I’m embarrassed to admit that only a few months after spilling seltzer inside of my MacBook Pro, I have spilled yet another liquid. This time it was about an ounce of coffee instead of about twelve ounces of fizzy water. However, the saving grace was that I take my coffee black and without sugar, and usually black coffee spills are rarely devastating.
As I did last time, I took apart the computer, removed the memory DIMMS, and disconnected the battery. I was very concerned about any coffee residue inside of the machine, so I attempted to remove the logic board. IFixIt.com has a guide on replacing the logic board. One of the first steps in removing the logic board is to disconnect and remove the fan. As I did so, I broke the connector between the fan and the logic board. Egads! And the small piece of the connector fell on to the kitchen floor, never to be seen again. At that point, I gave up removing the logic board and simply set the computer, keyboard facing down, on a dry towel to let it dry as much as possible.
A day later, I reconnected the battery and, with the back cover still off, I powered-on the computer. It was working! There was a brief moment where the letter
G didn’t work, but after another day, the
G would return to working order.
The good news was that my computer was working, but the bad news was that fan was not spinning. The fan is crucial to the computer’s operation: after only a few minutes of being powered on, the logic board was very hot. I immediately powered the computer down to prevent damaging my computer’s internals. Feeling defeated, I put the computer back on the desk and went on with my day. My biggest concern was that I would need a new logic board.
After fretting about my dear computer, I spoke with a friend of mine who works as a mechanic. His do-it-yourself attitude was a great help. He suggested rigging a piece of copper wire to bridge the broken connection. The fan has four wires that connect to the logic board. I’m unsure what each does, but he guessed that two of the wires were for DC power, one was a ground, and the other was for a temperature sensor or the like.
His solution worked. I was able to harvest a thin strand of copper from an RJ-45 cable. I inserted the strand into the fan connector and pressed the other end of the copper against logic board, where the broken connector was. I powered-on the computer, and it worked. The fan spun and was cooling the logic board. The only issue was that when I stopped applying pressure to the copper against the logic board, the fan would turn off. I would somehow need to adhere the copper to the logic board.
The obvious, albeit somewhat scary, solution would be to solder the copper to the logic board.
After reading up on soldering, I bought a very basic 40-watt soldering pen from Radio Shack. Along with a spool of the thinnest 60-40 solder I could find, I spent under $20. This was against most advice I read online about needing to get a soldering iron that has an analog (or even a digital) temperature control. If I didn’t need my computer this week, I would have opted to buy a better soldering iron and wait to have it shipped to me1. But time was crucial and thus the $20 gamble to reconnect the broken fan cable seemed worthwhile.
As you can see in the video, I don’t have the steadiest of hands when soldering, but the solder was good enough to get the connection working. The fan works at both the normal speed (2,000 rpm) and that really noisy speed (6,000 rpm) when I am processing video.
The DIY attitude saved the day yet again.