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Why won't my AirPods charge?

Are your AirPods or other true wireless earbuds not charging? Try these troubleshooting tips.

Published onJanuary 19, 2023

A hand holds a Apple AirPods (3rd generation) earbud by the stem to reveal the open-type fit and embedded sensors with the open case in the background.

If you’re reading this article, we’re going to go out on a limb and say you’re probably pretty frustrated with your AirPods at the moment. When earbuds like Apple’s AirPods or AirPods Pro aren’t charging, it can be a bit complicated to get everything back into working order. Not to fear though! With a little methodical checking, you can diagnose why your AirPods aren’t able to blast music right this very moment.

We’re going to move sequentially here, so we can not only diagnose problem, but also determine if it’s something that needs Apple support or not.

Editor’s note: this article was updated on May 15, 2023 to add a note about the Apple Store.

Check your case charge level

The Apple AirPods Pro touch settings on an iPhone.
A pop-up card informs you of the AirPods Pro battery life at a glance.

First things first: check the power level of your charging case by connecting the AirPods to your phone or computer. Sometimes if the case hasn’t been plugged in for a while and is low on battery, it simply won’t charge your earbuds. Though you should have seen an alert of some kind or another indication that your earbuds aren’t charging, sometimes you’re left in the dark for one reason or another. Attempt to charge the case fully and try again.

Check the charging cable

The AirPods Pro Lightning charging cable in front of a plant.
If you don’t have a Qi wireless charging mat, you’ll need to charge the AirPods Pro case via Lightning cable.

If you find that the case isn’t charging, the first thing you should check is the cable you use to charge it. Inspect it for damage, and try using a different cable if that’s an option. Also attempt to use a different power brick if you can, as this will help you eliminate the possibility that the cable is the culprit. If you have a wireless charging pad, this could also help you diagnose whether or not the cable you’re using is to blame.

Clean out the Lightning port

If no cable works, the next link in the chain is the charging port. Believe it or not, this might actually be the most fragile part of the whole product, as the port’s solder connections are not only tiny, but very susceptible to wear that you can’t see. Plug the cable into the charging port, and try jiggling it slightly. If there’s a lot of movement, you may need to replace the case.

Close-up shot of the Lightning charging ports of both the Apple Airpods and the Powerbeats Pro
Open ports are magnets for spare pocket lint—and it has a habit of collecting in little crevices.

Additionally, when you carry electronics in your pocket, over time the exposed charging port will naturally gather pocket lint. Whenever you plug your charging case back in, the Lightning connector will compact said lint at the back of the port, increasing the size of the blockage. This is an extremely common thing that happens with smartphones, so it shouldn’t be surprising that it happens with AirPods as well.

  1. Take a thin but rigid pick that won’t break (a sewing pin, SIM tray pin, or thumbtack work here) and gently scrape the very back of your charging port in a slow circular motion.
  2. Try to shovel the lint that comes free out of the port with said pick until you can’t get any more out.
  3. Try charging your case again.

Assuming the pocket lint was the issue, this should fix the problem.

Check charging light

Once you’ve verified that the cable, power brick, and charging port are okay, it’s time to dive deeper. Plug the cable into your charging case, and verify that the light turns yellow; this means it’s charging. If it turns green, that means the case is fully charged. If it doesn’t turn on at all, well, that means the case can’t charge in its current state. Make sure there’s no coating or additional case around it, or anything else that could impede the lightning connector from going into the port all the way.

Third-party case skins are popular, but sometimes they can prevent your case from charging.

If you’re using an iPhone, the charging indicator and battery percent should be visible on your phone if you’re connected to the earbuds. When the lightning bolt icon is present, that means your case is charging and the above steps were able to fix the case’s charging issue. You should also be able to see if each individual earbud is charging, informing your next steps.

If the case itself isn’t charging, something is preventing it from getting power. If this is the case—and you’ve ruled out the power brick and cable—you need to call Apple support, as this is a physical problem with the case itself.

Clean charging connectors

After you’ve charged your case fully, place your AirPods into their slots as you normally would, and ensure that the charging light actually goes on. If it doesn’t, that means the case isn’t making contact with that earbud. There’s a number of things that can cause a bad contact, but it’s almost always dirt or foreign objects getting in the way. Remove your AirPods from the case, and ensure that there’s absolutely nothing in there—or on the outside of your AirPods. Try re-inserting them afterward, as sometimes this is enough to get them working properly again.

The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) case is open and laying at an angle to show the earbuds and their sensors.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
Even a slight variation in shape can prevent the contacts from being able to transfer power.

If the AirPods still won’t connect to the case, try cleaning the inside of the case and the little silver bits on the stems of the AirPods themselves. Those metallic parts are the contacts the AirPods use to draw power from the case, and dirty contacts can mean a bad connection. After giving the contacts in the case and the AirPods a good scrub with alcohol and a cotton swab, let them both dry for a minute, and try charging your earbuds again.

Try a factory reset

If you’ve gone through all the above steps and you still can’t get the AirPods to charge, there’s one last thing you can try: a complete factory data reset. Bluetooth isn’t a wonderful way to transmit data, and sometimes firmware updates fail when using the standard. Large data files take a long time to transfer, and failures are more common than they would be with a physical cable transfer, so this is something that you’ll unfortunately have to be prepared for.

  1. In your phone’s Bluetooth settings, and “forget” the AirPods. This will remove the connection to your phone.
  2. Place the AirPods in their charging case.
  3. After waiting 30 seconds, open the case’s lid, and press down on the case’s rear button until you see the indicator light flash yellow.
  4. After the case’s light changes to white, the factory data reset is complete.
  5. Follow the pairing steps to re-pair your AirPods to your phone or computer.

Bring your AirPods into an Apple Store

If after all this your AirPods still aren’t charging, there’s a very good chance the earbuds are simply broken or are in need of repair by Apple. While it’s annoying to write off a purchase as expensive as this, keep in mind these things don’t last forever—it’s just the nature of tiny batteries and fragile electronics.

Though the options for recovering your investment are limited, they all start with a trip to the Apple Store to see if you’re under warranty or if your product can be repaired. Sure, it might feel a little gross to send another eighty or more bucks down the river to use the earphones you’ve had for the last year—but that is a fair bit cheaper than getting new ones outright.

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