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How to Repair a PS3 with blinking lights

Posted on Dec 19, 2011 by Paul White

Recently my PS3 stopped working. After searching around, I found that the problem was due to bad solder connections between the GPU and the Board. This would cause it to flash red and or yellow lights when you hit the power button. It would not boot up. Some people use a hair dryer to remelt their chips into the board, but this is only a temporary fix if you are lucky. I wanted to fix it for good, so I sent my PS3 off to SpitFire mods for repair. The purpose of this article is to share some experiences with other PS3 owners who are considering having their PS3 repaired.

How did my PS3 stop working?

In our household we typically don't use the PS3 to play games. Its mostly used to play DVDs or Netflix. Recently my mother-in-law visited us, and after watching some movies with the PS3 she left it running all night long. The result was the next morning the PS3 wasn't working. After a reboot all we got were some blinking red lights and some beeps.

What causes the PS3 to stop working?

If your PS3 just makes a few beeps, and then has a red blinking light, then it most likely has a bad connection between the board and the GPU or CPU. The root cause of this has to do with how the PS3s are manufactured. In the old days LEAD solder was used to melt chips into the boards. LEAD based solder had no issues other than its toxic. However most companies are no longer allowed to manufacture their boards using LEAD solder, because of toxic concerns. They have to use different solders which work, but are not as durable.

Once the chips are Melted into the board, a thermal compound is applied to the top of the chips, and then a heat sink is placed on top of that. The thermal compound allows for the heat to flow from the chips to the heat sink, keeping the chips cool. However not all thermal compounds are created equally. The best thermal compounds such as Arctic Silver last about 8 years. The thermal compound used with the PS3 only lasts 2 years ( Sony went cheap ). After 2 years the compound has dried out, and no longer properly transfers heat to the Heat sink. This results in the chips getting too hot, which causes their soldered connections to melt.

If you have ever played with a soldering iron you know that when solder melts it also evaporates a little. So each time your PS3 get hot it looses a little of its solder, til eventually one of the contacts is no longer connecting to the board. This is what causes your PS3 to stop working.

So in summary

  1. Thermal Compound Dries out
  2. Chip gets too hot since it can no longer transfer its heat to the heat sink
  3. Solder melts and evaporates
  4. PS3 stops working

How do I repair my PS3

Some people might be willing to attempt to repair the PS3 themselves. Some of the rumored fixes involve taking apart you PS3 and using a hot air gun to remelt your solder connections, fusing your chips back into the board. However if this works its only a temporary fix. The permanent fix is to send your PS3 to Spitfire mods and have them reball your GPU and CPU.

What is reballing a CPU or CPU?

Unlike the CPU in your computer which you can easily remove and swap out, in the PS3 these chips are fused into the main board. Reballing is when you remove the chips, and then remelt them back into the board using new solder. This is not something you can do yourself at home. You need special equipement, and a highly skilled technician to perform a reball.

Who can reball my PS3?

I sent my PS3 to Spitfiremods. For a flat fee they will reball your GPU / CPU using new lead based solder, and then apply Arctic Silver Thermal Compound to ensure the chips are able to keep cool. After the repair your PS3 will work like new, and last for many years. There are quite a few guys who offer reballing services. After seeing their YouTube Video showing how its done, I was confident in shipping my PS3 off to them for the reball.




Why not send my PS3 to Sony for repair?

If you are still under warranty, then great, send it to Sony, but the chances are you system stopped working well after your warranty expired. If you send to Sony they are not going to reball the boards. They will replace parts, then charge you for the hours and parts. You never know how much its going to cost when you send it out to Sony for repair, plus from my own personal experience with Sony, their turn around time is not impressive.

Update 12/1/2011
I shipped my PS3 out to Spitfiremods today. I bought the $99 flat rate repair

Update 12/17/2011
I got a call from the guys at Spitfiremods. They have attempted the repair of my PS3, and its still not working. Now they are going to put through their Xray machine to look at the individual contacts to see if that could be a source of the problem. A tiny percentage of PS3s naturally are unrepairable, and it looks like mine could fall into that category. I appreciate their communication. They are going to keep me posted on what they find after a deeper inspection.

Update 1/10/2012
The guys from Spitfiremods called me today. They tried the repair again and it just wouldn't take. The main board was likely damaged beyound what a simple reball would repair. However they offered to sell me a refurbished unit for an extra $50. That includes return shipping. So total spent was $149.95 plus the shipping cost to get my broken PS3 to them ( $15 ). The Refurbished unit is one that was originally broken, and they repaired using the better solder and Arctic 5 thermal paste. Meaning the unit should last a good 8 years minimum. Considering I could go on ebay and buy a used unit for about $150, this was a pretty good deal. So in the end I will get a unit that is better than new for less than a used one off ebay. Pretty Sweet!

