How to Disassemble UEIC Remote Controls

Rev 1.0 -- 23 April 2001 -- Tommy N. Tyler

These instructions explain how UEIC remote controls are assembled, and offer some ideas for disassembling them for making modifications, cleaning intermittent key switches, etc.

Although they vary in size, shape, and details, all UEIC remote controls seem to be assembled in a similar manner Figure 1 shows an exploded view of a generic remote control. While there are always one or two screws inside the battery compartment that fasten the lower case to the upper case, the feature that really holds the two halves together is a series of snap latches around the perimeter. Each latch consists of a wedge-shaped rib at the upper edge of the lower case, and a corresponding pocket in a skirt extending down from the upper case all around. The circuit board and rubber keypad are captured between the two halves.

The general procedure for opening the case is to first remove all screws in the battery compartment, then un-snap the latches along one side. There is no one best way to do this, and you will have to experiment to find out which technique works best for you. Some remotes have a groove about 1/32" wide and 1/32" deep around the outside, but on other models this groove has almost zero width. In either case, the groove is primarily for cosmetic purposes, and is NOT a place to put the tip of a flat blade screwdriver or the blade of a knife and twist. Doing so will only chew up the edges of the case, and may damage one or more of the snap latches.

The best tools for opening the case are a small, thin knife blade (not too sharp) and at least one additional thin strip of metal or plastic. If you have a 6-inch machinist's scale it makes an ideal tool. It is thin (usually about 1/64") and very stiff. Plastic strips cut from an old credit card or from a large blister package are also about 1/64" thick and fairly stiff.

The hardest part is getting the first tool inserted between the upper and lower case. Figure 2 is a cut-away view showing how the upper case nests within the lower case, with a snap latch engaged. Always insert the knife blade or other tool at a steep angle, no more than 45 degrees from vertical, as shown in Figure 3. Some people have found that squeezing the sides of the upper case helps to insert the tool. Using the tool as a pry bar as shown in Figure 4 pulls the lower case away from the upper case so the latch comes unhooked.

My preference is to place the remote face up on a table and work the knife blade into the lower case at about the middle of one side. Then I place a thin strip of metal or plastic beside the blade to hold that spot open while I try to slide the knife blade along the seam to another spot an inch or two away. For a case that's really hard to open you might have to insert several strips of plastic or metal as shown in Figure 6. When you pry with the knife near one of the latches it will pop open and the plastic strip will hold it open while you pry near another latch.

Once you have sprung the latches along one side you can usually just slide the top case toward the other side and remove it. If your enclosure has a window at the front end look it over carefully before removing it, so you can put it back the same way. The rubber keypad usually comes off with the upper case, but will easily fall out. Take care not to get dirt or finger prints on the conductive rubber pads on the underside of the keys, or on the black conductive key targets on the circuit board. Clean these with denatured alcohol and a cotton swab if they ever need it.

The circuit board can be lifted out of the lower case by assisting the battery contact springs out of the slots in the battery compartment.

Reassembly is easiest if you replace the circuit board in the lower case, lay the keypad in the upper case, then bring the two case halves together. The case snaps back together very easily, so make sure all the keys are free within their openings in the upper case before squeezing it shut. And of course don't forget to replace the screws in the battery compartment.