Fixing a Game Boy Advance with bubbles on the screen- zero cost.

I told about a Game Boy Advance I bought on post last week, and how I got its schematics and service Manual. I also talked that its screen had a problem. Well, now it is a little better, not perfect but it definitely works.

I got this really cheap GBA, they can be a lot of money here where I live, even if it is broken. I never touched a GBA before, working or not, so I bought it when the guy offered. He said that it was with low sound and the screen was damaged.


The photo that the seller sent me.

Well, When someone says that a screen is damaged, I can think that somebody step on it, it fall on the floor, someone got angry and smashed it with a hammer or anything like that. The truth is that when the GBA arrived I could see that the screen was not damaged, showing the images correctly, but the plastic that cover the LCD module was full of bubbles, not allowing to see the images well. I should let it to another time when I were relaxed, but I’m a “little” anxious and I didn’t wait.

First, pardon me for not being smart enough to take photos of the bubbles on the LCD and the process of retiring the old plastic.

As said before, I never touched a GBA, I only have a Gameboy Color(and there is not even a month I have it), but I didn’t try to understand bits LCD works (I can say it’s because of lack of time). When I saw the bubbles on the LCD, I thought: “Ah, this should be the problem, I will just take this plastic and the LCD will be fine to see again”.

Done, I retired the plastic and the screen was smooth again, I had all the care to not broke the cable and hold the LCD by the borders to not do pressure and break the center.

WP_20150304_15_49_50_ProThe old polarizer filter.

Good. I put the LCD on the place and “ta-da!”. Not working.

“Nice, you got the GBA five minutes ago and already broke it? You should stop opening the things”. Yeah, not working, the screen was “white”, by “white” I mean it was showing nothing, because the GBA hasn’t even a backlight to show real white. That was a shame, I broke the video game minutes later after receiving it, I couldn’t believe, so I did some more tests.

Then I remembered that video/instructable/whatever where the guy disassembles the LCD Monitor and do glasses with the polarizer filter, right polarizer is the word, so only he sees what is on the computer. That was followed by a double facepalm and then a facedesk.

I took the old plastic and put it on the screen, I could barely see the game boy logo. -Bingo!

So, anyway the old plastic was definitely not going to be used again, maybe a bread roller could fix it. I don’t think so.

The guy on the video took the polarizer filter from the LCD monitor, we disassembled some of these days ago at the university, maybe I could still try to get the polarizer from one of them. They still were in there, I had not sure it that should work, let’s see the results below. Ah, I began thinking and take some photos from now.

WP_20150227_10_50_10_ProThe victim, we got the acrylic sheet from these monitors, so it was already disassembled.

These monitors can take blood out of you, I almost cut my fingers. The polarizer is glued on a thin layer of glass, so that glass it will probably will broke while taking the plastic away. You can see the photo of the plastic on the monitor below:


Look’s like it works! now i can read the letters well, just had to cut it on the right size and put it above the LCD.To open the GBA, you will need a tri wing screwdriver, they have an “Y” format tip, there is an complete teardown of the GBA on iFixIt.

WP_20150227_10_49_27_ProWhat kind of sorcery is this? Science.

WP_20150227_10_49_20_Pro Still had to clear the filter’s back.

There was glue on the plastic, not allowing to see well, I used Alcohol to clean all the glue. The plastic without glue and the one with it is below to compare: little of alcohol was used to clean the plastic on the right.

And it proudly working:

namorada do casemiro

Ah, I was not satisfied with the results, the screen was really dark at night, then I had a “Eureka!” moment and realized the polarizer MUST be in a right position, so it’s good to rotate it above the screen to see the angle where the image is the better, and then use a pencil to mark lines where you will cut after. The image above is the last result. The one before with professor OAK is of when the polarizer was in a bad rotation.

That’s it. I still don’t have any GBA game, so only tested it with GB games. I’m glad with the results now, I don’t think it is perfect, but is a lot better than before. I think that I bought the GBA to learn about it and how it works, haha, so totally worth it! I also leaned that I should do some research before taking away plastic of the things…

Thanks for reading and if you will try this, you’re risking your LCD screen, be careful and good luck! Hey, don’t forget the sound still doesn’t work, so soon I will try to fix that too and talk about here. See you!

