Repairing a Damaged HDMI Cable – Part II

HDMI Cable with wires showing

HDMI Cable with the HDMI head removed showing the 19 wires for hookup

A while ago, we wrote an article Can HDMI Cables be Repaired?, which has had a lot more interest than we ever imagined.  That article was really meant as an overview, and did not go into too much depth about how to repair an HDMI Cable.  Because of the interest that article has received, as well as all of the requests we have gotten on this subject, we thought we’d write another article to go into more detail on the subject of repairing a damaged HDMI Cable.

When we designed our product, hd EZ lock Universal HDMI Locking Adapter, we were aware of the issues surrounding the HDMI connection system, namely a loose HDMI connector and a fragile HDMI port. One additional problem that we were aware of, but at the time didn’t realize how common it is, is that of a damaged HDMI Cable.

We’ve seen countless forum posts and receive regular emails and phone calls from our customers asking if it’s possible to repair an HDMI Cable once it has been damaged. While it is possible, it can be very difficult to pull off. This article will help you decide if it’s better to repair or replace your HDMI Cable, and show you where to purchase the necessary items to complete a repair, along with some other helpful information to allow you to successfully repair your HDMI Cable.

Prevention is the Best Medicine:

Before reaching the point where you are searching for a solution to fix your damaged HDMI cable, there are things you should consider to prevent damage to your HDMI Cables or components:

  • Make sure you have plenty of room behind your HDMI components so that your HDMI cables are not being forced into the back of your cabinet or wall.
  • Don’t place excessive stress on your HDMI Input.
  • Use hd EZ lock on your HDMI connections. hd EZ lock is an inexpensive option that acts as a strain relief to eliminate the stress on your HDMI cables and your HDMI components and secures your HDMI Cables in place. Another option is a “port saver,” a short and thin HDMI jumper (usually 6″ to 12″) that goes between your HDMI Cable and your component.
  • Be sure to disconnect your HDMI cables before moving your components.

Prevention is the best medicine, and taking these inexpensive and simple steps can save you a lot of frustration and money in the long run.

Repair or Replace?

Why would you want to repair an HDMI Cable instead of just replacing it? In most cases, it’s much easier, and probably less expensive, to just replace the HDMI Cable with a new one. If you purchased your HDMI Cable from a reputable source, you might find that they will replace the HDMI Cable for you under warranty.

What if you’ve invested a lot of money in your HDMI Cable and it’s not covered?  Or maybe you’ve installed your HDMI Cables in your walls, and now that your walls have been closed up there’s no way to replace your HDMI Cable without tearing your walls up? Replacing an in-wall HDMI Cable can be a very labor intensive job, which is costly in both time and money. In some cases, repairing your HDMI Cable might be a better option than replacing it.

What Makes it So Difficult to Repair?

HDMI Cable with outer case removed

HDMI Cable with outer case removed showing the small solder connections required

The image above shows an HDMI Cable that has had the connector removed and the outer cable stripped back. There are 19 wires inside the HDMI Cable (including drain wires) that all have to be precisely soldered to a very small connector. The 19 wires must also maintain a very precise tolerance in length, which is important if you’re cutting off the entire HDMI Connector and replacing it with a new connector.

Another reason it’s so difficult to repair is that HDMI passes so much bandwidth that there is very little room for error. If the individual wire lengths don’t match, or the wires are not twisted with the proper geometry, you may experience issues with the signal passing correctly.

Repairing an HDMI cable might consist of re-soldering a single cable that has come disconnected, as is the case with the HDMI cable pictured here. Or if the HDMI connector has been completely damaged, as in the picture below, the HDMI connector will have to be replaced. In some cases, the damage can be done mid-cable, which would require splicing two sections of cable together.

With the HDMI cable above, a disconnected cable could be caused by workmanship, or maybe excess stress was place on the HDMI Cable, causing it to break the solder joint. In this case we’re lucky because the HDMI Cable head is a metal casing that is screwed together over the HDMI connector, and can be easily removed to access the wires underneath.

