How to Fix a Broken Charger

Wherever your charger cord goes, so do these fixes

A broken charger is most often caused by a physical defect in the charger. Whether it's a broken phone charger or a broken laptop charger, there are a few ways to fix a charger that's not getting the job done.

Illustration of hand holding an electrical cord.
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How to Fix a Broken Charger

  1. Make sure the outlet is turned on. Some European-style outlets have individual switches. American homes might use switched surge protectors or a light switch that controls the wall outlets. 

  2. Unplug all the cables in the system, wait a few minutes, then reconnect them all carefully and properly. When reseating, confirm all the connections are tight and accurate.

  3. Look for lights. If you're working with a broken Mac charger, is the status light illuminated? The same goes for status lights in laptop computer chargers and portable charger battery packs.

  4. Reboot the charging device. The device controls a large part of its charging behavior, so rebooting the device will help with charging detection problems.

  5. Try another outlet. Outlets are robust, but they can fail. To confirm an outlet works, check out our multimeter tips below.

  6. Check for damage to the charger. If you can see a bare wire, stripped insulation, or wire shielding, that could obviously be the source of the problem. Additionally, plug the cable in, then wiggle the cable at both ends. If the charger works intermittently as you're moving the cable, that implies the cable's copper wiring is damaged. If possible, replace the wire with a new one.

  7. Temporarily remove the adapter, outlet splitter, power strip, or surge protector, and any extra components so only the charger is plugged into an outlet known to work. If the outlet works, but the charger won't activate, the problem isn't with the wall socket.

    If the charger works when plugged into the wall, the problem lies in one of the removed components. Add the other pieces back one by one until the system fails, but don't stop there. Try adding the pieces in a different order or a different place. 

  8. Check your fuses. Whenever you open a fuse box, your first task is looking for any flipped breakers and flipping them back. The switches in one column or row typically point in the same direction, so if you see a fuse with its handle pointed in the other direction, it's likely it has been tripped. Find the fuse associated with the outlet you're using and reset it; it will pop back into place with a springing sound.

    In countries that follow the U.S. model, a fuse box holds fuses that each control a section of a home's electrical outlets. In other countries, the fuse is built into the wall plug. When dealing with electricity in an unfamiliar country, check the details before attempting any sort of electrical repair.

  9. Clean the charging port. If you don't feel the "click" of the charging cable connecting, take a good look inside the charging device. With both Lightning and USB-C charging ports, users have found that anything from pocket lint to a grain of rice caught in the port can prevent the phone from charging, all while the user is completely unaware. You can remove any garbage with plastic tweezers, a cotton swab, or a toothpick.

    Never stick metal in the charging port. If you stick a piece of metal in the charging port the wrong way, you can short out the connection and destroy the device.

  10. Try a different phone cable and power adapter. The biggest culprit of charger failure is the failure of the charging cable. The cable takes the most stress over time, so it tends to fail first, but the charging "brick" connecting the wire the wall can also fail, though it's not as common. Try using a different USB charging cable and adapter and see if the problem resolves itself. Replace one at a time to pinpoint the culprit.

  11. Clear the USB port. If a USB port is physically prevented from making good contact by shielding, cable design, port furniture, or something else, removing that barrier can fix the problem. It's also easy to bend the sheet metal housing of a USB port back in to shape if it has been deformed over time. With modern USB Micro and USB-C devices, bend the small "tongue" inside the charging port if it's out of place.

    To avoid electrocution, make sure the device is powered off before attempting any physical electrical repairs.

  12. Check the battery's age and health. While your battery might last longer than the useful life of your device, sometimes the relationship is reversed. Check your battery's health and age to see if it needs replacement. If your device has a removable battery, try swapping out the battery and see if the problem persists. You can also try to calibrate an older battery.

  13. Is the charger compatible? You can mistakenly use a physically compatible cable that doesn't fully work. Laptop chargers are far pickier, as you can rarely swap one with another without issues. Furthermore, only the right combination of adapter and cable can take advantage of all the device's features. If you think you're using an incompatible cable, get a hold of one that's compatible with your device.

  14. With a multimeter, you can check your cable and wall outlet to help narrow down the potential problems.

  • To check the outlet, connect the probes to your multimeter and set it to AC voltage, then insert the black probe into the neutral port, and the red probe in the "hot" or positive side of the outlet. If the outlet works, check the cable.
  • To check the cable, turn your multimeter's central knob to the resistance setting (Ohms, or Ω). Then, touch the same pin on opposite ends of the cable with the multimeter's two probes. If the multimeter shows 0, the wire is functional; an infinity means the wire is broken and needs to be fixed or replaced.
  • Finally, check the adapter. With your multimeter set to detect AC voltage, plug the adapter into the wall and check the contacts that should be conducting power. Are you getting a measurable voltage from the adapter? If not, it may not be providing power and you'll need to replace it.

Any data-carrying cables like USB can only be tested on their two power pins, called the ground and voltage pins. Look at a pinout for the connector type and locate these power-carrying pins (often labeled ground, GND, V+, 5V, etc.) on the diagram.