Technical “emergencies” are often much simpler than they seem. And sometimes the easiest solution of all (or the one that feels most instinctive) is to use “daddy mode” on it, by which I mean simply and elegantly knock the shit out of your remote until it works again.
We here at Lifehacker are mere mortals, and we get fed up with technology just like everyone else. Take Senior Health Editor Beth Skwareckic, who shared with me the time she learned how to fix the fuse box of her old car at a good pace. Or there is Staff Writer Stephen Johnson, who once had a knock-out car that wouldn’t start until he opened the hood and hit it with a hammer. (Reportedly, it really impressed people that he could open the hood and start his car.) Then we have our regular expert, Senior Technology Editor Jake Petersonwho often hits his remote in frustration – just like you.
This is why old-fashioned violence can sometimes be an effective method of getting your electronics working again.
It’s called percussion maintenance and it works (maybe)
While the idea of beating technology conjures up an image of my father banging the top of a TV with a closed fist, there is cause for anger. The fancy term for this method is known as “percussive maintenance.” According to Techopedia, percussive maintenance in IT is “the art of shaking, banging or pounding something to make it work.”
In some cases, the impact on physical hardware is enough to resolve the failure. Therefore, this technique works for battery powered remotes or older devices with parts that may be misaligned or corroded.
On the other hand, for a battery-operated device, you can probably achieve the same effect by rolling the batteries into their housing, or just taking them out and putting them back in.
Percussive maintenance has an official-sounding tone, but that doesn’t mean the pros really 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 blow can restore an intermittent connection temporarily, but it’s risky.” Don’t turn into an emotional caveman and expect your tech to magically return to work.
This logic is why you should never try percussive maintenance on something like your smartphone. Your phone will not respond properly to a hard blow and you risk seriously damaging the internal components of the device. Think about it: When was the last time you saw someone launch their phone across the room with the goal of making it work better?
Percussive maintenance has the potential to work when a device has moving parts such as gears (which may have seized up), or perhaps a loose wire that can temporarily reconnect the circuit after a strong tap.
It makes sense to hit certain devices to make them work again. However, the emotional benefit may outweigh the rationality of this technique. Plus, the risk of smashing your devices may outweigh the potential reward of a nice slap. Ultimately, true “percussive maintenance” is best left to the professionals.