Water/Cola Damage - MacBook Repair

I thought I would make this available to those of you unfortunate enough to be searching for answers to this topic.  There isn't much out there for repairing a MacBook that has experienced a dreaded Coke/Pepsi spill; therefore, I decided to document my success story in a series of steps.

Backstory

A friend of mine spilled a glass of Coke/Pepsi on their 13-inch 2007, black MacBook and asked me if anything could be done.  My initial thoughts were bad.  That's what brought me to start researching repair processes and very little documentation could be found.  A lot of feedback to forum posts revealed the inevitable - "you're MacBook is shot," "take it to an Apple Store," or "it's gonna cost you a lot to get it repaired might as well just get a new one."  I decided that these replies were not sufficient enough for me; therefore, I thought this would be the perfect forum to explore my talents for PC repair.  I made the choice to take advantage of this opportunity and make a project of it - I wanted to see if I was up to the challenge.

The culprit!

Seeing how my friend didn't have any money to put into repair nor did she want to put money into an uncertain project, I started to research replacement parts.  What I discovered is replacement Apple components are outrageously expensive, and considering the age of the MacBook it just doesn't good make economical sense to invest in expensive components when you can get a new model for nearly the same cost.

If you'd like to do some research yourself a good place to start would be here:

Although I would be wary of what you purchase from eBay.  If you decide to purchase from eBay make sure you throughly read the product description.  If the description doesn't provide enough information for you then I would advise you to NOT purchase the item.

There are a lot of variables to consider before you purchase replacement parts, and I would also advise that you do sufficient research before you process any orders for those replacements.

Before I was able to break into the laptop the Coke/Pepsi had about a two weeks to set in, and there had been attempts at booting the system which is NOT RECOMMENDED by the way.  By the time I got it from my friend the cola had already began corroding away the inners of the system, making this project seem more dismal.  As I pulled away each component from the chassis my optimism began to corrode away with it.  With that said...  Let's begin!

Items to Purchase:

If your situation is anything similar to mine, you will need to purchase two things:

  1. CRC QD® Electronic Cleaner 
  2. Arctic Silver 5

Tools:

You'll need:

  1. Small phillips-head screw driver.
  2. Spudger
  3. Isopropl aclohol 
  4. Wash cloth

Difficulty:

This project is not for the faint of heart and would be extremely difficult for those of you that have trouble changing out a hard drive.  You've been warned...

Environment:

You'll need a static free, well ventilated area to complete this process.

Time Investment:

Total disassembly and reassembly time took about four hours, but please expect this project to last at least a week.

Disassembly/Reassembly Guides:

iFixit is your greatest asset in this process.  As you begin disassembly you will be able to identify the extent of damage caused to your system.  You'll need to completely breakdown your system.  You can find your specific make and model here:

Repair/Cleaning Process

Preface -

By the time you've found this post it may be too little, too late.  Hopefully you immediately turned off your system, unplugged your MagSafe, and removed your battery when you spilt the cola on your system.  Two really quick ways to shutdown your system would be holding down the power button (on Macs that have removable batteries) - obvious I know - and keying the SMC reset keyboard combination (on Macs without removable batteries).  Keying the SMC reset on the keyboard while you're working on your Mac will immediately shut the system down.  It's like pulling the plug on the new Unibody Macs

At this point, for you, this opportunity has probably come and gone; therefore, you can use this information to take with you and share with your friends.  It's always good to know how to quickly shut down your system.

Step 1 -

Instead of duplicating an awesome resource and trying to address multiple different situations this is where I'm going to direct you to iFixIt.   This is because you may not have spilt Coke or Pepsi on the same model of MacBook as my friend, so to encompass the masses please see iFixIt's website for your specific model.

Note: If you're primary system was the item you've spilt the liquid on, hopefully you can get access to something that can get on the Internet.  *Smartphones are not recommended*  Walking through iFixIt's documentation requires a sizable screen, as there are a lot of meticulous steps that require a high level of attention to detail.  There are a ton of intricate connections running through any given MacBook or MacBook Pro.  I used a Nexus 7 to complete this repair process, even though I had my MacBook Pro available. I wanted to see if it was indeed possible to complete this using a tablet as my reference device.

As iFixIt doesn't give you complete teardown instructions, I recommend following each of theses processes of disassembly in this order:

  1. Remove the Logicboard (Refer to an iFixIt guide for Logicboard replacement).
  2. Remove the Optical Drive (Refer to an iFixIt guide for Optical Drive replacement).
  3. Remove the Right Speaker (Refer to an iFixIt guide for Right Speaker replacement).

Beginning the disassembly process:

As I disassembled the machine I cleaned the individual components with a bit of isopropyl alcohol and set them aside.  Don't go crazy here with this, use the alcohol sparingly.

It's a good idea to map out your disassembly and keep the parts and screws in order.  It may be helpful to you in organizing your disassembly process with sticky notes.

I would label your disassembly - which I didn't do here, I will definitely do if I ever do this again - this repair process will take at least a week and it's hard to remember were every single screw goes.

