How to fix a phone that won't charge properly

How to fix a phone that won't charge properly

If your battery isn't charging properly, don't immediately assume your phone charger or your battery is broken. Based on personal experience, the problem - and solution - may be much simpler than you think. If your phone or tablet isn't charging properly or at all, take a look at these 12 ways to fix a phone that won't charge.

Why a phone doesn't charge

The problem occurs in various degrees. Either your phone won't charge at all when it is plugged in, or it will only charge very slowly (sometimes barely faster than it is discharging). It’s a very common complaint, so here are a few solutions. Most charging problems are related to your USB cable or charger, or even the port itself.

Jump to:

  1. DIY USB port fix
  2. Remove lint, candy and dust
  3. Switch cables
  4. Diagnose a dodgy adapter
  5. Remember – safety first
  6. Replace the battery
  7. Charge from the right source
  8. Update or roll back
  9. Switch it off
  10. Calibrate your battery
  11. Check your battery pack's voltage and amperage
  12. What about water damage?

1. Do-It-Yourself USB port fix

The quickest, easiest, and often most successful solution, is to do a little DIY repair on your actual hardware. The problem is often that the metallic surfaces inside the USB port and the microUSB charger are not making good contact, either through a manufacturing defect or because of the continual plugging and unplugging of the charging cable. 

All you need to do is shut down your device, remove the battery if possible and use something small, such as a toothpick, to 'lever up' the little tab inside the USB port on your smartphone or tablet. Do so very carefully and gently, then reinsert your battery and plug it in again. Nine times out of ten this is all that is required.

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Check the 'tab' inside your device's USB port – the cable may not be making contact properly. / © NextPit

2.  Remove lint, candy and dust

Do you keep your phone in the pocket of your jeans? If so, lint could be the culprit: we've lost track of the number of times the reason for unreliable USB charging turned out to be lint from the pocket of our Levis.

We've seen phones with charging ports choked with chocolate after they were chucked in a handbag alongside a packet of sweets. A can of compressed air can blow out the offending irritants and get your USB connection back to normal. 

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Clear any gunk that might be clogging your phone's ports. / © NextPit

3. Switch cables

The flimsiest part of a charger is the cable, not the adapter that plugs into the wall socket. Apple users are particularly vulnerable here because Apple's proprietary (and expensive) Lightning cables appear to have a life expectancy of around 15 minutes. But all cables have a tough life, and endless flexing and curling can take its toll. Substituting a random USB cable for the one that came with your phone is another shortcut to an unenjoyable charging experience.

The easiest way to diagnose a faulty cable is to try a different one and see if that works properly with your device. If it does, you know the original cable was at fault. If it doesn't, that's another potential villain we've ruled out.

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Cables are easily damaged. Apple Lightning ones especially so. / © NextPit

4. Diagnose a dodgy adapter

If the cable doesn't seem to be the problem, check the wall plug adapter – especially if it's one where the charging cable can be removed. We've encountered issues in multiple chargers where the USB port becomes a little loose after endlessly plugging in and unplugging the cable.

Also check whether the same charger/cable combination works on a different device because this will help you eliminate the possibility that it is your device at fault, rather than the cable or charger. You should also make sure there isn't a problem with your wall socket.

5. Remember – safety first

Don't charge your phone near water or in excessively hot or humid conditions. Also, if you're replacing a charger or cable, be wary: the internet is stuffed with reports of cheap third-party chargers that went bang in the middle of the night or turned smartphones into toast. As with any electrical equipment, make sure that anything you buy complies with all the relevant safety standards. 

To give you an idea of how much energy is stored in your battery, check this video out (but don't try it at home).

A previous version of this article warned users of charging devices overnight, but I want to clarify that this is not because you can overcharge your device. Modern smartphones have measures in place to prevent damage when batteries continue to be charged at 100 percent capacity.

That said, charging a battery does generate heat and, if a smartphone is in a tight space – like under a pillow or inside a case – there is a chance it could become too hot. Essentially, if you're going to charge your phone overnight, just make sure it's out in a safe place.

6. Replace the battery

Batteries don't last forever, and after a couple of years, they start to struggle to hold a charge. The more often you discharge and recharge them, the sooner they'll need replacing. If your battery's busted after just six months, it's probably faulty and you should make a warranty claim for a free replacement, but if the battery's older than two years, it's probably approaching the end of its lifespan.

