Thursday, October 15, 2015

MacBook Air water damage repair - part 1

I was asked to try to repair an Apple MacBook Air A1466 (mid 2012) that has received a cup of tea.

When I first heard of the water damage I requested the user to stop using the laptop immediately and take the battery out. However, the laptop was still put in use for a few weeks after which it failed. Had the advice been heeded the extent of the damage would probably not have been so high.

The symptoms were: some keys not working, including the power key, screen kept blanking out or flashing colors, laptop shut down by itself.

Getting inside is pretty easy, if you have the right tools. You need several strange screwdrivers that can be purchased from iFixit:

Most of the damage seems to be located in the upper left corner:

Screen (LVDS) cable has a few corroded pins, the power regulator next to the right seems to have been cooking some tea:

The screen connector on the mainboard looks heavily corroded:

Obviously the water detection sticker has been triggered to a red color instead of its innocuous white color:

To remove the mainboard the SSD needs to be removed and most of the connectors need to be taken apart. The speaker connector must be lifted up from its wired part - not pulled!

The power regulator section next to the LCD connector has been cleaned off with alcohol as well as  most of the motherboard. However I spent extra time with a cuetip on that portion and some parts were reflowed with a fine soldering tip.

The LCD connector and matching ribbon were also cleaned with isopropyl-alcohol, cuetips and toothpicks.

Several keys were not working: power key, 5, T, G, N

The row of keys that were not working
Power button close-ups :

Here's how the chiclet(?) keys go together:

Before ordering a new keyboard I've tried blowing it with an aircan, drowning it in alcohol, later in some diluted acetone (when all hope was lost) - nothing has been able to bring the dead keys back in action.

The backlight needs to be carefully removed - I used a heatgun set at 100C to soften the glue:

Keyboard backside

Naked keyboard backside
In total there are about 40 screws around the keyboard....

... with a pretty small size:

If you want to keep the rivets that keep the keyboard in place (highly recommended) the best way is to stick some clear tape on the backside - this will catch most of the rivets, around 50 of them.

You cannot remove the keyboard non-destructively, so make sure you have ordered a new one before. The old one cannot be reused. I've tried to be as gentle as possible and this is the result:

There was a soft cloth placed between the keyboard and the screen to keep the small screws and rivets falling out from scratching the LCD.

Another water indicator sticker. It's pink, meaning at least some water made it through there:

New keyboard in place:

The left rivet is placed, the right one is waiting for the matching part:

Removing rivets from the old keyboard from the sticky tape:

Putting it back together:

Result: the self-shutdown was caused by the power key being stuck to the ON position. The keys were fine after the keyboard replacement and overall the laptop seemed to be running happily, I left it running for a week to check if the 'repair' was stable.

After two more months the screen kept dying out until it is no longer turning on. I suspect it's either the LVDS cable or the matching connector on the motherboard.


  1. your backlight died, you can check with a flashlight
    most likely shorted connector judging by corrosion photos, but might be also inverter

    I recommend for everything you want to know about fixing this particular problem, dude shows every type of defect and fixes it on camera

    1. Hi Rasz_pl, this repair was done before I found out about that channel (from your comment, nonetheless). Good stuff there. It's a friend's laptop which has returned for a round two, but I haven't opened it yet, it might be BER.
      I will make a new post once I have the chance to open it and order the spare parts (connector should be 5$, cable around 20$).

  2. Are you looking for the best water damage los Angeles CA? We provide Los Angeles water damage restoration services at affordable prices. Call us today.

  3. Were you able to get all of the Rivets out whole ? Were any broken and stuck requiring drilling ? I have the same model A1466 (2012) so I am interested in the level of difficulty with the Rivets. Thanks, David Berk

    1. Hi David,

      This was some time ago but I remember that part was pretty easy and no drilling was required. Perhaps rotating a wide flat screwdriver to help with more stubborn ones, but they are not really 'classical' rivets, but more like spacers.

  4. Thanks for your beyond belief blogs stuff. macbook air