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Troubleshooting Quartz Clocks 101: Common Issues, Easy Fixes

It’s likely we all own one – a decorative, stylish clock that adorns our home but never really tells the time correctly. It may have stopped completely or begun to lose time several years ago, and somehow we have just never gotten around to fixing it. Quartz clocks can be excellent design features, even more so when they’re working. So why not take a few minutes to get that fun kitchen clock – you know, the one with a chicken body on the face, and wings for clock hands – functioning again? It beats reading those boring green digital numbers on your microwave.
Troubleshooting Quartz Clocks 101: Common Issues, Easy Fixes
(stevepb / pixabay)
And you won’t have to carve out several hours of your free time to do the repairs or spend loads of money. In fact, it may only take a few dollars and maybe half an hour before you once again have a timepiece that is both decorative AND operational. And if the only benefit is that your mother-in-law stops asking, “When are you going to fix that clock?” every time she visits, it’s well worth it. Why’d it Stop Anyway? Quartz clocks lose time or stop working for several reasons:
  • The battery is low or dead.
  • The pips (those little metal strips that connect each end of the battery to the movement) are loose, dirty, or too short.
  • The clock hands are rubbing or are altogether stuck.
  • There is dust and dirt in the mechanism itself.

It’s All About the Battery

Let’s start with the most common problem our clock and watch repair technicians see: the battery died and you need to replace it. Turn the clock over, and you should find the quartz movement attached there in a small black box with a battery compartment. Sometimes the compartment has a cover on it. Other times the battery is left visible. Remove the old battery and take a close look at the springy electrical strips (the pips), and the battery ends. These areas can oxidize over time, leaving them coated with what looks like a gray or green substance and blocking the battery’s connection to the movement. Oxidation is easily remedied by taking a cotton bud soaked with rubbing alcohol and cleaning the connectors. You can also use a thin wire brush to scrape off any extra stubborn bits. After everything is clean and dry, insert a fresh battery and make sure it is in complete contact with the pips. If the connections don’t seem to touch the battery ends fully, you can take a small screwdriver and gently push in the positive terminal strip toward the battery. Be careful, though, as the strip is thin and may snap under too much pressure. Time to test your work. Reset the clock to the correct time and keep an eye on it for a few days. Is the clock working? Is it keeping consistent time? If the answer to these questions is yes, then you’re done. If your clock still isn’t working as it should, then you’ll need to dig a little deeper.

Give Your Hands a Hand

Another thing that may be working against your clock is its hands. If the hands are rubbing up against each other or the clock face, it will take more torque to move them. Having to use that kind of power consistently will, at best, slow your clock and quickly drain your battery. Remove the clock crystal and look at the hands. Do they feel tight and hard to move? If so, you can try loosening the hex nut in the center by moving it a quarter turn. On the other hand (excuse the pun), you may need to tighten things up by pushing down on the middle shaft if your clock is consistently getting stuck around six o’clock. Do your minute hand and your hour hand stick together when they pass over each other? Or maybe they get stuck to the surface of the clock face? Over time, your clock hands can get slightly bent, causing them to stick. You can use a pair of pliers to reshape them back into their original design. Then test the hands by winding them around the clock to make sure you have corrected all of the sticky points.

Clocks Movements Get Dirty, Too

After completing all of the above steps and your clock still doesn’t work, consider having it cleaned professionally. The same dust and dirt that regularly collect over your tables, countertops, and other furniture can just as easily make their way into that Bering wall clock you love so much. And it most certainly can gum up the works in your movement. As cleaning involves getting into the innards of your clock, we recommend you consult a professional clock shop (or a watch repair shop that specializes in clocks). Even a simple quartz clock movement can give you a big headache if you accidentally cause damage while taking it apart or putting it back together. And then, of course, there’s the whole matter of putting it back together correctly. Our Swiss-trained technicians will handle your Bulova repair, or any other clock brand repair, with ease, as well as repairs and battery replacements for just about any other clock or watch you can name. And they’ll do it at an affordable price. Check us out at Times Ticking for all your clock and watch repair needs.