You must completely empty out the chassis of your machine to ensure that you get all of the Coke/Pepsi out of your machine.  We don't want to have any left over residue because it is extremely corrosive.

Step 2 -

Now that we have the entire MacBook disassembled, we need to begin to thoroughly clean each and every component, beginning with the most affected area - the keyboard.  The next thing I did may seem a little crazy and definitely goes against what computer components can handle, but we are safe in this instance as none of the circuitry has current flowing through it.

Spray copious amounts (but not so much that you will not have enough left for the rest of the project) of CRC into the keyboard and trackpad then let it rest for a bit on a paper towel or something similar.  Ensure you pay special attention to each key.  You may also want to spray some CRC on the back of the keyboard before letting it rest on the paper towel.

Now we need to turn our attention to the chassis of the MacBook, this is were I personally saw the corrosion of the cola - especially in the hard drive and optical bay areas.  You're going to want to get a wet washcloth to accompany your CRC efforts.  My recommendation would be to, again spray copious amounts of CRC in the affected areas, then before the CRC dissipates wipe it clean with your wet washcloth.

WARNING: ENSURE YOU DON'T WIPE ANY OF THE OTHER ELECTRICAL COMPONENTS WITH THE WET CLOTH!

We want to minimize liquid exposure to our other components within the MacBook.

In the below image you'll notice I still have the optical drive installed, I wanted to start attacking the corrosion from the start.  I later removed the optical drive, speakers, and Bluetooth module to continue the repair process.

Now that we've thoroughly cleaned the chassis, set it aside in a place where it can dry.  My recommendation would be to place it in a way that it can dry the most effectively.  Like the example below.

There are some warnings I want you to consider before we move onto the next component(s).

WARNING: MAKE SURE YOU DISCHARGE ANY BUILT UP STATIC BEFORE YOU TOUCH THE LOGICBOARD!  

WARNING: BEFORE YOU BEGIN CLEANING THE LOGICEBOARD, DO NOT USE CRC TO CLEAN THE OLD THERMAL PASTE OFF YOUR CPU/GPU - USE ISOPROPYL ALCOHOL TO CLEAN IT FROM THE LOGICBOARD AND HEAT SYNC.

IMG_3285.JPG

Now we need to address the Logicboard.  Fortunately, most of the Coke/Pepsi accumulation was on the RAM slot nearest to the hard drive.  There was many residue areas on the entire Logicboard.  This is where you have to take my word for it - spray drench the entire board with CRC.  It may be a little awkward, but I can say with confidence that CRC will not damage your hardware any more than what has already occurred.  You have to turn the cleaning process over to CRC and let it do its job.

Don't be shy with the CRC.  Spray as much as you need, focus on the high residue (cola areas) then...  Spray it again.

At this point you should have thoroughly sprayed the Logicboard, now it's time to pick up the Logicboard and spray it again.  I can't say it enough, please consider the following warning before touching your Logicboard:

WARNING: AGAIN MAKE SURE YOU DISCHARGE ANY BUILT UP STATIC BEFORE YOU TOUCH THE LOGICBOARD!

Let the excess CRC drip from the Logicboard.  This is where you'll know if you've sprayed enough CRC on the board, if it isn't dripping from the board you haven't cleaned the component good enough.  At this point, my recommendation would be to continue spraying...  This is why I say you need a well ventilated area to complete this task.

Now you need to ensure you've thoroughly cleaned the entire system.  You can go over each component again.  My personal recommendation would be to go over each component at least two times..  I went over the system three times before I moved onto the next step - you should do the same.

Step 3 -

Drying.  Set all the components in a place where they can dry uninterrupted.

WARNING: YOU HAVE TO ALLOW EACH COMPONENT ENOUGH TIME TO SUFFICIENTLY DRY.

I would not let it rest any less than a week.  A week would be my minimum, any less than that you run the risk of leaving some CRC in the system - as we know all too well, moisture is not good for our MacBook.  Time is your friend here and patience is key.

Step 4 -

Now that you've given the components sufficient drying time we can begin to reassemble the system.  Follow the iFixIt guides I listed above in reverse:

  1. Replace the Right Speaker (Refer to an iFixIt guide for Right Speaker replacement and follow it in reverse).
  2. Replace the Optical Drive (Refer to an iFixIt guide for Optical Drive replacement and follow it in reverse).
  3. Replace the Logicboard (Refer to an iFixIt guide for Logicboard replacement and follow it in reverse).

WARNING: BEFORE YOU COMPLETE #3 YOU NEED TO MAKE SURE YOU APPLY THERMAL PASTE BEFORE SECURING THE HEAT SYNC!

Note: Refer to the Arctic Silver 5 website for thermal paste application instructions, HERE.

Final Step -

Reinstall OS X.  I used Lion DiskMaker to create a bootable USB drive to reinstall OS X.  You can complete this task through Disk Utility, but I didn't want to go digging around for files, I opted to go the easy route here.  Lion DiskMaker is a great FREE application and if you have something extra you may wish to consider to donate HERE.

Hopefully you found this helpful and I hope you were able to repair your system.  Please feel free to leave any comments or questions.  You can find and reach me on YouTubeTwitter, and Google+.