With a bit of precise soldering the broken wire can be reattached and the metal housing replaced and we’re in business.

Broken HDMI Cable connector

Broken HDMI cable connector

In most cases, though, the HDMI connector is hidden behind the plastic overmold and is not accessible without cutting away the plastic. If not done carefully, you can cause additional damage when trying to remove the Plastic. Also, if you have to cut away the plastic, you may not be able to replace it when completed.

The image here shows an HDMI connector which has been damaged beyond repair. When the HDMI connector is damaged beyond repair, the only option would be to attempt to replace the connector. In this case, the entire HDMI connector will have to be cut off and replaced with a new connector.

To Solder or Not To Solder?

HDMI Cable repair kits

Example of HDMI Cable repair kits that are available

If you decide to repair a broken HDMI Cable, there are products available that can make your job much easier.  HDMI connector kits are available from various sources such as Pacific Cable or Toby Electronics.  These kits require soldering the 19 wires of the HDMI cable to the replacement connector. This will require a good Soldering Iron, like the Hakko 996 or Weller WES51, as replacing the HDMI connector requires very precise soldering with no room for error. Of course, it’s also necessary to make sure that you match the correct wire with the correct pin on the HDMI connector (more on that below).

If you’re making a mid-cable repair, you may also choose to solder the two cables together and cover the connection with heat shrink when completed.

For those that are not experienced with soldering, there are other solutions which may give you better results.

These HDMI to Screw Terminal Connectors attach the HDMI connector to a circuit board with screw terminals, so that you don’t have to solder the wires but instead screw them into the terminal. The terminal is marked so you can make the proper connections. Once connected, you connect a short male-to-male HDMI Cable to complete the connection. The overall size is much larger than a standard HDMI connector, but it removes the need to solder.

One version is available in the U.S. from L-com, and another version in the U.K. from CPC.

HDMI to Screw Terminal Connectors

HDMI to Screw Terminal Connectors

A more recently introduced product you may have seen, the HDMI Field Terminating kit, requires no soldering and allows the HDMI Cable to be attached to a proprietary HDMI connector using a crimp style connection. It’s also designed to work without stripping the out jacket away from the individual wires.

Field terminating HDMI Cable

Field terminating HDMI Cable shown by Audioquest

Although it was originally introduced by Audioquest, the Audioquest version appears to have never made it to the market. Instead, several other companies have released the same product, marketed under various brands such as BTX Technologies, Covid, Show Me Cables, and some others.

This was designed to allow installers to field-terminate HDMI Cables, and may not be a good solution for repairing a damaged cable for several reasons:

  • It may be hard to find in smaller quantities and through retailers.
  • It requires a special tool to install, and the tool cost is around $125 to $150, making it too expensive in most cases to be worthwhile.
  • It’s designed to work with specific bulk HDMI Cables, and may not work with your existing cable.

Keeping Your Signals Straight:

Once you decide which method of connection you’re going to use, you still have the formidable task of making sure you connect the right wire to the right pin. With 19 wires, it’s easy enough to mix up.

HDMI Pinout

HDMI Pinout Diagram

There is no standard for color-coding the wires and it can become very easy to make a mistake.  I think it’s fair to say that you will have a tough time contacting the manufacturer to find the color code for the wiring.

It’s not necessary to understand what each wire is for, but it is important to understand which wire goes to which pin. If you make a mistake and wire the wrong wire to the wrong pin, you risk damaging your components. This diagram shows the pin layout, as if you’re standing in front of the connector. The wider section of the connector is the top of the connector, and contains the odd pins 1 – 19. The lower section, the narrower part of the connector, contains even pins 2-18.  Make sure to keep these locations straight when looking at the HDMI connector from the reverse side.

