colecovision1As many of you know, I recently acquired a ColecoVision. It is the last of the early consoles that I’ve wanted to collect. I know, you can’t believe that. But it’s likely true. I managed to snag one off of CraigsList for next to nothing… a mere $20. It came with three games and two controllers. The person listing it claimed ignorance about it’s faulty behavior and mentioned nonchalantly that it, “Just needed a good cleaning.”

After getting the unit setup, I was able to make it work. However, it was very dirty and the power switch seemed a bit flakey. I decided to take the whole thing apart, clean it from top to bottom and spray some contact cleaner on the switch. I put it all back together and to my absolute shock–the power button was worse! Now I could hardly slide it back and forth (see FABombjoy’s post here). I removed the cover. The switch slid back and forth freely. Apparently the design of this model is sub-par as the screws that hold the unit together–though hand tightened–were preventing movement on the switch!

After fidgeting with the unit repeatedly, I started looking around on the interwebs and found this:

“The most common CV deck failure I’ve seen (about 6 out of 10 old decks) is power switch failure. It’s noted in the CV FAQ, but their repair tip for it is not very good (doesn’t work for me). Basically, what happens is the lubricant in the power switch dries out over the years, resulting in poor contact- which means insufficient power to the unit. You can buy a DPDT switch for it from ratshack, and that has worked for me. Thing is, soldering out the old switch, and soldering in a new one is the easy part. The HARD part is making the new (and slightly different height) switch play nice with the exterior glamour cap (the black slider you actually touch on the outside of the unit). I’ve successfully done it a number of times, but it involves a file, and a dremel, and some trial and error.”

Later I also stumbled on this:

“The standard ColecoVision power switch is a DPDT (double pole, double throw) switch. Meaning that its basically 2 switches that can be connected in one of two ways. Technically one of the throws for each pole is not used. So while the standard switch has 6 contacts, only 4 are used. The center contacts are the live contacts. The one nearest the left edge of the board is the +12V line and the inner one is the +5V line. When the switch is is slid to the rear (ON position), the center (live contacts) make contact via the internal contact slides to the rear contacts which then send the +12V and +5V to where they need to go and power on the PCB. When the switch is slid forward (OFF position) the center (live contacts) make contact via the internal contact slides to the front contacts which aren’t connected to anything. Coleco could have used a DPST switch, which is all that is needed, but DPDT switches are more standard and probably easier and cheaper to find. And by the by the -5V from the power supply is always on, which is why the ON/OFF switch is only a double pole not a triple pole.”

Those two entries (and vast other Google Searching) led me to a fix and an eventual case mod. 😉

First I attempted a switch replacement with a like switch–the DPDT mentioned above. Let me show you what happened with that. Below is a series of images in profile of both the original DPDT switch and the new one that I purchased to attempt my first fix.

In the image below I’m simply showing you the profile of the ColecoVision power switch. It stands a little over an inch tall with a shaft running down the middle. This shaft slides over the top of the head of the switch as you’ll see in the next couple of images.


Here is an example of the two switches side by side. The new one is on the left. The one on the right is a representation of the original switch. As you can see it’s a bit taller and it also has supports that are soldered to the mainboard of the ColecoVision.


In normal operation, when sliding the switch to the on and off position the shaft of the switch cover slides evenly across maintaining an even plane and allowing for proper switched operations.


When I installed the new one it worked great and solved my video problems immediately, but now I had a new problem. Once I put everything back in place including the switch cover–it wouldn’t slide. Here’s what was happening. Since the new switch shaft is a bit shorter, when you depressed and pushed the switch forward–it would get stuck!


So I had two options, I could jam it into the on position and just plug it in when I wanted to use it, or I could leave the switch cover off and reach down into the vacant switch cover opening and flip the switch manually. ZZZZzzzOT!

This would not do.

I decided that rather than attempt a modification of the switch itself (truth be told I had already tried many things including adding support posts), I would instead go a completely different route. Inspired by DoubleDown’s case mod over at Atari-Age, I decided to kick it old school. Though mine is not as elegant as others, behold: My modded ColecoVision!

Click images to enlarge:

colecovision5 colecovision2

colecovision3 colecovision4

switchreveal switchdemo2

switchdemo1 final

wargamesboot wargamesgamescreen

And the video too? Yah shur yoo betchya!

A special thanks to Radio Shack in Golden Valley, MN (Switches, and de-soldering braid), Axman in St. Louis Park, MN (More switches and lights), Dunn Bros. – Golden Valley, MN for the coffee and Unique Thrift Store in Crystal, MN for the Chicago Style Hot-Dog.

Posted by Madaracs on March 28, 2009 at 10:18 pm
  1. ZoyxNo Gravatar Said,

    Wow, that’s cool! Good work. My original switch is hanging in there.

  2. MadaracsNo Gravatar Said,

    Thank you! And it’s great your switch is still working. If you ever start to get discoloration in the C O L E C O V I S I O N logo when it boots up or characters and sprites begin to have artifacts, a new switch will fix that problem. People commonly mistake the power switch problem for cartridge trouble. I wonder what differences the models have. In one of the links above a photo shows a “pause” button. I wonder if that was in later models.

  3. Commander TimNo Gravatar Said,

    Epic. I’m digging the TOS vibe the green jewel light has. I’m tempted to mod some stuff just so it has those. 😀

  4. ZoyxNo Gravatar Said,

    Contact cleaner/lubricant worked for me. Games were flaky before, cleaned them up after. I still should do a mod like yours though.

  5. MadaracsNo Gravatar Said,

    Contact cleaner is what ulitmately killed my switch. I think it dissolved the remaining lube in the switch. 😉 Had I bought some electro-conductive grease I may have been able to save the switch but I like this better.

    @Tim: I was totally thinking the same thing when I bought them. They’re at Axeman in St. Louis Park. I bought blue, red and green. They’re about $1 a piece. That should be the next GN visit!

  6. s1500No Gravatar Said,

    I like the retro-tech switch + light. Very 80s & cold warish. Wish I snagged that Coleco for $20.

  7. MadaracsNo Gravatar Said,

    Yeeeaaaah. Buying it was probably the worst Craigslist experience I’ve had. He was very secretive and tentative about selling. He couldn’t drive and when I picked it up in NE, he was all like, “Park in the parking lot of this bar and I’ll bring it to you.” It was like the scene in Robot Chicken when the dude purchases the Star Wars Holiday special in the alley.

  8. POINo Gravatar Said,

    Amazing that a simple switch could cause so much trouble. Glad you got it fixed!

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