James put his ailing Sony ICF-SW55 on ice. Literally.


Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, James Patterson, who writes:

I have owned the Sony ICF-SW55 for around 15 years or more. I like to change my listening pleasure from radio to radio, giving each one a rest, as they are all different to a degree. So I put the SW55 away and it sat unused for about six moths, as with my radio collection, I had others to listen to.

But when I decided to listen to the SW55 again, it just wouldn’t power up at all. I have read posts from other listeners saying their radios won’t power up either after sitting for extra long periods. I think they are mostly Sonys.

I tried many times but no it wouldn’t power up; I decided I’d just keep it as a memory of a failed Sony radio. I’m aware that the capacitors do blow, and assumed that’s most likely the problem.

But I decided there may be another way to get it going again. I always check for [battery compartment] corrosion, but there was none.

I thought of a crazy idea of actually freezing the radio–just to see what may happen. So it was in the chest freezer for 3 hours. I then took it out frozen like an ice brick!!.

I took it outside to the blazing hot sun and let it fully defrost. I then plugged a DC power pack into it. The operating voltage is 6 volts. I pushed 9 volts into it, through the switchable power pack. I got a plastic clamp and clamped the on/off switch permanently “on”.  I could hear it turning on and off several times as the switch is electrically-activated.

Then all of a sudden it sprang to life–unbelievable! On it came at full volume, so I selected an AM station and it worked as good as it ever did. The sensitivity was always very good, and it still is.

So was it a “Fluke”, “freak of nature” just by chance, or was it the freezing that woke it up?

Well I’m not turning it off. I have new AA batteries in it, as well as the power pack that’s turned back to the correct 6 volts–and yes it’s still going!!

So maybe we should all start freezing our radios when they have given up the “ghost”!?! Don’t forget to defrost before powering up!! Maybe I’ve started a “new trend”. Any comments would be great! Thanks.

Thanks Thomas and have a great and happy New Year from New Zealand.

Wow–James, I’m not sure why this freezing method worked, but I’m glad it did!

I don’t think I could recommend that everyone try this but, James, you did this out of desperation since you essentially had a nice ICF-SW55 paperweight. What did you have to lose? I’m very curious if some engineers or electronics technicians could comment as to why freezing the radio helped.

I do know this: I would be cautious attempting James’ freezing method if you live in a humid environment. It’s possible that the condensation from the radio thawing could actually cause moisture damage. Obviously, in James’ case, it did not.

Thanks again, James–I hope your ICF-SW55 gives you many, many more years of service!

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25 thoughts on “James put his ailing Sony ICF-SW55 on ice. Literally.

  1. Esko Antikainen

    Hello! I live in Finland. I have the CF-55SW. The FM works well, but on the AM there are bad distorced sounds. To whom could I send my Sony for repair?
    Is it true that only 3 capcitors are sesponsible for the distordes sound, the AL cap series SMT 10 V 470 microF?

  2. Bawlzinyojawz696

    If you’re getting cal issue when turning the unit on, adjust CT6 (10pf trimmer cap) around IC8. Set a scope on ac coupling and probe pin 6 on IC8 and adjust CT6 until the peak-to-peak voltage of the sine wave is 2.5v. Also by probing pin 6 with the probe grounded you should be able get the unit to turn on. Be sure to then set the radio to AM 4155k wide (its on the schematic) for accurate readings. Your CT6 might need to be replaced because of all the leaked electrolyte.

