OLED, Pi Zero, Soldering Skill

Inspired by others in this group I thought I’d take my little pi zero Volumio setup up a level and and add a tiny screen using this (volumio-plugins/plugins/miscellanea/mpd_oled at master · supercrab/volumio-plugins · GitHub) and this (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B06XRBTBTB). Software side went fine, and I made a cable and connected to the pi, but the screen is just blank. Clicked the I2C Device Scan button, and it can’t detect anything.

So I spend a solid hour with a multimeter first making sure the cable I made works then trying to figure out if my questionable soldering skills are the issue. The problem is soldering these tiny pins to the tiny board is just beyond me. Maybe it’s right, maybe it isn’t. I can’t believe they expect kids to do a competent job soldering these. I’m getting voltage across the various pins at the board end of the cable, so maybe it’s ok. But it isn’t worth saving $13+shipping to mess around with it anymore.

So, while I wait for the mail to deliver my new pi WH (with pre-soldered board), does anyone have any troubleshooting tips to see if this is even my problem?

Hi, did you try connect via Terminal and test sudo i2cdetect -y 1 ?

I hadn’t, but it’s not looking great:
volumio@music:~$ sudo i2cdetect -y 1
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 a b c d e f
00: – -- – -- – -- – -- – -- – -- –
10: – -- – -- – -- – -- – -- – -- – -- – --
20: – -- – -- – -- – -- – -- – -- – -- – --
30: – -- – -- – -- – -- – -- – -- – -- – --
40: – -- – -- – -- – -- – -- – -- – -- – --
50: – -- – -- – -- – -- – -- – -- – -- – --
60: – -- – -- – -- – -- – -- – -- – -- – --
70: – -- – -- – -- – --

Definitely not good, did you try this GitHub - antiprism/mpd_oled: MPD, Volumio, RuneAudio and Moode OLED status and spectrum display for Raspberry Pi (and similar) ?

I would also try put there just raspbian, set I2C and run simple test python program

If it doesn’t appear on the i2c scan then it’s not been soldered properly.

Soldering those little resistors is quite hard. I find it easier to remove them with a hot air gun to remove and solder them back with fine solder.

Try buying an OLED that is already in I2C mode. Get some cheap ones from China.

if you’re facing problems with soldering your OLED display, maybe an easy solution could be getting something ready-made, fully tested and supported.

Ok, now you have me concerned. I’m supposed to be soldering on resistors? I thought the thing I bought was ready to connect directly to my GPIO? It has Vcc, Gnd, SCL and SDA connections, and seemed the same as what you used in your Readme. What am I missing here? Where do the resistors go?

Darmur, I don’t think pushing a $50 hat on my (poorly) soldered $10 pi zero GPIO will help anything. Sound works fine out of my USB DAC. I was trying to add a tiny display.

got it.

if you post a picture of the soldered pins I can try check if it looks OK

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Matt, I think people are genuinely trying to help you here. Whether you are accomplished at soldering or not is down to you. If not, then go down the ready-made route.

I understand that and appreciate the help. As I mentioned in my original post, I’ve ordered a pre-soldered pi zero. I was just wondering if there is any troubleshooting I could do while I wait, for instance to see if it’s really my soldering that’s the problem or if I have a bad OLED module.

I suspect, based on nothing other than how easy it is to short circuit adjacent pins on a small header, that it is soldering, but hang on for your new pi zero … it won’t be long. Then you’ll have the answer to your question ;). It’s all a learning curve, and my soldering skills are pretty rubbish too :smiley:

Visual inspection is the a mandatory initial test in case of problems, please post a picture of the soldered pins, I will have a look

Looking at the specs, you don’t need to do solder any resistors as it has the SSD1306 driver included.
Just the 4 wires, should do the trick.
Just make sure they didn’t twist the SDA and SCL.
So you can try by swapping them. It won’t hurt the Pi or OLED.
I had the same issue, but installing the plugin MPD-OLED did the trick.

Also check if you have not more than 1 I2C port enabled. With the commands
sudo i2cdetect -y 0
sudo i2cdetect -y 1
sudo i2cdetect -y 2
sudo i2cdetect -y 3
The OLED address is most likely “3C”

Pi display
Pin3 (SDA) SDA
Pin1 (5V) VCC
Pin5 (SCL) SCL
Pin14 (GND) GND

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Ok, I have my new pi zero wh, with pre-soldered pins. And scanning still turns up nothing. I even ditched the cable I made and directly jumpered the pins to the OLED. Nothing. Here’s the error I’m getting in case anyone has ideas:

No devices were found on I2C bus /dev/i2c-0 because it appears to be disabled.

Devices found on I2C bus undefined were:


Also the i2cdetect is still showing blank (for 1. for 0,2,3 I get an error)

Hi MattG

The OLED may be defective (they are fragile), but if you soldered the header on that then you could check the soldering carefully with a magnifying glass (although I imagine you have already done this). Also, maybe the display is not what it was advertised as. Perhaps you could post a photo of the back of it for comparison with other models.

I don’t know what generated the message about the I2C bus, but it refers to bus 0, when bus 1 is the correct bus to use (but specifying bus 1 will not help until you can see your device with i2cdetect -y 1).


Thanks everyone. I somehow got it working. No idea what changed.

Well done MattG. :smiley:


You restarted the Pi? :slight_smile:

Ha. I’m afraid that might be it.

Long version: I used another SD chip with a regular pi os on it to try to figure out how to use the OLED to test it. Hit a dozen walls until I finally figured out you need to change your config.txt to allow i2c. Got it working so I knew my OLED itself wasn’t broken. Popped back in my SD card with volumio on it to start debugging… and i2cdetect worked.

So was it just I hadn’t rebooted before? I have no memory of whether I did, though it seems like I would have unplugged and plugged back in my pi several times during testing. Or maybe just a loose wire? Seems unlikely. Anyway, works fine now.