View Full Version : Afterburner installation !@$#

04-08-2003, 11:10 AM
If this belongs in "Restoration", so be it.

OK. I went and put my foot in it. I got the afterburner kit and the stealth dimmer chip. I thought about doing the right thing:


But I went ahead and opened up my GBA anyway. Who knows. Maybe I could have gotten things right the first time if I'd done a super-basic install (light stays on all the time). Maybe I could have even pulled off the potentiometer dimmer. But no. I wanted the deluxe install. So I went ahead and made a gazillion solder connections, using the basic instructions and the dimmer chip diagram:


I actually got everything connected, and closed it up. Unfortunately, the wire that goes to the left-most solder point on the diagram got underneath the D-pad, so I had to open the patient back up again. When I took it apart, the solder connection at that point came loose. I had a bitch of a time getting the solder to attach the second time, and there appeared to be some brown gunk on the board at that spot.

OK--flux digression. When I went into Radio Shack and said "I need to do some soldering, and I'd like some flux," the three employees stared at me momentarily, jaws slack. They then walked me to the back, and eventually found a roll of solder combined with rosin-core flux (the flux appears to run through the middle, like in a creme-filled donut). Was this what I wanted? Or does flux normally come separately from the solder, in bales or hogsheads or something?

Now--this brown gunk on the board. Was this flux? Should I use hot water to get this stuff off the board? I would like to know, because the second time I reassembled the GBA the damn wire got in the way of the start button (I assume--the start button does not work now), so I'm going to have to disassmble the thing again and try to get it right, and that solder connection will probably be loose again. I could punt and go with the potentiometer dimmer, but now I'm feeling stubborn.

Also, those wires supplied with the chip are pretty long, and it's a pain to coil the spaghetti in the case. Should I desolder and shorten them? And could I have just screwed up the start button part of the board by my repeated attempts to solder a wire adjacent to the spot?

That SP is starting to look good...

04-08-2003, 12:44 PM
SP....Good. Solder....Bad.

04-08-2003, 01:02 PM
I can't comment on everything here, and I certainly don't have all the answers, but I thought I'd share this much.

I bought an Afterburner kit too. After reading the installation instructions I started to get second thoughts. After chatting with a few people who have done the mod - some successfull, some not - I decided that it wasn't worth the risk. I didn't go out and get an SP either, but I'll be damned if I'm going to be personally responsible for ruining my Game Boy Advance. So "no backlight" it is, at least for now.

As for flux and solder, there are two schools of thought. The "old school" says use the flux, it ALWAYS helps. Others find that the flux contained within just about any solder made after 1990 (lol) works just fine. I'm of the latter school. I haven't used flux since I was in high school shop class. But don't take my advice here, I basically "re-learned" the art of soldering a few years ago while assembling the Ms. Space Fury cartridges.

Good luck with this. If you want, I'll move it to the Restoration forum, it might get more views from people in the know over there.

04-08-2003, 01:16 PM
Now--this brown gunk on the board. Was this flux? Should I use hot water to get this stuff off the board?

An acid brush (or tooth brush, really) and some denatured alchohol are your best bet to getting that stuff off. Doesn't leave a residue and evaporates quickly.

Also: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD BARGORA DO NOT TOUCH THE FACE OF THE LIGHT GUIDE NO NOT AT ALL NUH UH BAD it scratches REALLY easily. Don't even set it down on the counter or something after you removed the plastic liners.

04-08-2003, 01:28 PM

04-08-2003, 03:02 PM
Yes, DP, please shuttle this over to the Restoration forum. Might as well see if the regulars there have anything further. I won't worry about the flux thing. And thanks to everyone for your help so far. I will get the denatured alcohol as you have suggested, Bratwurst. And I have been as careful as possible with the light guide.

Unfortunately, I was also doing a case switch, and the replacement case came with the screen unattached. So when I put the screen on the case, it didn't sit well because of some rough patches left by the cutting with the Dremel tool. And then it fell off, useless. So I also have to smooth the case out where I cut it (by sanding?!? AAARGH) before putting on the extra replacement screen I had the foresight to order beforehand.

It just gets better.

This replacement case seems to be a tight fit for the screws, so I've had more than one screwhead strip out. Slotting a stripped screwhead with the Dremel while I was in the middle of taking the thing apart again was another high point in the experience.

On the bright side, I only had one bubble between the LCD and the AR film, caused by some random dust speck. Where the hell it came from? Aliens with transporter technology, no doubt. I used the air duster beforehand, and I sure didn't see it coming...

So it's actually been a week since the project stalled out, and I've been too traumatized to pick up with it again so far. It will probably require 2-3 beers before I'll be able to pick up a screwdriver again with a steady hand.

I'll bet that the second time it's a lot easier.