    1. Vincent B

      Hello thanks for your tips I recapped de sw55 using and tantalum and electrolitic for 420uf and 220uf the radio shows the cal sign and turns of ….but also iv Volume is pushed half way present a high pitch noise like alarm 🙂 .I controlled the voltage level on Ic10 and Ic8 and they match the service manual I also measured sin wave on pin 6 but peak to peak is max 660mv I tried with a new trimer 3-10 pf that looks the same no change .I am lost of ideas as I tried also to replace the 47uf cap c215 wit electrlitic maybe the SMD tantalum type are not matching the Radio design…. Thanks Vincent

  3. Fernand marois

    When initially took that receiver for repair,sound was poor and working erratically,so,I replaced thoses 25 SMD capacitor (replaced by Tantalum type Instead of Electrolytic type) and sound was much better but occasionally,radio was self resetting itself while turning on the receiver,so,I replaced two 3 Volts regulators (IC-907 and IC-908) and after that,the FM was cutting Intermittently and I replaced IC-2 (CX20111 and IC-8(CXD1118M) and that has fixed all issues ! That SW-55 are now up and running and what a good receiver !
    I hope my story can help someone else on how to fix issues on that Fabulous Sony ICF-SW55.
    Fernand Marois

    1. Esko Antikainen

      Please read my mail of March 12! I am trying to find a place, where I can have my Sony repaired.

  4. Amit Hunnare

    Hi you all dear my Loving Radio Fann Friendszzz… I read this Great Story of Mr James putting his Sw55 Sony Radio in Deep freezer for 3 hours.. you no it would have made the Liquid in the Electrolytic Capacitor inside Chemical to bring in shape for few hours.. As said by the Comment box people in this Site… yes I agree that a Company like SONY is placing an such a Low quality Electrolytic capacitor…. they would have gone for Tantalum Capacitors instead of this Metal cap stupid capacitor… I am from India, Mumbai city I Owww this Sony 2 radios same model.. sw 55 … one of my Radio I repaired the Whole display.. polarizer film which was burned.. I have placed an link of YouTube you can check it out :


    I am a great fann of this Radio.. this Radios are an Collector items… so keep them Sweetly an care them ..
    Good bye my friends..

  5. James Patterson

    Very interesting comments about our ever loved Sony ICF SW 55 radios.Its a real shame about Sony constructing this radio with such poor capacitors etc.They made such a fine job of designing this radio and when in working condition,acturaly performs very well.But I have to say that mine is no more.I acturly replaced all the caps large and small not knowing which were the faulty ones.However this has made no difference.The radio is still dead.As I said in an earlier post,I did freeze the radio and it somehow can back to life and yes I kept it going with continued power”on”.But I decided to turn it off,give it a rest then turn it back on again,but that was the last time it ever worked.The radio had never been dropped,I look after all my collection just like they are new.I treasure them all espeicaly since they are hard to find and buy these days.So the SW 55 sits in its original cover bag,in a cabinate in my room,packed away.Everytime I look at it,it brings back great memories of many hours of listening,checking the world time and all the other features that other radios just didnt have.It was fun to work and it was one of my best in the Sony range.If I happen to find another in working condition,I would be a very happy listener.

  6. Thomas Praetzel

    Any idea as to where one would purchase a replacement DC-DC transformer for the SW55?

    Aloha from Maui


  7. Manuel Medina Martin

    Hi I have many years fixing radios like Sony ICF SW55 I worked for Sony for many years as technical and continue fixing radios on my own it is true that the electrolytic capacitors smd have to be replaced but that is just one of the problems with this radio, there is another piece specified for this model sony but no longer manufactured or sold and you have to rebuild it by hand if you want it to work, the failure of this piece is caused by the electrolytic liquid spilled on the board which makes it short-circuit if I want to repair the price is 150 euros What happened to put it in the freezer and take it out was rather fortunate as to hit at some point when manipulated and made contact but it is safer that will again fail and appears in the screen the word “CAL” calibration and after 5 seconds it will be power off with a very strong buzz in the volume potentiometer.
    contact me for repair at mail [email protected]

  8. Avo

    Could also be dust in the unit which had moisture that evaporated by the temperature change event. Humid dust is a silent killer of many an electronic device.