Robson Couto

Recetnly graduated electrical engineer. I enjoy devoting my time to learning about computers, electronics, programming and reverse engineering. My projects are documented in this blog when possible.

12 thoughts to “Fixing a Game Boy Advance with bubbles on the screen- zero cost.”

  1. My GBC screen has had this issue for a long time. In fact,I bought 5 years ago and after a year, the bubble has appeared. In that time,I did what you have done with your plastic but stopped after that because I did not know where to get another polarizer .:)) Thank for your story, now I know where to get that plastic from :))

    1. Awesome! I’m glad I could help.
      Take care, I almost cut my fingers on the monitor’s glass, it will probrably break when you’re taking out the polarizer. And don’t forget that the polarizer must be in a right rotation, try to rotate a big peace above the screen while it is turned on, until you find the best position to mark where you will cut.
      Good luck, and tell me when you get it working. :)

  2. I removed the polarizer layer, but my problem was a little bit deeper. i thought the next layer would be just a plastic protection to the LCD glass, then i peeled it. hahaha shit happened. i tried to put the polarizer that i salvaged from an old LCD (just like you did), and it was showing the “game boy” logo… but IN NEGATIVE COLORS. after doing some crazy research, i found that this one was a “retardation film” (details:

    the interesting thing is that once the shit was already done, i started doing some tests, and found out that some plastics (mainly vinyls) can mimic this wave retarder layer, but the result isn’t 100%. it wasn’t negative anymore, the normal colors came back, but not all of them. since i would need to buy the correct wavelength retardation film from some wholesaler, and the polarization film changing technique that you described in the post also delivered a result that didn’t make me satisfied (too dark to my perfectionist taste), i think it’s time to finally move on and buy a new screen. but that isn’t a priority, since i have the other gba working fine… this one would be just the one to play outside without the fear of being robbed (damn brazil, damn fortaleza) :'(

    btw, i did some other interesting tests that maybe i describe some other time. i took off the “sponge” and the metal casing, now my screen is just the conductive glasses (with its liquid crystal and inner reflective layer) and the flat cable. but the mothafucka is still working. dunno if i will really bother to put it all together later with the mimic retardation film and the salvaged polarization film.

    just wanted to share some results with somebody, since i’ve been researching about all this shit about lcd screens construction and gba mods for almost two full weeks and none of my friends seems to give a shit about it :p

    1. Hello, sorry again for the late reply.
      Pretty interesting. I could not see another layer of plastic on the screen, just glass. Maybe the lcd polarizer that i have haversted already had this retarter film. Anyway, did you check if it was in the right position? If I rotate que polarizer above the screen, the colors will be messed. So it has to be in the right position(angle).
      Thanks for this, it is heartwarming to see that I could help or inpire to go even further than my projects. Tahnks for sharing your experiences. Continue doing what you love, you can always find people on internet with the same interests, like us, to share results. So, don’t forget to like our facebook page. :p
      Btw, we have been based are from Ceara also, and have been based in Sobral for some time, as we study in the UFC Sobral campus.

      1. Well! After almost 2 months and 9 days, finally I was able to put my hands on my old and beloved GBA. Getting the “Y” screwdriver wasn’t as difficult as I thought; I recommend this set but I guess most sets have the tri wing head.

        I didn’t found a broken monitor, so I went to a cell-phone repairing store and bought 2 polarized films since there was several types. Those polarized films have a protective layer, without removing THAT the image looks like a negative picture, so I thought I had the same result as Paulo Ribeiro… I tried the other film then…
        Since I had almost the same result with the other one, I removed the protective layer… the first one worked but the second did not… (don’t give up, people! Look for the right one in the same store!)
        I’m really happy with the result! It looks really good, exactly like the original…
        Thanks so much, Robson! My GBA it’s alive again!!!

        1. You did it!!

          Thanks for the tip, I did not know these filters could be bought so easily.
          Mine is not good tough, there is some bit of wash, but of course is much better than before! Ah, also, my filter was not new, so there is that too. I will try to get a new polarizer soon.
          I am super glad it worked!

          Have fun!

    1. Hi Arbien
      I have not tested this on a GBA SP, as I do not have one. Still, it may work if the problem is the same.
      If you are going to try it, be careful when removing the old filter.

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