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It's 2020 - Do YOU know where your capacitors are?


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This year has been big for me in "recapping" a lot of my personal gear. I've done the Sega Genesis, PC Engine, Turbografix 16 with jailbar fix, two 32x's with Kevtris fix, my Panasonic 3DO, a Commodore 1702 CRt monitor, some audio monitor speakers, and I just completely did my Sega Saturn and am finishing two more Commodore CRT monitors... probably forgetting some other big projects. For high quality cap kits, I personally suggest Luke over at Console5. Top Notch. I've really taken a shine to it all and am learning more about Deoxit products.


I'm very interested in the current 2020 timeline of how others feel about recapping certain consoles, computers, gear and more. I know if beyond a certain year and you care about it, recap it. I more recently learned about replacing caps from a certain vintage of years if manufacturing of many caps during a specific time frame was poor quality. Then you get the specific systems and machines where it is well known to remove or replace a cap, such as the clock capacitor in the OG Xbox, or some in an Amiga 4000.


It's odd, but I am finding an appreciation in this topic as if I am on a vineyard discussing wine regions, vintages and historical weather mishaps that led to a bad yield. 


So I thought to ask the other(s) [maybe only Smokemonster will appreciate this beyond just me] their rules and ideas about recapping. Do you have a formula? Think, if it is too early to open a Caymus Vineyards 2017, the Nintendo Switch is not ready for recapping.  So would you recap a PS3 because you heard mid 2000s caps were crap or it's just way too soon? PS2? Do you have a 20 year gap rule? Perhaps my favorite exception would be the OG Xbox's clock capacitor... ok, it's out, now- do you now TSOP and move on or is 2020 a good year to recap an OG Xbox? Do you REPLACE the clock capacitor too even if redundant via custom firmware? PS1? N64? Are they too early but the 3DO is your threshold?

Maybe you shy away from surface mount capacitors?  Why do it at all?  My 3DO had little to no sound and is glorious after a recap. Playing my recapped PC Engine on my recapped Commodore 1702 monitor in S-Video is a sight and sound to behold!!  


These are the kinds of details I love talking about. :) 


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Generally, it is only Electrolytic capacitor that are of concern as the electrolyte "dries out" if they are not used for long periods of time. The electrolytic can be reformed over time by trickle charging them, i.e. slowly increasing the input voltage to maximum over several days.

If it has not been used at all in 20 years then you should probably replace the Electrolytics as for most replacement (if through hole, not surface mount) is easier that reforming, if not used at all for 10 years then it maybe worth replacing the Electrolytics, but not essential. In the majority of cases any perceived or actual improvement from re-capping it just as likely to the result of improving aged bad solder joints than the caps themselves.


If re-capping make you feel better then do it but the apparent web myth that re-capping will cure all and improve performance is just that, and in many cases it is unlikely to make any real difference.


I have equipment at work that is 30 plus years old, only use for about 40 hours a year and which is still working fine with the original capacitors in it. If you keep the equipment inside where the temperature is fairly constant, not in an unheated/cooled attic or garage where moisture and large temperature variations can occur (i.e. 40c in summer and sub zero in winter), power it up for an hour a year or half a day to a day every 5 years to stop the electrolyte from dying out then generally Capacitors should not be a problem and work well for decades.

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Thank you Stephen, that is a wonderful counterpoint.  If you found new old stock of an Atari 8 bit computer, etc. Then you would KNOW it hasn't been used in 30+ years. Would you personally recap it then? When buying used devices with unknown history of usage say at a thrift store, or on ebay, it can be tricky to know how long they sat, if in a humid garage, etc.  I have gear from long ago working fine as well which is why I love sharing these ideas. 


My used Panasonic 3DO I bought online 'worked' but had VERY low audio. After replacing all Electrolytic caps from a cap kit, the sound issue was completely fixed. The picture seemed a bit brighter and crisper if memory serves. I will have to look into the idea that reflow vs recap provides the same results in some cases.


I suppose the concern is more about caps bulging and leaking and thus corroding PCBs rather than if a device works as a whole or not.  I looked and felt the tops of many caps before and never even saw a burst one until this year. A Dell computer from around 2007 had two that looked like toasted marshmallows on the tops of them before removing them. It doesn't seem right that some 2007 capacitors should be outlived by many that live still in Atari 2600s.


Other than the known to leak clock capacitor, has anyone had caps go bad in an OG XBox yet be it psu or mainboard? 



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On 10/9/2020 at 1:06 PM, seastalker said:

A Dell computer from around 2007 had two that looked like toasted marshmallows on the tops of them before removing them. It doesn't seem right that some 2007 capacitors should be outlived by many that live still in Atari 2600s.

Maybe there was a manufacturing fault with the capacitors.

Maybe some manufacture under rate them thinking that they do not have to last long because people are always moving on the latest tech with more speed, more memory and better graphics. In which case they do not think it matters if they save money and space by say using 16V caps on a 16V power rail instead of 25V caps, pushing them to their limits and early failure as they expect most people to upgrade every 5 years so therefore consider components beginning to fail after 6 year as inconsequential.    

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  • 5 weeks later...

Don't forget the clock cap in the original Xbox! Most of them are PowerStor caps (black wrapper) and they will slowly leak and mess up your board. (There are also some gold ones which are Nichicon and supposed to be okay.) If you find one and don't have time to take the board out, wiggle it until its legs break and fix it later. Better to have to set the clock than to let the board get any worse.


One of my two "good" units had a Nichicon and the other had a PowerStor. As I was removing the PowerStor, an SOT-23 diode fell off the board, probably related to the charge circuit, but I was able to save it, get the board pads re-tinned (not easy!), and put it back. Then I put a header in the wider pair of holes (0.2" apart) and connected it by a wire to a larger PowerStor that was scrap from a place I used to work. (We had a few of those leak too!) Then I then snugged it into a place away from the board.


But yeah, the biggest problem with electrolytic capacitors is from the early '00s, when China stole a formula for a "better" electrolyte, but they didn't get it right.

Edited by Bruce Tomlin
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  • 2 weeks later...

I have a back log of consoles i need to recap.  I just finished a Sega cd model 1 and really need to do my vectrex before something bad happens there.  After that,  I have an arcade cabinet that needs the crt recapped. And...I also need to do that xbox click cap. 

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