Can you really replace the Wii sensor bar with two candles?

wii sensor bar replaced by candles

The simple answer to this question? Yes. Although when one of my sons told me that it was possible, I didn’t believe him. “Ridiculous,” I muttered, like the grumpy father I am, “don’t be so stupid”.

We had this argument because the Easter holidays were rumbling to an end and he was bored. Time, he decided, to dig out the Nintendo Wii.

Most of it emerged from the black hole of our play room (think storage area for lost and forgotten items) without difficulty, but the sensor bar? Nowhere to be found.

After the second or possibly third minute of searching, he’d given up. “It will work,” he told me, a determined glint in his eye. “Fetch me two candles and I’ll show you.”

Candle miracle

A candle-based miracle...

We didn’t have any proper candles, but like most people who shop at Ikea we do have roughly seven billion tealights. I gave him two and told him to do his worst.

A few minutes later and that familiar Wii music echoed around our living room. Bop be bop bop bee bop bop bop. And there was that beautiful low-res title screen.

Having ransacked our remote controls for AA batteries to shove into the controllers, my son lit the flames on the tealights. Placed them roughly a foot from one another. And pointed the controller at the screen.

And… it worked!

Nintendo Wii with two candles

Now, I’d be lying if I said it worked flawlessly. The link can be wobbly and disappears from time to time, but it works well enough to do the basic things you need to make the Wii function. That is, point to one of the big boxes on-screen and then press A.

Fortunately, once you start using the Wii in games you remember that almost all the games rely on the motion controller rather than you pointing specifically at the screen.

Cue hours of fun. Literally. I’d forgotten just how enjoyable the Wii was.

Why does it work?

So is this some form of modern miracle, a sign that God loves playing Wii Tennis? Sadly not.

The truth is, the sensor does very little. The only reason it links back to the Wii is for a power source to drive two infrared transmitters at either end.

Wii sensor bar

And that dual infrared output is what the two candles were mimicking. As it happens, candlelight is almost as good at creating the same infrared signal as the official bar.

If you have any other infrared light sources, they can substitute for the sensor bar just as effectively.

Oh, and if this article inspires you to dig out your Wii (you really should) and you can’t find your sensor bar, the simplest way to replace it – albeit far less romantically – is to buy a cheap replacement from Amazon.

And if you need to plug in via an HDMI port rather than the RGB ports used the by the original cable, this £6.45 Wii to HDMI adapter should do the trick.

READ NEXT What do all the lights on the Nintendo Wii mean?

About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email

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