The AudioFile: Bad Things Happen To Good Players

I spend a good amount of time at my officelocal neighborhood pub, Harefield Road, where I’ve gotten a reputation for fixing iPods, among other things. One of the pub’s owners, Peter “C.J.” Egan, has brought his 4th generation iPod to the pub a couple of times with some odd problems, and I’ve managed to have great success in fixing it with unorthodox methods.

His first iPod mishap involved a clicking noise coming from the hard drive, accompanied by constant rebooting. I tried holding Menu and Select until the iPod reset, then I plugged it into a computer and restoring the firmware, all without any luck. I realized the hard drive head was probably out of alignment, so — much to Peter’s confusion — I began slamming the side of the iPod into my open palm several times until the clicking stopped, and I reset it again. The hard drive head was realigned, and the iPod has worked fine for the past several months.

The other day Peter came in with the same iPod, complaining that the click wheel wasn’t working. He could use the clickable buttons, but the touch-sensitive scrolling function was kaput. After trying to reset the iPod a few times, I figured the problem had something to do with the control lock. So I locked and then unlocked the Hold switch, and poof! Peter now thinks I’m a level 65 wizard certified genius.

I have, however, come across a few things I couldn’t fix, like broken LCDs or corrupt logic boards. There was also the time my roommate put his SanDisk Sansa e280 through the washing machine. Then there was the time my friend Jeff submerged his Samsung K5 in Coca Cola. Oy.

With these experiences in mind, I spoke with Javier Vilanova, service manager at TekServe — my favorite Apple repair shop in New York City — about unusual iPod accidents and repairs.

MK: What are the worst iPod accidents that have come through the shop?
JV: We have seen iPods that have been run over by cars and beaten to a pulp when they fail. We have heard about ones that have been dropped in the toilet, but we haven’t seen that in the shop. [Lucky for the repair staff!]

MK: At what stage of disrepair do you recommend just giving up and getting a new iPod?
JV: We usually take the age of the iPod as the benchmark for how much to invest. If multiple parts are needed–for instance, an LCD and a hard drive–we suggest that the person consider a new iPod and a good case for it.

MK: What’s the strangest iPod fix you’ve come across? For example, one of our writers here at CrunchGear recently wrote an excellent piece about using a folded business card or bar coaster to fix a problematic iPod hard drive.
JV: I’ve heard that one, but it hasn’t worked for me. We haven’t tried it yet, but the best repair I have heard of is to replace the micro drive in an iPod Mini (1st generation) with a CompactFlash card. It should improve battery life and reduces the number of moving parts in the mini, making it more like the Nano.

MK: Many people lie about what happened to their iPod when they bring it in for repair. Is that easy to spot?
JV: Usually the physical damage is pretty apparent. Spills are also a problem we see from time to time. You will notice a little corrosion on the dock connector. This is a dead giveaway that the iPod has been subjected to a spill. In one case a customer had a perfume leak in her bag. The liquid made its way inside her iPod and it affected the LCD. The LCD darkened and eventually stopped working. We tried to dry and clean the rest of the iPod, but the damage was too great. She ended up replacing her iPod–and purchasing a great case for it, which covered the dock connector.

While I don’t recommend you use my percussive maintenance method (though it does seem to work for an astonishing number of electronics), sometimes it helps to make an educated guess at what might be wrong with your iPod before going through the hassle and expense of taking it into the shop, especially if your warranty is already expired. And of course, there are plenty of fixit sites online like, or at <a href=""

If you’ve heard of a bizarre iPod incident — whether it be murder, accidental death, or dismemberment–or if you’ve resurrected one via séance, animal sacrifice, or just waving your hands, tell your story in the comments section below. And if you’ve got pics, send ’em in to me at mike at crunchgear dot com, and I’ll post a few next week!

Just one request–no Richard Gere-inspired pics.

(Illustrations by Leah Perrotta, a local Brooklyn artist and all-around lovely gal.)