To complicate matters further, there are different wiring configurations for HDMI Cables with Ethernet (Standard HDMI Cable with Ethernet and High Speed HDMI Cable with Ethernet) and HDMI Cables without Ethernet (Standard HDMI Cables and High Speed HDMI Cables).  The connectors/pins are the same but the raw cable is constructed differently.

The diagram below shows the cable construction of an HDMI Cable without Ethernet (previously called 1.3) on the left, and an HDMI Cable with Ethernet on the right (previously known as 1.4).

Pins 1-13, 15, and 18 are the same in both cables.  Pins 14, 17 and 19 are different not only in how they are used, but also in how they are constructed.  In order to add Ethernet capabilities, pin 14 (which is unused/reserved for future use in the left HDMI Cable) is now combined with pin 17 to form a twisted pair, along with pin 19 which becomes the shield for these two channels (the HEAC channel on pins 14 and 17) and also serves as the Hot Plug Detect.

Pinout Diagram for HDMI with and without Ethernet

Pinout Diagram for HDMI with and without Ethernet

So how can you determine which wire goes where?  Since you most likely won’t have a wiring diagram to tell you which wires go to which pin, you’ll have to figure it out on your own.  Here are a couple of ways you can find out which wire goes to which pin:

  1. Do not get rid of your existing connector. If you have to replace an existing connector, use it to find out which of the 19 wires goes to which connector. Cut open the molding (make sure you do not) to expose the wires at the point of connection.
  2. If you don’t have access to this, you might use a multimeter’s resistance function to check continuity between pins and wire ends.  This of course will be more challenging if they’re far apart from each other or in a different room.  Unless your probes are very small, use a small gauge wire to insert into each pin to test the continuity.  If this is your only option, be very careful that you don’t damage your existing HDMI connector by trying to force the probes from your multimeter into the tiny pinholes on the HDMI connector.

Once you’ve identified each wire, create a diagram to show which color wire goes to which connection.  Make sure this is absolutely correct before beginning your connections.

Also it’s important to note, there will be 4 or 5 groups of three wires (usually three wires wrapped in an outer foil). For HDMI cables WITHOUT Ethernet, there are four sets of three wires, and seven discrete wires. For HDMI cables WITH Ethernet, there are five sets of three wires, and four individual wires.

It’s important to make sure that you maintain these groups when connecting the wires to the pins.  For example, if you’re connecting TMDS Data 2 (pins 1-3), you must use the three wires that are wrapped together and connected to pins 1-3 on your existing connector.  Some wires may have the same color, and most/all of the drain wires will look the same so it’s easy to mix up.  Make sure you maintain these groupings exactly as they were connected previously.

If you look closely, you’ll notice one additional connection.  There will also be an outer shield, a braided metal sleeve that surrounds all of the cables.  This sleeve is not connected to any pin, but rather it is connected/soldered to the outer connector/hood.

Wrapping It Up:

Once your connections are made, cover any exposed wires to make sure they will not come into contact with anything.  How you do this will depend on which method you’re using for repair, but it’s important that they are protected.

It’s a good idea to test your repaired HDMI Cable to make sure that you’ve done everything correctly.  You can do this with an HDMI Tester, but you may find it hard to justify the cost if you’re only repairing one connector.

With this information, you can now decide if it’s worth the effort to repair your HDMI Cable, of if you’re better off replacing it with a new HDMI Cable.  It is possible for you to repair a damaged HDMI Cable in many cases, but you’ll have to ask yourself if it’s worth the time and effort.  It’s easy to make a mistake, and there will be some expense along with no guarantees that it will be successful. If you can easily replace your damaged HDMI Cable with a new one, that’s a much easier and safer way to go. If you must repair it, keep in mind that you’re working with expensive Audio/Video components and if you’re not careful, you risk damaging more than just your HDMI Cable.

Disclaimer: This article is meant for informative purposes only. We do not recommend performing any type of electrical repair yourself. In these situations, we recommend contacting a professional to perform these repairs.

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