What to do with Frayed Lightning Cables?

Aug 22, 2014 - 39 Comments

Fraying Lightning cable

How many iPhone and iPad owners wind up having a frayed USB lightning adapter with wires visible or protruding from the cable? One of my own Lightning cables ended up a frayed disaster after less than a year of being always plugged into a MacBook, and only used on a desk – not exactly demanding usage conditions – and I run into many others who have similar issues with Apple USB adapters for iOS devices. So, what should users do about the frayed cables?

There are a few obvious options for what to do about a frayed USB Lightning cable:

  • Wrap the fraying Lightning cable in electrical tape and continue to delicately use it (this can work for a while, or not work at all, it depends on the severity of the frayed cable)
  • Buy a new cable, either an official Apple cable or an Amazon brand Lightning cable
  • Request a replacement from Apple – more on this in a minute

So, sure, you can wrap the cord in electrical tape or go with one of the truly goofy DIY methods to try and protect the cable by using a piece of a mechanical pencil, a friendship bracelet, or some other household junk, but that’s not much of a solution to what seems to be a fairly common complaint amongst iPhone and iPad owners.

iPhone cable frayed with electrical tape

Replacing the Lightning Cable? For Free?!

In the past when we and others have tried to get the frayed cables replaced for free by Apple, and while we reported about a 40% success rate, that may be changing now. In fact, you may be able to get a free replacement cable from Apple! iDownloadblog says that several of their authors have had success with getting torn or frayed cables replaced for free, simply by taking them to an Apple Store and asking:

“I showed him my Lightning cable and kindly asked if this was covered by my iPhone 5s warranty. He briefly looked at it and told me to wait a second as he walked away. He came back a few seconds later with a brand new Lightning cable, fresh off the store’s shelves.

No question asked. No warranty check. As a matter of fact, he didn’t even bother to ask for my name or anything. I walked out of the store with a new cable but also feeling very satisfied as a customer.”

The accompanying device under warranty may help, but as noted Apple didn’t actually check the warranty… so maybe this indicates a change in policy for handling the fraying adapters.

If you live near an Apple Store it’s certainly worth a shot to take it in and see if they’ll swap it out for free. But those of us who aren’t near a Genius Bar are still out of luck, either relying on buying new Lightning adapters or ordering the cheap knock-offs from the web or even the Amazon brand Lightning to USB cables and hoping for the best.

What has been your experience with fraying lightning cables? Did you just buy a new one or did you try and get a replacement from Apple? Let us know in the comments, and perhaps the rumored reversible USB cables will be a bit tougher, as they should be.


Related articles:

Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Troubleshooting


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  1. Daniel says:

    As soon as I open my latest new iOS device, the first thing I do is tie the end in to a loose knot. This stabilizes the cable going into the plastic connector and helps keep it from moving around or bending anymore than necessary. Never had problems since.

    Never the less, this shouldn’t be necessary. The cables suck.

  2. Lisa says:

    My iPad cord was frayed so after I read this post I went to the Apple store. There also happened to be a guy ahead of me with 2 frayed cords. No questions asked. Apple sales person gave us new cords and kept the bad ones.
    Happy Gal here!

  3. Jason says:

    There’s an easy (and pretty) repair kit for frayed cables at http://www.fixacable.com

    There’s also a pretty good discussion on Quora with a picture of Jony Ive inspecting a Lightning cable.

    Apple knows this is a problem, but who knows when they will design a better cable.

  4. Tea Arnst says:

    My iPad, first generation does not charge anymore, bought a new charger (34.90) and its not charging, it contains 30 pins what is wrong? Does the first generation have more or less pin?

  5. HD says:

    Check out this new product. Works extremely well!


  6. Crateish says:

    Went by an Apple Store tonight with my frayed iPhone 5 cable. First person I talked to told me that this wasn’t covered by my AppleCare. I asked to talk to someone else. He went and talked with a ‘more senior person?’. The other person came over and said that they would ‘make an exception’ and replace my cable.

    The first person documented my ‘case.’ Emailed me a report that this had been ‘covered under my AppleCare coverage.’