Update 1/21/2012
The replacement PS3 arrived today. Initially it seemed that everything was working ok, then I noticed that sound was not coming through the composite cables. The composite cables have a red and white ( audio ), and a red, green, blue ( component video ). Picture works fine, but no sound comes through the red and white cables. Audio does work through the Fiber Optic port if I hook it up to my stereo receiver. Another problem is the cooling fan on it would max out sounding like a blower, and not slow down. I can hear my PS3 running from across my house. This is not how my original PS3 ran before sending it for repairs. I emailed the guys from SpitFireMods. They informed me that the thermal paste might take some time to settle. After it does the fan should go back to normal. Its been almost a week now and still no change in the cooling fan. They told me to send it back if it doesn't resolve itself within a week. I am now at the point where I feel I should have just bought a new PS3, rather than try to repair my current one. Hopefully things work out. To the credit of the guys at SpitFireMods, they emailed me back telling me to call them within minutes of me contacting them.

Update 2/25/2012 10:00 AM
Its been over a month now, and even though the fan initially stays slow for maybe a minute, Afterwards it revs up and sounds like a leaf blower. Various activities cause it to get even louder. Watching NetFlix, or playing games causes it to get the loudest. I just emailed SpirFireMods about exchanging this model for one that works properly. Hopefully they get back to me soon.

Update 2/25/2012 11:54 AM
Just got an email back from SpitFireMods.com They told me to ship it back with a work order describing the problem. I will be dropping off my PS3 at UPS in the next hour.

Update 9/17/2012 1:25 PM
About a month ago I finally received a replacement PS3 from Spitfiremods. It works 100% with no issues. Even though it took some time to get everything resolved I am still glad I went with spitfiremods. So Yes 9+ months turn around to fix a PS3 was not cool, but keep in mind my PS3 was not the typical repair job. They always returned my emails and phone calls promptly. Never did I feel I was being ignored.

