Tech “emergencies” are often much simpler than they look. And sometimes, the simplest solution of them all (or the one that feels most instinctual) is to go “dad mode” on it, by which I mean you simply and elegantly smack the shit out your remote until it works again.
We here at Lifehacker are mere mortals, and we get fed up with tech just like anyone else. Take Senior Health Editor Beth Skwarecki, who shared with me the time she learned how to fix her old car’s fuse box with a well-paced kick. Or there’s Staff Writer Stephen Johnson, who once had a beater car that wouldn’t start until he opened up the hood and gave it a crack with a hammer. (Allegedly, it really impressed people that he could open up the hood and get his car started.) Then we have our resident expert, Senior Technology Editor Jake Peterson, who often finds himself smacking his remote in frustration—just like you.
Here’s why old-fashioned violence is sometimes an effective method to make your electronics work again.
It’s called percussive maintenance, and it works (maybe)
While the idea of smacking tech conjures up an image of my dad thumping the top of a TV with a closed fist, there is some reason to the rage. The fancy term for this method is known as “percussive maintenance.” According to Techopedia, in IT, percussive maintenance is “the art of shaking, banging or pounding on something, in order to make it work.”
On some occasions, the impact on physical hardware is enough to solve the malfunction. That’s why this technique works for a battery-powered remote, or older devices with parts that might be misaligned or corroded.
Then again, for a battery-powered device, you can probably achieve the same effect by rolling the batteries around in their lodgings, or simply taking them out and putting them back in.
Percussive maintenance has an official-sounding ring to it, but that doesn’t mean the professionals actually respect it. Many IT professionals see this approach as more emotional than rational. And yet, for many electronics…there’s a non-zero chance that percussive maintenance will work.
Tap, don’t hit
The key to percussive maintenance is to still be delicate with the force you apply. PopSci explains that “a good smack can temporarily fix an intermittent connection, but it’s risky.” Don’t turn into an emotional caveman and expect your tech to magically start working again.
This logic is why you should never try percussive maintenance on something like your smartphone. Your phone won’t react well to rough impact, and you risk doing serious damage to the device’s internal components. Think about it: When’s the last time you saw someone launch their phone across the room with the goal of getting it to work better?
Percussive maintenance has the potential to work when an appliance has moving parts like gears (that might have been jammed), or perhaps a loose wire that might temporarily reconnect the circuit after getting a solid tap.
There’s some logic to hitting certain appliances in order to shock them into working again. However, the emotional benefit might outweigh the rationality of this technique. What’s more, the risk of whacking your devices might outweigh the potential reward of a nice smack. Ultimately, true “percussive maintenance” is best left to the professionals.