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I have a few videogame controller cords for some old videogame consoles that got very stiff over the years. I suspect it's due to aging rubber or something of the sorts. Is it possible to make these cords and cables more flexible, perhaps by using some product or by any other means? I suspect this would apply to any flexible cable in any field, and not only to videogames of course.

These controllers are used sparsely, but they get very unwieldy because of the rigid cords. Since I like to keep them separate from the consoles themselves to avoid dust, I have to fit them somewhere else, which requires me to roll their cords around the controller's body for storage. For instance, if I compare my Sega Saturn controllers' wires to the Nintendo Wii's ones, the one for the Wii is extremely more flexible and easy to handle.

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There are products called rubber rejuvenators. I believe they include solvents and oily plasticisers that try to correct for what may have been lost over the years.

They are often used on magnetic tape recorder pinch rollers and office printer paper pick-up rollers.

Some materials they will not work on and others they will destroy (sometimes after a delay of days or weeks) so test them on a small area first and then try treating one controller at a time to learn which ones respond well.

The factory and added plasticisers may also react aggressively towards some plastics so you may be better served with keeping the wires away from the controllers at least for long enough to have no residue left on the wires.

One functional way of storing cables is to coil them loosely around your hand, grab the coil into a bundle and push it into a toilet paper core.

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Try to avoid temperature changes to the rubber, because that is what is most likely causes it's stiffness. By heat changes I mean seasonal heat and coolings.

This sourceand I don't exactly agree, but it may help you find a solution.

  • Also, if placing the cords in a stable environment won't work. Then trying to stop them from coiling by wrapping floss around them, hanging them up or etc may help.

A solution?

  • Try to move them as much as possible while in a heated environment. This seemed to work for me, probably as the heat made the rubber relax. They usually stay pretty not stiff if I continuously use them after this and try to keep the mobil.
  • Thanks for the input. I'm looking for a somewhat permanent solution though. Do you think that would be possible? I suspect that when the rubber is warmer, it would be more flexible, but then when it cools down again it will become stiff. That's why I asked if some kind of chemical product would be available that would ensure it keeps it's flexibility. As a side note, both controllers I mentioned are kept the exact same way, so it's very clearly aging (since one is older than the other) or the quality of the rubber itself that is different. – julealgon Apr 7 '15 at 19:09
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You can try the hair dryer trick, which basically heats up the insulation and resets the rubber's "memory" but this might make it more brittle in the long run. I find that the natural oils from handling the cables tends to keep them supple.

There's a similar discussion at this radio restoration forum.

If you know an electrician or network installer, you can try some of their wire pulling lubricant to see if it has any lasting benefit. The risk of dissolving the insulation is less than with rubber rejuvenator. In general, try the mildest remedies first.

  • Wire pulling lubricant does not seem to affect the wire jacket itself. – Stan Jun 22 '16 at 19:55
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Two cents worth on softening dried or stiff wire/cable insulation: First of all, a "one size fits all" approach will not work because different cables use different materials for insulation. Having said that, here are a few observations I've made over the years, along with a few tips that may help to soften cables:

Wires can stiffen for reasons including and not limited to any combination of the following reasons:

1) Certain types of plastics when brought into contact with certain types of oils, can result in the insulation stiffening in varying degrees that in some cases will leave the plastic so brittle that it will become extremely hard and brittle, and will crack if the cable is flexed in any degree.

2) Heat and temperature changes (whether cumulative effects of many years of seasonal changes, or from having been exposed for shorter periods of time to heated conditions.

3) Ultraviolet light exposure (can produce changes in color characteristics as well as changes in pliability).

4) Gradual dehydration or drying out of the insulation over time.

I haven't tried to find solutions to the brittle cable problem, but I have found that the following treatments will work on various cable insulation materials:

1) Lucas Power Steering Stop Leak. (this softens rubbers and plastics, and will probably work on PVC and Teflon in some degree). This is the thick gooey dark-red gel.

2) Whitestone Renewal Gel. (softens rubber, plastics and other materials - not as drastically as the power-steering stop leak, but it does soften the materials over time.

3) WD-40 (this works more on the surface of plastics, although it may work it's way deeper into the plastic if allowed to soak over some time.

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enter image description hereRe: Make stiff cables flexible again. One technique used for replacing stiff lawnmower tires is to soak them in hot water until they become pliable. This also works to a degree on detached foreign made power cords. Cords attached to electronics can be heated with a hair blower but this takes a lot of time and electricity. Another possibility I have not yet done is to lay the cord on a hot asphalt driveway during summer. But, this runs the risk of UV light destroying the plastic jacket. No one method seems to work 100% due to the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing. I think the objective is to get products out the door as fast as possible with little regard to usability.

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The erasers on wooden pencils get hard and don't work. A tip I heard about that works with that kind of "rubber" is to moisten it with a drop or two of keroscene (lamp oil) on a cotton ball or rag. It smells bad but it works well to rejuvenate them.

Maybe it will work on your equipment to soften them up somewhat.

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