Warranty Repair with Spitfiremods

The following are my logs involving getting a Warranty Repair for my PS3.  Even though its past the Warranty period, they said they will still stand by their original repair, since its so rare for this to happen.  
Update 2/23/2015 3:02 PM
About a week ago my replacement PS3 from spitfiremods died.  YLOD.  I try to boot it up, and it almost immediately goes into the 3 beeps and Yellow Light of Death.  This happend while watching netflix on my machine.  I have contacted spitfiremods about the warranty as the unit has a sticker on the side that infers it has one, though I don't remember for how long the warranty was good for.  I will update this article as activity happens.  
Update 2/23/2015 4:15 PM
Just a little over an hour after contacting them, I got a reply back from Todd apologizing for issue.  He said that about 1 out of ever 30 machines exhibits this kind of behavior, and asked that I contact him to get this repaired.  Thus far is great to see they take their customer service seriously.  I will update this post as things progress.
Update 2/24/2015 6:48 PM
I talked to Todd today,and he said that even though the machines only come with a 1 year warranty, they have never turned down a warranty repair, as its so rare that one is needed.  Told me to ship my unit back to him.  I just dropped it off at UPS a few minutes ago.
Update 3/23/2015 2:07 PM
I emailed Todd to see if they have had a chance to look at my unit yet.  UPS states that it was delivered on almost 3 weeks ago, so I was hoping they would have something by now.  At least a status update that its in the queue or something along those lines.
Update 4/5/2015 6:50 PM
I sent an email to Todd asking for an update on my unit.  a little concerned as I never received a reply back from the previous email.  
Update 5/2/2015 9:52 PM
I sent another email to Todd asking for an update.  Very concerned as I haven't had any response from them. I haven't tried calling them yet though.  Plus there is a chance it could be their replies are not reaching me, since I do run my own mail server and its very strict on spam.  This time I used my Gmail account to send the message.
Update 5/2/2015 10:30PM
Todd Replied back saying he had responded to the previous emails and never got a response from me.  So seems my mail server was the problem.  I will be using Gmail to communicate with them from now on.  He said he would check the status of my machine on Monday.  I feel more at ease now.
Update 6/8/2015 4:50 PM
Never heard back from Todd, so I sent him an email asking for an update on the status of the repair.  Its a good thing I am not a die hard gamer else I would be really pissed off at this point.  I understand people get busy running a business, and I am just thankful they are covering this under warranty.
Update 6/8/2015 5:59 PM
Got a response back from Todd, saying my system was repaired last week, and was queued up for testing before shipping out.  Should be shipped out this week.  It was nice to get a quick response from them.
Update 7/15/2015 11:53 AM
I haven't heard from Todd for over a month now.  I emailed him again asking for a status update on my system.  I wouldn't think it would take this long.  I also called SpitfireMods Tech Support and left a voicemail asking for some communication on my system's status.
Update 7/15/2015 3:24 PM
I got an email back from Todd with SpitFireMods who said he would get me an update tomorrow.  He said the area around the GPU was being repaired, and thought it should be ready.  We will see.
Update 7/21/2015 7:09 PM
I got an email back from Todd who said it would be going through final testing tomorrow, and he would follow up with me once that is completed.  Said they have been going through a move and that has slowed them down a bit.  Still even with the delays and all its nice to have communication.
Update 8/8/2015 11:42 AM
Todd sent me an email stating he expects to have my console out early this week and if it gives them any trouble they will replace it.  Even though this is taking a long time, its nice to see the initiative from Todd.
Update 9/4/2015 12:32 PM
After no email updates or responses from spitfire, I called them to get another status update. I got their voicemail, and left them a message asking for a status update.
Update 9/4/2015 12:32 PM
That was fast.  Soon after I left a voicemail, I got an email response back from Todd saying my unit passed testing, and he will find out if anything else is needed and get me a tracking number.  I appreciate the quick response.  One thing I will say is they have never ignored my communications.  Hopefully this can be resolved soon.  Some of their other customers are starting to vent on my blog's comments section.  Looks like I am not the only one with slow turn around.
Update 9/4/2015 1:12 PM
I got an updated email from Todd.  He is aware of the negative reviews that have been going around of his business.  The unfortunate thing is 99% of the positive reviews never get posted online.  Its only when someone has a problem that people rush to publish their thoughts online.  Which gives a bad impression of the business.  I am not saying people who posted negative comments on this blog are lieing, but you have to look at this for what it is.  Todd said over the past year he has seen a huge increase in the number of mistreated and physically damaged units arriving at his facility for repair.  People can't take their mangled unit that was cooked with a heat gun ( in an attempt of self repair) ship it to SpitFire and expect them to bring it back to life.  He said that due to this they are shutting their doors to new customers.  They will continue to work with current customers, and will honor warranty repairs, but no more new customers will be accepted.  I will keep this blog updated when I get more information on my warranty repair.  
Update 9/9/2015
I got an email tonight from Todd,  Said he was having a few changes done to my system to keep it working good, and should have it out by Friday.
Update 9/23/2015
I got an email from Todd, saying that the system will be shipped out tomorrow, and I should receive a UPS tracking number shortly.  The email from UPS with my tracking number arrived a few minutes later.  He said the Power Supply was an issue, and the GPU needed to be repaired, plus there was a lot of dust in the system.  He asked that I paypal him $21.50 to cover the return shipping, which I gladly just sent.  I will update this blog again later once the unit arrives.
Update 9/25/2015
Just wanted to give everyone an update.  In the previous update Todd sent me a tracking number. The following day I was able to confirm by the tracking number that the item was indeed pickedup and is in route.  Good sign.  I should have the unit by the middle of next week.  I will post a followup then.
Update 10/4/2015
My repaired PS3 arrived on 9/30/2015.  I wanted to wait a few days to make sure the repair actually stuck and no other issues came up.  Thus far no issues.  It boots fine, and there is no excessive fan noise.  Even though this process took a while, in the end everything is fine.  As for Todd with Spitfiremods, I never once felt like I was getting the run around, and whenever I contacted him, he always would reply back.  Granted sometimes he would reply with overly optimistic responses which would fall short, but I take those with a grain a salt.  Running a business is hard enough.  Scalling your business to handle the demand of a surge of new business is even harder, especially when the business deals with technical services which monkeys can't be trained to do.  As a small business owner myself I can totally relate to the issues Spitfiremods is experiencing.  They repaired my unit, even though it was outside of warranty.  All I had to pay was the to and from shipping costs.  About $45 total.  
My advice to others who may have units at spitfiremods for repair.  Be Patient, and be Polite.