    A variation of this trick can work with hard drives too. I have rescued critical data off a failing hdd at work by placing the unit in a plastic lunch bag and cooling it in the freezer compartment of our lunch room refrigerator for about an hour. You have to use the hdd as soon as possible after removing it from the freezer so ensure the connector block is moisture free by wiping it with a kitchen towel otherwise you risk shorting. Then get the data off that sucker before it warms up and starts to fail again!!!

  9. Edward

    The new technology is not as reliable as the old. I had experiences with other Sony stuff that would “brick” on me. I like the ZTO and GRR-5 tube radios. I wish the new stuff was as simple and reliable, then we would rally have something.

  10. Khalid Parvez

    I think freezing a radio does lot of things. First of all we all know that when we cool anything the dimensions are reduced and you can well imagine what could happen to different parts of Sony icf-sw55 radio. In the specification of gadget, temperature range is specified out of which the performance deteriorates. So, I think in the capacitors cooling has caused slight movement and resulted bring them in “Normal” condition. Transistors and ICs hardly will have any effect. The fault seemed in the on-off switching circuit of the radio. In my opinion it is some capacitor that discharged and became normal. Warning, never put a radio on the other side of temperature, that is cook it in high temperature. Khalid Parvez, Lahore, Pakistan.

  11. Don Lewis

    The issue might be Electrolytic capacitors that have shrunk due to lack of usage. When capacitors get older they start to leak electrically and as long as they’re left in an operating circuit and kept warm they are usually OK. Once the capacitor cools for an extended period of time that short will be of much lower resistance and unable to be overcome by the power supply. Even if you have a single voltage power supply there are likely voltage downconverters which utilize electrolytic capacitors. Replace the capacitors. Probably less than $20US

  12. James Patterson

    Yes be very carefull if you live in a damp area,this may not work for you.But over here in Sunny New Zealand we get summers up to 30 degs centergrade and thats really hot! I would never bake a radio in the hot sun,infact you are only asking for trouble,so it was just enough to fully defrost it,sun heat but in the shade!Well its still going after last night with volume turned down so I could sleep.Im too afraid now to turn it off.Hope I dont have power cut.I could run it straight off the AA bats,but I think Bat time is only 4 hours in this model.Anything is worth a try when you are at desperation in the radio world!

  13. DX Listener

    Ah tin whiskers.

    So we can thanks our wonderful EU when our electrical appliance stop working
    in a few years time then.

    Class action anyone ? 😉

  14. Ken Carr

    I am not sure why freezing worked but if I had to guess I would say the temperature changes (room temp., cold, room temp.) may have caused contraction and expansion of the circuit board and thus healed a microscopic crack. It might just as easily cause more problems.

    As these radios age the capacitors do fail. If you could easily find the bad ones without unsoldering leads it would be helpful. I suggest that tinkers purchase a ESR (equivalent series resistance) meter since it performs this function nicely. I use the Jingyan Mesr-100, Ver. 2 which can be used to test capacitors in-circuit.

  15. Moshe Ze'ev Zaharia

    It sounds like SMD capacitors failure.
    Recap the radio, including all SMD capacitors, they are all prone to fail.
    Change them to regular capacitors and your good to go.
    Good Luck and Good Propagation.

  16. JAtl

    He did several things that were different from the standard operation. So you don’t know which one or which combination, made the radio start again.

    But the moral of the story is don’t give up on a radio you like. Try things, things that are safe for you and for your radio, and see if you can get it working again. There is no downside.

    Getting an old radio working again is great fun. Recently, cleaning out a drawer, I found an old Grundig YB that I thought I had left somewhere (I was a road warrior). I was so excited, more that if I had bought a new radio. It’s such a great sounding radio and very capable – I had forgotten how much I had enjoyed it.

  17. robert

    I was thinking moisture could have made a connection in an internal corroded location.but thats a thought in theiory.
    My grundig yachtboy 400 pe acted up so i parked it for 2 years.it was sluggish restarting.several resets before it woke up and i had to shut sleep timer o5ff.somehow when it woke the sleep timer was set at 15 seconds


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