  7. Clark says:

    Sounds like I’m in a minority here. I’m never gentle with my cables, and I have never had one fray in all these years. Not my iPod generation 2, my iPad 2, my iPad mini, or my iPhone 5

  8. Essam says:

    I guess I’m in the minority, but I have always taken good care of my cables and have never had them fray. I make sure to remove the cable by grabbing the plastic piece of the connector and don’t pull via the wire. I also don’t use the phone while it’s plugged in.

    My friend is not as careful with his cables and has to replace his at least once a year. He’s getting better, but sometimes yanks the cable out by the cord and uses the phone while it’s charging, which stresses the cable.

    • derek says:

      You sure that using the phone when it’s plugged in stresses the cable, or you just talking out of your butt?

  9. Allen says:

    I purchased one of the 2m USB to Lightning cables from Amazon. It frayed within a few weeks. Called Amazon, had a new one is two days. Holding up a little better, BUT doesn’t really look like a long term solution. HOWEVER, please with Amazon’s unquestioned response.

  10. Xabier says:

    I found a very cheap and easy way to repair fray cables, all you need is a piece of cord and glue, that’s it. I have repaired all my cables with this method and it’s amazing! Below the link to the video:


  11. Name says:

    What do you all do to fray cables? I still have, and use the 30 pin cable from my iPod 2!
    And my original power adapter cable from my 2009 MBP, unfrayed, used EVERYDAY!
    Purhaps your parents didn’t teach you how to take care of your equipment? :)

  12. Greg Walters says:

    Every iPhone cable I have owned has torn

  13. Nils says:

    Try using heat shrink electrical tubing before the cable starts fraying.

  14. STL says:

    Have had and used many, many Apple cables for Macs, iPhones, iPad & iPod.
    Never had a cable fray, but then I handle them with care.

    • Name says:

      Thank you! I’d glad I’m not the only one that knows how to take care of their gear! :)

    • Scott says:

      Same here, no problems with the cables. But then again I don’t just unplug the connector by pulling on the wire. Always remove by the connector.

  15. Microman says:

    Real simple this is a defective part. It is the most frequently ordered accessory on Amazon. My calculations indicate Apple has made 5 million dollars profit on having you replace this part.
    Why has no one placed a class action litigation against Apple ?

  16. Fred says:

    Cables are definitely Apple’s weak point. Every Apple cable I’ve ever had has frayed, so I now work from the premise that they’re all crap and buy a spare when I’m buying a new product (Rocket is much sturdier and I’ve never had a compatibility problem). That way, I’m ready to go when the inevitable happens.

    Do I wish Apple would supply a decent cable with its products? Sure. Do I think that’s ever going to happen? Nope.

  17. Shilo Watts says:

    Can there ill be to reapir the cable with this silicon tape at the affordalble price? after spanding my monies on the new iphone I needed to repaired the cable before I use it??????

  18. Eric says:

    this was a big problem with the 30 pin connectors. As in the pictures though they keep calling it a lightning cable. Lightning seem to me much more durable. As for they should cost 2 dollars you’re an idiot. Each end has a processor in it. This isn’t some POS usb cable. That’s why the knockoffs aren’t supported and if they do they usually ruin phones. All those iPhones on fire and battery exploding articles are always with knockoff cables. You have a 600 dollar phone and you want a 2 dollar cable. Sheesh.

  19. edsamac says:

    I had an old USB/Firewire cable from a 3rd Gen iPod (circa 2003) and it’s still working with no frays whatsoever.

    I also have an iPod 5th gen USB cable from 2010 that got practically decapitated after 1 year of use.

    Either something’s amiss or I’ve become quite the ogre.

  20. Corey says:

    Silicone tape is amazing stuff and great for strengthening or repairing these cables. Silicone tape looks like normal electric tape but it’s not. Grab some at any home improvement store.