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tom | Feb 25, 2012 5:29 AM
so the point of your story is..dont go to spitfiremods ;)
Paul | Feb 25, 2012 9:08 AM
After my current experiences, I should have just sold my PS3 on ebay, and bought a new one.  I don't want to discredit SpirFireMods 100%,  Its possible that most units they attempt to repair do work great.  After they were not able to repair mine, they did give me the option to buy a refurbished model through them, for just $50.  If in the end I have a perfect working PS3, then I would still recommend them.  We will see what happens.
Jeff | Aug 8, 2013 7:16 PM
Hi there - I am always happy to see a customer that ultimately was happy with our service.  Unfortunately it seems rare to see your basic good review and seems a general consensus on the Internet is poor reviews.  At SpitFireMods we repair over a hundred Playstation 3 units on the average month.  Repair is not our main business - actually selling the equipment and training is.  We do repair, mainly because we always have a few dozen repair stations at all times and as a business owner I hate to put all my eggs in one basket, especially in today's economy.  And we need something for these techs to do when they are not busy - never happens.
Now I am sure there will be dozens of Internet guys thinking either I am making stuff up or just trying to cover up a less then fortunate story here.  I can only offer we take calls 24/7 and have never turned down a warranty repair.  If a unit fails repeatedly, as any PS3 may due to the damage they get with the high temps they run at - not just due to bad repairs, we always stand behind our work.  We will somehow get you a replacement or credit of some kind.  And even though thats not the ideal situation - its more then most companies out there.  We rarely get warranty units - but if we get a unit in 2-3 years after it was repaired then we will fix it for only shipping fees.
The only real thing I can offer is for you to feel free to call us.  To talk about trying our service or just to see whats best for your unit.  (215)260-7702 We want one thing - you back in the game happily.  If we do that over and over then we consider ourselves to be a great repair company.  And remember - we fix anything electronic and have many other items like accessories through arcade machines.
Thanks and good luck gaming!
Paul | Aug 9, 2013 11:59 AM
Just a quick update for everyone.
My PS3 is still working perfectly.  So for anyone wondering if their repairs are reliable they are.

Joe | Feb 7, 2014 6:02 PM

I would have lost it if anything took 9 months including a pregnancy(get that sucker out of there) but seriously I think in you situation when you received the the second unit which you paid an extra $50 for and it didn't work, at that point I would have demanded they pay for it to be shipped back. No offence to Jeff from Spitfire Mods, I think you could have looked after this very loyal customer a little bit better. I know you are running a business but sometimes you got to take a hit when things just don't go right, afterall that second unit left your shop in much less than perfect working order and that had nothing to do with your loyal customer. Personally to me this seems like a horror story and I would not have been as gracious as Paul was!

h7opolo | Aug 12, 2015 12:49 PM

Avoid SpitFire Mods at all costs and any other gaming electronics "repair" shop. It is a pure scam. I sent my YLOD PS3 to them over nine months ago and they didn't even have the wherewithall to update my order status correctly. I've been emailing and calling them to sort out my order and they only give me false hope based on pure lies. "You're unit is in testing and scheduled to be shipped in a day or two," they lie. While I'm waiting and waiting, nothing ever happens on their end. They tell me, "You're PS3 is out of service and scheduled to be shipped on Monday. You will receive a tracking number at that time." I wait four days and still absolutley nothing; no order status update, no tracking number, no email explaining the lag.
I have issued a formal consumer complaint with the Better Business Bureau to get them moving to fulfill my order. I wasted $85 on these idiots. It is a scam and a hassle. Their slogan, "friendly and fast" illustrates the bold-faced lies they propogate.
I'd like to see if any SpitFireMods workers have the gall to confront this comment.

Ylod531 | Aug 31, 2015 3:26 PM

I too have been waiting several months for my PS3 to be repaired and sent back to me. I realize they are probably very busy but I think waiting 4+ months is bordering on ridiculous. I did finally receive a tracking number a few weeks ago though according to ups, the package was never picked up. 

StoleMyPS3 | Sep 4, 2015 11:38 AM

This place is nothing but a scam. I sent my PS3 in to them months ago. They never once called me to tell me the status of the repair. Whenever I call, I get things like "it's on the bench and should be shipped out next week" or "its in final testing and should be shipped today or timorrow". Three months later and I'm still left in the dark about what's going on. Do not send your console to them. It's a scam and needs to be reported to the division of consumer affairs!!

Ylod531 | Sep 8, 2015 2:30 PM

So they ignore customers for months, they don't answer emails or phone calls, and they have negative reviews? Shocking!!

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