After a certain amount of years repairing in a drop off computer repair environment, around ten in my case, one can expect to see all different types of issues and almost every model of consumer computer. Certain repairs will come in where research will be required to troubleshoot the computer problems the issues at hand, in addition to innumerable other damaged systems encompassing a wide range of variables.
The Water Damage Repair Challenge
Personally, I love unique and challenging hardware repairs. One in particular stood out: a MacBook Air LCD repair after water damage on the system. Simple enough as a cookie cutter repair, although quite difficult and time consuming. But nothing can be that easy…
The repair process began with the removal of the aluminum bezel on the laptop. Heat gun, special tools and patience a given. Once this component was removed, as well as the 2mm thick LCD panel, I was able to assess the further needs of the system. The problem in this case was not simply the LCD panel, but what are known as the diffuser sheets behind it.
These layered sheets of plastic combine with a special plastic panel that helps the LED backlight properly spread the light through the LCD panel (which only produces an image). The diffuser sheets of this particular MacBook Air had water spots permanently smeared on these sheets. The moisture had made its way up the display cable to behind the LCD panel. This damage had warped the sheets as well, affecting their fit into the LCD chassis. Basically, the image on the LCD looked really bad.
Now the difficult part: This computer needed to be complete by the end of the business day, and no replacement parts are available, or even manufactured outside of the LCD chassis. I had to make one.
All LCD panels in computers these days come with similar construction, i.e. an LCD image panel and then backlight system with light diffuser array. In the Air, these arrays are separate from the LCD panel to help maintain thinness. In another laptop, all these systems are manufactured together in an all inclusive LCD with frame, mount, backlight and cable tray. Commence the destruction of an e-waste LCD!
I was able to source one of similar size and dimension, and after some trial and error a backlight diffuser sheet array was produced. This array was then re-organized into different layers, tested, and cut to size (box cutters worked great). After a great deal of perspiration and time, the new diffuser array fit into the MacBook Air chassis perfectly (whew!).
New fasteners were fabricated, and the new LCD panel was installed. The gap from the replacement plastic diffuser panel versus the original was off by about 1mm. This gap translated to a small gap on the aluminum bezel, however this was alleviated with careful use of adhesive tape and a tuning process on the hinge assembly for the LCD chassis.
All said and done, it closed flush and opened flawlessly. Instead of an $800 repair, we were able to get the machine back to the client same day, for $400, and with a diffuser array that produced a brighter backlight than stock. Same-day fabricated MacBook Air upgrade and repair? Glad to have done it.