Some defective batteries are easy to spot because they start to bulge or leak fluid. If nothing like that is obvious from the outside, remove your device's cover and inspect the battery (if you can; some devices have sealed battery compartments).

If the cover doesn't come off, you could try laying the device on its back and spinning it. A bulging battery will deform the case – you might not be able to see this bulge, but it might be enough to allow your phone to spin. If you suspect your battery might be swollen or leaking, get your phone to a repair shop and buy a reputable replacement.

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If you are going to replace your battery, try to purchase an official one. / © ANDROIDPIT

7. Charge from the right source

Charging from a wall socket will always be faster than charging via PC or laptop, because computers' USB ports don't deliver very much power.

A wall socket can deliver twice as much power as a USB port, and fast chargers it can deliver as much as five times the power – which means much, much faster charging. So if your phone is charging slowly and you're connected to a laptop: there's your problem.

If your wall charger doesn't appear to be delivering the goods, check that it's appropriate for your device. A charger from another phone might not deliver the right amount of juice — for example, a charger for a Bluetooth headset won't put out as much power as one designed specifically for smartphones.

In the case of recent high-end phones, you might have a phone that supports fast charging but a charger that doesn't deliver it. Read the fine print.

androidpit usb smartphone pc 3
Your desktop or laptop can't charge your Android as fast as a wall socket. / © NextPit

8. Update or roll back

Software updates and new Android versions can wreak havoc with your battery life, especially when upgrading an old device to current software. Newer devices are often optimized to take advantage of the latest software, whereas a two-year-old device can struggle when it gets updated.

If this happens to you and you can't troubleshoot the problem, consider rolling the device back to an earlier Android version, though be warned that this carries security risks. The latest software versions are always recommended to keep your device protected, and while the risk of keeping your smartphone on an older version is often negligible, it’s worth noting.

Similarly, sometimes device battery life can be significantly improved by an update, so if you think you might be way behind on your Android software version, head to Settings > About phone to check for an update.

Androidpit System update Nexus 6P 2
Keep your Android version up to date (or roll back to a previous version if really necessary). / © NextPit

9. Switch it off

Using battery-intensive apps/features while you are charging your device will affect how quickly it gains battery life. If you are charging while Skyping somebody at 100 percent brightness, the device will naturally take longer to charge than it would with its screen, Wi-Fi and 4G turned off.

Switch the device to airplane mode, or off completely, when you are charging if you want to see the fastest energy injection. Think of it making your device take a power nap.

10. Calibrate your battery

Sometimes the battery level your device 'thinks' it's at is wrong. The effect of this is that your phone may function differently, including limiting performance before it needs to or taking an hour to chew through the last two percent of battery.

We’ve already written an extensive guide on how to calibrate your smartphone battery, so I won’t retype it all here, but this is a thing to try before completely ditching your defunct power pack.

ANDROIDPIT battery 5
Battery calibration can be another effective means of fixing charge problems. / © NextPit

11. Check your battery pack's voltage and amperage

This tip was pointed out in the comments below by Patrick and it can help you quickly identify a defective cable.

Download the free Amperage app from the link below and open it. Now, connect your charger and the interface should go green and the text at the top should say "measuring". If you don't see this, or nothing happens, it means there is no current going to your device.

If it identifies a current, the app will now show the charging statistics for that charger, including the minimum and maximum load levels (in milliamps), voltage and maximum current. This is also a great way to find out which of your chargers is performing best.

Try connecting the different charge packs you own, including portable battery packs, to see which has the highest maximum charge value, or the highest average (the app makes it fairly easy to get an idea of this). It's not an exact measurement but it's an indication if nothing else and the app is completely free.

androidpit battery tips ampere
The number in the top middle represents the current charge speeds: the charger used in the left screenshot isn't going to charge a device as fast as the one used on the right. / © NextPit

12. What about water damage?

A number of people in the comments asked about battery problems caused by water damage. If your phone fails to charge after falling in water you don't have many options: your best bet is to try and replace the battery – if that's even possible.

You should, however, try to prevent this from ever happening. Read our article explaining what to do when you drop your phone in water to find out the first steps you should take when trying to rescue it.

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Dropped your phone in water? If the battery is removable, take it out immediately and pat it dry with a towel. / © NextPit

If all else fails, double-check that you have the power point switched on. That is the first thing they will ask you if you call your manufacturer for help, which might need to be your next step if none of these solutions has worked for you.

Have you suffered from a smartphone that won't charge properly? Let us know if you've found a fix that we haven't mentioned here in the comments.

