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Rework Analysis: Reflow vs Reballing Repair Techniques on PS3 and Xbox 360 Consoles

We know what we're doing.
So you've either landed on our blog thinking about getting your PS3 / Xbox repaired. By now you've probably read a bunch about the dreaded YLOD and RROD problems that the PS3 and XBOX 360 have, respectively. We've been fixing Playstation 3 and XBOX 360 systems since 2007 and is the only repair shop dedicated to fixing game systems in NYC.

Today I'm going to give you a layman's education on how these systems are repaired via reflow vs reball. Lately, we've been getting a good number of customers coming to us telling us they received a reball repair, but in fact really just got a reflow. First let me explain these two seperate methods of repair:

The Problem: As we all know by now, the Playstation 3 (PS3) can suffer from the dreaded Yellow Light of Death (YLOD) and the Xbox 360 can be inflicted with the issue called the Red Ring of Death (RROD). This occurs due to a manufacturer's defect when creating the board and not accounting for the vast amounts of heat generated while playing with the system for long periods of time. Due to heat stressing the GPU (Graphics chip that controls all the fancy visuals in your game), the solder that forms a connection between the chip and the board eventually break. With this break, your system will throw that dreaded Blinking Light of Death error.

The Solutions: Reflow Method Repair - A reflow repair is when the system is taken apart, down to the bare motherboard. The GPU chip is then subjected to heating temperatures of about 300-450 degrees. The high heat is necessary for the solder points underneath the chip to become liquid so that it remolds back into place. After that, the system is put back together and tested to see if the repair was successful or not.

Reflow Time Break down:
  • 10 min - Taking apart the system to its bare motherboard
  • 5 min - Cleaning out the dust. Trust me - all old PS3's have a lot of dust.
  • 5 min - Cleaning the old thermal paste goo off your old chip.
  • 5 min - Preparing the motherboard for reflow (mounting it to a special frame)
  • 5 min - Reflow Process to 300-450 degrees
  • 5 min - Needs to cool down. You can't touch something that hot.
  • 5 min - Unmounting the board & applying new thermal paste on the chips.
  • 10 min - Putting it all back together
  • 30 min - Stress Test (All systems must be stress tested.)
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80 Minutes - Total Time for a REFLOW. This is assuming that you have no distractions! Even if you are able to do it in half the time, you'd be doing it carelessly.

Reball Method Repair - A reball repair is the same procedure as the reflow, but with a few more steps involved. Instead of just heating the chip and letting the solder underneath melt, the chip is heated to the point where it can be taken off the board. Now when the chip is removed, there is about 200+ tiny solder points that have to be cleaned off with a soldering iron. Oh, and not to mention that you must clean the board as it also contains 200+ solder points left over from the residue. After all that is cleaned, you have to now align 200+ tiny solder balls onto the chip with a special stencil and mount. Saying it is easy, but doing it is not. This alone is the most annoying and time consuming part of a reball as you pour mass amounts of balls onto a stencil in hopes that each of those 200+ balls are seated properly on the chip.  After doing that, you have to remove the stencil and there will always be a few balls being knocked out of place that you have to look for.  Once that is done, the chip alone has to be heated to the point where the 200+ balls melt onto the chip and stay there. After that you wait for it to cool. Then, you place it back onto the board and reheat that to melt the chip onto the motherboard. And now you have a reballed system! Sometimes it could be very frustrating if even one ball was misaligned.

Reball Time Break down:
  • 10 min - Taking apart the system to its bare motherboard
  • 5 min - Cleaning out the dust. Trust me - all old PS3's have a lot of dust.
  • 5 min - Cleaning the old thermal paste gook off your old chip
  • 5 min - Preparing the motherboard for chip extraction
  • 5 min - Reflow the board to a very high temp & removing the chip
  • 10 min - Cleaning off the old solder balls on the chip & board
  • 15 min - Reballing the chip with new solder + aligning all the balls perfectly! (Very rare to get it perfect.)
  • 10 min - Heating up the chip to melt the newly placed balls onto the chip only + cooling it down.
  • 5 min - Placing the newly reballed chip onto the board & reflowing it to connect the chip + board together.
  • 5 min - Needs to cool down. You can't touch something that hot.
  • 5 min - Unmounting the board & applying new thermal paste on the chips.
  • 10 min - Putting it all back together
  • 30 min - Stress Test (All systems must be stress tested.)

