Video Game Repair: How To Clean Game Cartridges NES, N64, SNES

How To Clean Game Cartridges

Those great classic NES, SNES and Atari games we all love so much are getting pretty old. Most are over twenty years old and many weren’t too well taken care of by their original owners. Cartridge games work with metal connectors and over time those connectors oxidize and become unusable. The good news is most cartridge games can be saved with a few techniques.

Method #1

For this technique you’ll need q-tips and alcohol. Dilute the alcohol with water it should be a half and half mix of water and alcohol. Some people say that you should use distilled or purified water I haven’t found that this makes any real difference in cleaning the cartridge. Take the q-tip and dip it in the alcohol then move it up and down across the metal contacts inside the cartridge. Then take a dry q-tip and dry off the alcohol in the same pattern. If the q-tip looks dirty then repeat the process until the q-tip is relatively clean.

Method #2

Some cartridges have oxidized to the point where the above technique will not work. So then we have to try something a little more harsh. Instead of alcohol we are going to reach for a can of audio/video head cleaner or WD-40. Spray a small amount into the cartridge let it sit for a few minutes for the chemicals to take effect. Then take the q-tips and dry off the contacts again going up and down each metal contact. 

Method #3

I haven’t ever had to use this technique as most games will work using the above two techniques. However, some swear that this works and I don’t see it doing any damage so I’ll include it. For this technique you’ll need a small Security Bit screw driver (you can find them on ebay) and a rubber eraser. First you’ll have to open the cartridge using the screw driver then take out the circuit board from inside. Now use move the eraser up and down over each metal contact. Clean away any left over eraser residue. The idea here is that the eraser will act as an abrasive agent and remove some oxidation from the contacts without damaging the actual metal.

If those don’t work some people suggest using metal cleaners such as those used to clean old coins and the like. I don’t suggest this because those are very harsh and could leave you with a game that will never be able to be played again. Also, remember that on some systems such the NES games may work on one console but not on another. The problem may be with console itself and not the cartridge.  

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