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307 comments

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  • Recently my cheap Chinese Elephone got the problem of not charging further than 65% with different 2,5Amp USB chargers and cables. It does not matter if phone is on/off.
    I even tried a 12V dc 6Amp 220/240V power convertor(with cigarette lighter connector) with no result.
    But after using the same usb cable and cigarette lighter USB plub(2,5Amp) in the car, the phone started charging over the 66% to around +-80% within 40 minutes. After that I plugged in one of the 2,5amps 220/240V USB adapters with the same usb cable and the phone charged to a 100% again within an hour!


  • aysoo 5 months ago Link to comment

    my phone isn't charging,now its 0% and when i charge it, it shows a sign that its charging but its not. what do i do?


  • The small metal bar that the charge cable fits onto is broken. I have tried moving it into the middle space more, so my charge can take it, can't be done. What now??


  • I think you should change the charger or check the data cable sometimes charger is good but data cable damaged or something infacted so it might be possible.


  • Actually as hinted at in the article Ampere app, though useful for some things, does not actually monitor amp flow into the phone. To do that buy (for very cheap on ebay) an inline USB amp reader. Its a small gadget that you put between the plugin adapter and the USB charging cable. Reads volts and amps in red and blue digital numbers. Great for testing effectiveness of ALL your combination scenarios - plugs, cables, outlets and devices... and its accurate. You'll be addicted...


  • ohno 10 months ago Link to comment

    EVERYTHING I DO IT ISN'T WORKING i don't have a can of compressed air because i thinked it will fix it because i see dust near it,i try booting it up it can't because is ran out of battery I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO HELP!!!!!!!


  • My LG K20 V refused to charge for first time despite trying four different USB cables. Turned phone off (thinking to reboot it), then connected a USB cable, and it started charging again.


  • The first tip worked for me. I couldn't get the micro USB into my tablet. So I took a small, actually tiny tool and lifted up the little tab. There was some metallic looking thing, like aluminum foil stuck in there.


  • Hmm, haven't tried any yet but my phone only accepts the charger that came with it, any other charger it tolerates for a second then ignores it, and will continue to when unplugged and plugged back in. The only way to make it tolerate it for another second is power it off and back on. Only seems (not sure) to have happened after I went on a road trip, haven't come home yet so not sure if it works back at home. Any ideas? Or is my phone a whiny piece of scrap metal? It's not too old, but cheaper. If this helps, it's a Samsung J3 V.


  • Nabi S Mar 15, 2019 Link to comment

    Fix 1 worked for me, you're a lifesaver~ Thanks!


  • Thank you so much! This is the first time I have had issues with a phone not charging and this worked perfect!


  • ps - i LOVE fixing stuff myself, so thanks again :) ROCK ON


  • Thank you! This is the most comprehensive article I could find online and after diagnosing a dud battery, have replaced with £7 for a new one from eBay - there are a LOT of replacement batteries for sale on eBay alone, so I suspect this is a very common problem.


  • SOLUTION II: OPEN GOOGLE PLAY / SETTINGS / DISABLE AUTO UPDATE


  • As it turns out there's one more solution. Tested out the cables, adapters, outlets. Even tested on another phone and everything was fine. I also used Ampere app and it was recognizing that I had plugged in the charger, but would just say not charging. It was getting to the point that I had to push very hard to make a connection. And that only worked a handful of times. So I called support and they immediately suggested clearing the cache (after I told them I troubleshooted a bunch of stuff). Worked like a charm, plugged the cable in like when I first got the phone and it charged immediately.
    For those that are not aware how, for the oneplus 5
    shutdown
    press power and volume down until the phone turns on
    select english
    select wipe cache and data
    select wipe cache
    select reboot

    cheers


  • Thanks for your help, I was starting to think my phone was on its last legs! At first I just cleaned the USB port with a toothpick but it didnt help. As a last resort I tried a squirt of Servisol switch cleaner into the USB port, brushed with a soft brush then left it to evaporate for an hour or two before replacing the battery. It now works great. As I dabbed the excess away with tissue, a lot of dirt came out! Poking round must not have been enough.


  • Alvin Sep 14, 2018 Link to comment

    I use the ampere app its say plugged usb but status not charging. I know its not the charger because it works on my other phone


  • USB after being in use dor some time are not reliable, obviously you have to buy or a new phone or send it for repairs. That problem didnt exist before with other ports. Why not separate the USB funtions for charging in a separate port to malike jack audio and that is all

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