Removing a broken microSD card from a Garmin nüvi 1450

I really like to take electronics apart and put them back together again. I don’t usually tinker with working electronics, but when something is broken, I enjoy the attempts to fix it. This little project took a some internet searching, a new set of tools, and some on-the-fly problem solving. I didn’t find a complete answer anywhere else online, so I’m posting my solution for the benefit of whoever else may be searching for a fix.1

The problem

Last fall, my mother-in-law brought us her Garmin nüvi 1450 GPS box, asking if we could remove a microSD card that was stuck in the card reader slot. She had put the card in the wrong way around, but then she couldn’t get it back out. She had apparently tried to use tweezers or pliers—and eventually a table knife—to pull or pry the card out of the slot. The result was a card that wasn’t just stuck, but fully jammed into the slot, with a broken-off end. Only a short nub stuck out, hardly enough to grab onto. The opening to the card reader slot is slightly recessed in the body, so even tweezers had a hard time reaching enough of the nub to get a good pull. I decided to take the case off to get a better reach.

Searching for help

I did a Google search for the Garmin nüvi 1450 and came across this site and video that had instructions for replacing the battery and two forum posts with a variety of ideas for removing broken microSD cards from other devices.

Tools

Tools used in the repair: straight pick, driver, spudger, tweezers, rubber bands, Torx driver bits

Tools used in the repair: straight pick, driver, spudger, tweezers, rubber bands, Torx driver bits

I used a pretty long list of tools while troubleshooting, but what finally worked is listed below. Though I have a pretty extensive set of tools, I didn’t have any Torx drivers, so I ordered a set from iFixit. It’s a really great kit that I will probably use for many other repair jobs.

  • spudger (from iFixit)
  • T5 Torx driver (from the iFixit 54-bit driver set); T4 and T6 may also be helpful
  • rubber band
  • small straight pick (from a pick & hook set)
  • tweezers
  • shallow bins for storing screws (I dug through the recycling and used something like a cream cheese tub)

Disassembling the device

Use the spudger to pry up the silver frame. 

Use the spudger to pry up the silver frame. 

To pry up the black frame, insert the spudger vertically to start. Don't worry about the case bending a little. Just make sure you've removed the screws first. (The lower screw shown here is completely loosened, but I hadn't removed it before taking the photo.)

To pry up the black frame, insert the spudger vertically to start. Don't worry about the case bending a little. Just make sure you've removed the screws first. (The lower screw shown here is completely loosened, but I hadn't removed it before taking the photo.)

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  1. Use the spudger to pry up the silver plastic edge around the screen. There are six hidden clips that you need to pry up: one each on the short sides, and two each on the long sides. It will take more force than you are probably expecting. Don’t use a screwdriver for this if you want it to look nice when you’re done; the spudger is much less likely to bend or crack the plastic.
  2. Use the Torx driver to remove the four screws that are now exposed. One of my screwheads stripped, so I used a trick I learned from a forum post: lay a rubber band between the screwhead and the driver to get a better grip on the stripped head. I found it worked better when I changed the driver head size and pressed a little harder through the rubber band. (I don't remember whether the T4 or the T6 worked better on the stripped head in the end. I tried both.)
  3. Use the spudger again to pry up the black plastic edge around the screen. There are more clips on this piece than on the silver one, but I didn’t find them as difficult.
  4. Gently lift the screen. One side is attached to the circuit board underneath by a coppery ribbon. You don’t want to break that ribbon (it will kill the screen).
  5. Tip the screen on one of its long sides. Use the Torx driver to unscrew the screw beneath.
  6. Tip the screen onto its other long side. Use the Torx driver to unscrew the second screw on the circuit board.
  7. Gently lift the screen and circuit board together. The circuit board is attached to the battery and speaker adhered to the back of the case. Unplug the two sets of wires to remove the circuit board and screen completely from the case. (You might not find this step necessary, but I found it easier to get to the card reader slot without the back case on. It also kept me from accidentally turning the screen on every few minutes when I’d bump the power switch.)
The Garmin without the front cover. 

The Garmin without the front cover. 

Note the Torx screw near the top beside the battery. 

Note the Torx screw near the top beside the battery. 

Note the Torx screw between the ribbon and the wire to the speaker.

Note the Torx screw between the ribbon and the wire to the speaker.

The speaker and battery are glued to the back case. 

The speaker and battery are glued to the back case. 

Getting the card out

Even without the plastic case on, so little of the microSD card was sticking out of the slot that it was still difficult to pull out. I tried unsuccessfully to slide the tweezers into the card slot and get a better grip. The card wiggled a bit but would not leave the slot. I decided to take a different approach: the microSD card was already broken beyond saving, why not break it further and pull out the pieces? I used the straight pick to chip and peck at the middle of the broken card, trying to split it down the middle. Eventually, a chunk of the card broke off, and I was able to pull out the remaining bits of microSD card with the tweezers. The last big chunk of the card came out easily after that.

The tiny nub of broken microSD card, sticking out of the slot. 

The tiny nub of broken microSD card, sticking out of the slot. 

The remains of the microSD card. 

The remains of the microSD card. 

Reassembling the device

  1. Reattach the battery. (It might not be a bad idea to check that it powers on before you do the rest of the reassembly, but I’d turn it back off before you screw the circuit board back in.)
  2. Seat the circuit board into the back case. You’ll know it’s in right when the USB port is accessible through the hole in the back of the case.
  3. Use the Torx driver to reattach the two screws. Be gentle with the screen.
  4. Seat the screen and press the black plastic edge on top. Each clip will click into place.
  5. Use the Torx driver to reattach the four screws. I needed to use the rubber band trick again here.
  6. Press the silver plastic edge on top. Each clip will click into place.

Success

My efforts to remove the broken card did not damage the spring mechanism in the slot. A new microSD card pops in and out just fine. So far as I know, the card reader is working properly, but if I hear otherwise, I’ll update this post.


1: The photos were taken on my phone and mostly one-handed, so they’re not the best quality, but they’re better than words alone.