======================
120 Minutes - Total Time for a REBALL. This is assuming you have no distractions and you do it perfectly! Add extra 50 minutes if you missed a ball and have to do it all over again. And again. And again... Get the idea?

As you can see one repair process takes longer than the other. These times are more or less accurate as we have timed ourselves doing it over the years. In theory, yes reballing should last significantly longer after a repair due to the solder being changed, but from our experience and others in the industry this is not the case as even reballed systems can come back with the dreaded blinking lights issue. So be wary of those that claim a "permenant" fix. We know of some promenent players in the game console repair industry that has totally given up on reballing as it is not a cost effective solution to repair with the amount of time it takes vs the potential profit and success rate. In addition to not just us coming to this conclusion, please read another technician's same conclusion: http://prntscr.com/rximp

By all means if you do find a reliable person to do a reball, make sure you get one. Here are some points to take if you go for a Reball service:

  • Ask them how long it takes them to reball. (As documented in the timeline above. There's no way to do a reball in under an hour.)
  • Ask them do they replace the GPU with a new one or do they just reball your original chip. If they replace it and if you know how to open up the PS3 and get to the GPU, use a permanent marker and mark the gpu! If they just reball your existing one, use the marker and draw an outline around the chip. If they did infact reball it, the markers would be erased because during the solder removal from the board, the tech has to wipe the board to remove residue.
  • Ask them to make a video of themselves todo a reball repair.
  • And last but not least, ask if you can watch them work! Most will say no if all they do is just reflow.

I hope this helps anyone looking to repair their system and wanted to know the in's and outs of this repair business. Most of the time the consumer have no idea what they are getting or know the reason behind a reball or a reflow and why each one is used. Many console tech's throw this reball lingo around. So make sure you get a reball, if they say that's what your getting.

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Now as for our company, which is based in Manhattan, we are dedicated to only fixing game systems and nothing else. Our repair method of choice is doing a reflow, proper cleaning, and efficient cooling of the system. How we stand out is due to our customer service and open transparent communication. Yes our prices are higher compared to craigslist, but you pay for service and our own proprietary repair methods. Alot of these repair shops offer the 6 month - 1 year warranty repairs, but say if your system breaks within that time frame they usually just reflow it again and if it doesnt work, they aren't going to give you a full refund.

As for us we offer our customers a refund minus $20 for our time spent on it within a 60 day time frame. It's not a 100% money back guarantee, but at least you get most of your money back! Usually if a system is bad, it would go bad in 60 days and we would eat up the cost of spending more time with it. It's rare for us, but it does happen and that's why we offer this guarantee. We have fixed thousands of PS3 & XBOX systems thus far and a majority of them has never came back. And if they did, we wouldn't be in business  since 2007 would we? We see it as building a long term trusting customer relationship!

We usually do not advertise on Craigslist, but after hearing a bunch of complaints from customers bringing us their supposedly reballed systems and finding out that they were lied to, we decided to write this long article to educate the masses!

Since you've read this far, I'm going to create a new service for all you penny pinchers that shop on craigslist or just love finding deals. This has never been done before by any shop, but we're offering reflows for $30, but on one condition! You have to open it yourself and bring us the bare board only. We'll reflow it for you on our high end machine, and you bring it back home and put it back yourself. And if it still shows that its messed up when you bring it back home, we'll refund you 50% as long as you bring it to us and show us. Your basically paying us to use our $3000 reflow machine and electricity. Email or call us if your interested in this offer!

Knowing is Just Half the Battle! -- http://goo.gl/l9TE3

 

Posted by: 
pat