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Here's the solution to your V smile: Oxidized connectors! Remeber the original Nintendo back in the 80s? You had to repeatedly reinsert the cartridge so that it would work properly. The V smile has the same problem. They use tin plated copper contacts on the game cartridges as well as the internal connector. All newer electronics use gold plated contacts because gold does not oxidize (rust, corrode). You'll need a very fine sheet of sandpaper. Start by lightly sanding the game cartridge connector (you have to expose the contacts by pushing the plastic part in). Make sure you wipe the contacts clean with a rag, and do not touch the contacts with your fingers! Then you have to do the same with the console's internal connector. The danger here is bending one of the pins inside so be very careful. The real solution to this would be to replace the connector but no one sells it (checked ebay, Vtech). Should last a couple of months to a few years, depending on relative humidity and use. If your V smile turns on normally without a game cartridge, then this is your problem. Symptoms vary from no power to corrupted graphics to no sound as well as random turn off (with a cartridge, no problems without a cartridge). I've done a few lately and all are working like new. Let me know how it goes, but I take no responsability for bent pins, damaged connectors, fire, earthquake,...
Sounds like the contacts on the games need to be cleaned. On the game cartridge, push back the little cover and clean the gold colored contacts on both sides. I use a cotton ball or q-tip with alcohol on it. Let it dry before you put it back in the v.smile.
Do you still have your receipt? You could try to echange it at the store. Vsmile is coming out with a newer slightly different handheld model you could try. Though, we have a vsmile for the home and a leapster as a handheld game. Which both of my children have loved. Have you tried calling Vtech about the problem? I've had to call before about the home unit and they were very helpful. (Incedently, I have had problems with that, so if you ever do here's a helpful tip: Reset the machine by unplugging EVERY cord and pressing the two front buttons together for one full timed minute! We were having problems with a power issue and this solved it) They may be just as helpful as Leapster's Leap Frog company and send you a replacement! Once on a long car trip my daughter got sick in the car, while playing, so needless to say the game system got it too. And when I called Vtech about what to do, they sent a replacement! Try calling Vtech and see. You never know! Good luck!! :)
You should definately call customer service! I had to do this with our vsmile and they were very helpful with tech issues immediately. You can call them at 1.800.521.2010. One thing to try, they had me do this on the home unit. Unplug everything, then hold down both buttons on the front for one full timed minute. This resets the unit. See if this works for you. They will ask you to do it on the phone first anyway. If not, I hope they are able to suggest other helpful solutions for you! If not, you can find a good deal on a new one on ebay. Good luck! I know how much the kids enjoy this unit!! :)