04-08-2003, 03:04 PM
I know, I know...I was THIS CLOSE to sending my stuff out that way.

Then, genius-like, I thought "how hard can it be?"

04-08-2003, 03:14 PM
I have an extra AR film I could send you if you don't mind waiting for it and trying to apply it again. I steamed the bathroom LOL prior to putting on mine and it came out flawless. Can't say the same about my light guide. :/

EDIT: Actually, I have 2 extra films for some reason.

04-08-2003, 03:32 PM

Actually, since you have two, I'll take you up on that offer. I wasn't sure that I'd want to even try with only a single film--the pressure would be unbearable. I'll PM you.

Oh, also, I didn't mention also that what I've got in there WAS my second AR film, as I got a bubble under the first one at the extreme right edge when I put the first one on. So I peeled it up, used the spare film I had so thoughtfully ordered, and then got the bubble smack dab in the middle of the screen. >:( I'll steam things down even harder this time (I did the install in the bathroom, but only steamed a little).

My hat's off to you, Bratwurst, for getting the AR film right the first time. :hail:

God, this thread would be a great advertisement for an installer...

04-08-2003, 04:06 PM
Take it from a person who is quite skilled with a solder iron and circuit board modifications in general (PSone, PS2, XBOX, and other projects) there are times you need flux.

Yes, almost all solder you buy today has the flux inside of it.. but there are times that I need to put flux on the item you're about to heat to make the connection.

You can buy flux seperatly.. the most common one can be found at home depot and comes in a can that looks like shoe polish. It's very useful for bigger projects (soldering thick wires, switches together, etc).

Think of flux as acid (which is what it really is). The moment flux gets heated, it "burns" and spikes the temperature of the item you solder much higher than you could on your own with the soldering iron (hence why flux is found inside a lot of solder.. makes it melt faster!)

This is how I tend to solder things together:

- If the item is a thick wire or a leg on a switch, put a bit of flux on it
- Coat the item with solder (as well as the wire)
- Attach the wire / item together and use the iron to re-melt the solder and bind the 2 together.

This is a 2 step process to soldering 2 items together, but always results in the best connections that never fail.

In regards to flux left on the board / whatever you use. If it did not burn off from the heat, it's highly recommended that you clean it off.. you can buy flux remover (which is nothing more than alcohol). The reason why you want it off is because the flux over time, since it's an acid, will have the tendancy to eat through the solder!

Good luck!


(One happy GBA SP user) :D

04-08-2003, 04:43 PM
Being a complete Nintendo wonk, I have both a ABed GBA and a SP. Both are worth it, IMO. The AB-GBA gave me light when no other light source would do, and the SP does the job too, with a better (IMO) design.

If yourhappyplace.com is afterburner.net, go with them. They did mine! They are very accomodating, and did the job well, with the dimmer. I even had a smudge problem, which they fixed quickly and flawlessly.


05-01-2003, 11:29 AM

Thanks again to Sir Bratwurst, who provided me with a couple of AR films. I went back in and got the film down this time without bubbles. The case switch was successful as well. I also put a new screen cover on it, and got an official Nintendo screen cover/protector. So I have gone from a standard indigo GBA to a "fuschia" (yes, translucent pink) AB GBA. I'll meet you in the bathroom at the rest stop. ;) If my wife lets me. We could play Advance Wars or something.

Advice for anybody else contemplating afterburner installation:
(1) That Penny Arcade cartoon I linked in the first post? 100% correct. Don't do this yourself unless you either have soldering and modding experience, or else you just love frustration. On the other hand, having successfully done this, I now feel hard-core.
(2) If you do install the AB yourself (and possibly switch the case at the same time), don't over-tighten the screws that hold the board against the case front. I repeatedly overtightened the screws and then took the thing apart, wondering each time why various face buttons wouldn't work.

Actually, it's not 100% perfect. When I push either the start or the select button, it seems to register as pressing both. If I took the thing apart and readjusted the screws holding down the circuit board again I could probably take care of that, as well. But I haven't noticed this being a show-stopper, other than preventing me from saving a game in The Pinball of the Dead. I'll probably get around to fixing it in a couple of weeks, when I can look back at all of this and laugh.

You may ask--why the pink case? For one, it screams "toy". Nobody's going to confuse this with a Palm Pilot. For another, it makes the GBA look like candy. So there you go. Toys and candy. Mmmmmm.

05-01-2003, 11:30 AM
Also, I have one of the AR films left (unused) of the two sent by Sir Bratwurst. In case anybody needs one.

05-01-2003, 11:44 AM
I am greatly pleased that my contribution resulted in good.. ..results!! Bear the extra AR film freely Sir Bargora, so that such a deed may be returned in kind to someone else in need.