: Relax, It’s Just a Dirty Lightning Connector

by on July 8, 2014

Years ago, a common issue with some mobile phones was that the charging port would inevitably wear out. Whether it be the pins themselves, the contacts, or some other reason, maintaining a steady charge would be difficult, and a bump may leave your battery draining again. With the advent of the 30-pin Dock Connector and the Lightning Connector, iPhones seem to have been mostly immune from this (although I’m sure there are some cases). I thought I was an exception this past weekend.

Lightning Connector

On my iPhone 5, I noticed it “chirped” that it was plugged in while already plugged in. After narrowing down the possible maneuver to cause this to happen, I noticed that my Lightning cable had a bit of play in it, but only going to the right. If pushed right, it would stop charging, pushed back it would resume charging. This was also the case with the Lightning Digital AV Adapter (HDMI) I had. Trying other cables seemed to produce the same result, although it was more pronounced with Apple’s versions.

A bit annoyed, but assuming this could be usable until the next iPhone is released, I decided to see if there was anything in the actual Lightning Connector on my phone. In the past with my iPods and iPhones, there was a bit of lint build up, but it often fell out. It seems with the Lightning Connector, plugging a cable in smashes the lint even deeper in the phone and I had some nasty buildup. I’ve used compressed air before, but it didn’t seem to really remove much. I used an unbent small paperclip to carefully scrape the inside of the port, avoiding the actual pins (do this at your own risk), and was amazed the amount of things that I was able to pull out. For those wondering, it looked like it was packed pretty tightly, so this may have been over the course of many months.

After I did this, cables seemed to fit a bit more snug (there is no play in the cable anymore), and I haven’t been able to reproduce the poor connectivity. Looking back, this may have also been the cause for a few bad connections with the Lightning to 30‑pin Adapter that I used in my car—sometimes my phone would freeze or re-spring shortly after an initial connection. Still, before you just assume that your Lighting Connector is failing, it might be worth trying to thoroughly clean.

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