  21. Tromgy says:

    My son has iPod 4, the cable stopped charging within 6 months after purchase. Not realized at first that it was covered by the warranty I got him a Belkin brand cable, that lasted only 3 months or so before fraying (but still functional). I then went to Apple store (iPod still on warranty) and got the OEM cable replaced for free. I also fixed the Belkin cable with some hot glue. The replacement Apple cable has been used for about a month now and so far so good.

    I have iPhone 5s (lightning) and it is used in Element dock, so it is never being bent back and forth and so far is good for 8 months. For changing on the road I use mini USB cable from my old LG phone and Apple mini USB-lightning adapter. That cable has lasted for 4 years. The adapter is hard plastic and hopefully more durable than the cable (costs the same).

  22. Jeff says:

    I’ve used sugru, as Adam suggests. It seems to work so far, but will eventually crack and then peel off. That’s what’s happening after six months or so since the repair.

  23. Mykimus says:

    For the record, I’ve had very good luck with the Amazon-branded lightning cables. I have a few of them in various sizes to replace the Apple branded cables that tend to go south way more quickly than they should. They are a bit more rigid than the Apple branded cables, but I have found them to be vastly superior.* Not only that, but you can get them in a 4″ length. Super handy for traveling. And I’ve never once had my phone complain about an unsupported charging cable.


    * No, I don’t work for Amazon! :P

  24. Boise Ed says:

    Oops. “may not be support” should be “may not be supported.”

  25. Boise Ed says:

    Fraying isn’t my big problem, it’s “This device may not be support.” I got some drugstore lightning cables that worked just fine until after one Mavericks update, when Apple started doing a pickier job of detecting non-Apple cables. After another release, those cables ceased to function at all, so I bought a couple from OWC. They have been working well, until lately, when even they have gotten the “unsupported” message; with the next Mavericks update, I expect the OWC cables to stop working, too.

  26. Eric says:

    I’ve never had one fray or stop functioning. I have several lightning cables across two personal and two work devices. My wife had to have her first lightning cable replaced about a month ago from her 22 month old iPhone 5. She has had this happen before with a 30-pin. I suspect it comes from her using the device while plugged in, as I never do.

    • Candace says:

      You know someone else mentioned that to me… I will start doing that once both my item get fully charged. Glad you wrote about not using while charging.

  27. landoncube says:

    100% success in (over the phone) replacement with AppleCare. I’ve done it half a dozen times. There is no Apple store within 300 miles. I usually request it when using AppleCare for another device.
    AppleCare FTW!

  28. Sueno Steve says:

    These cables are made as total junk.

    The 9to5mac article you link to is funny because it points out that Apple has been bragging about the Lightning cables being more durable… durable when? In the packaging?

    Every iPhone adapter I’ve ever owned (from Apple) has fallen apart and frayed. It’s almost like thye’re intentionally made junk, then they have the nerve to charge $20 for a new one. It’s a cable, it should be $2.

    • Alvin says:

      I have to agree, these cables are expensive junk. The protective covering of the cable for my Macbook Air is worn off in one spot even though it always sits on the same desk and never ventures from home. I pointed this out to an Apple Genius. He informed me the US warranty on hardware is good for one year and I was a few weeks too late.

      Apple charges $79 to replace the charging cable for the Macbook Air. That is what you call a profit center. My advice wrap the entire cable in electrical tape after you purchase it.

      • Candace says:

        I was just thinking about wrapping it b4 it started this is my 3rd one at 30 bucks. This time when I went to Apple Store they just gave me new cord… now they did ask my name and was it under 1 yr. since I purchased which it was actually only 3 months.. Now I worry do I get a new yr. warranty or was that it. Lol they know it’s a money maker we can’t do anything but purchase another one or by some other product.

  29. Sean B says:

    Piece of string goes into a bar. Bartender says, “We don’t serve string in here.” String goes outside, ties himself in the middle, scuffs himself on the pavement, then goes back into the bar.

    Bartender says, “Hey, aren’t you that piece of string?”

    String says, “Nope. Frayed knot.”

    • Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you !!

      I love being in the sixth grade!

      Horse walks into a bar. Bartender says “Why the long face?”

      Funniest joke ever.

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