Tag Archives: iFixit

iPad Repair – Quick, Dirty, Improvised

Fade In…

It’s the night of April 25, 2012. I sit in the big easy chair located in one corner of my living room browsing RSS feeds on my iPad and beginning to nod off. Deciding to turn in for the night I get up, switch off the lights, and set my iPad on the kitchen counter before going to lock the front door. No sooner am I two steps from the counter when I hear a thud as my iPad hits the ground.  Lame. I think aloud as I bend over and pick it up. Still bathed in darkness with sleep nibbling at the edge of my consciousness, I power it up and try out a few gestures to make sure everything still works. Everything checks out and I head to bed.

Fade to Black. Cut to this morning…

While waiting to take my girlfriend to the airport before work I open up my iPad with the intent of checking out a few odds and ends on the internet before we leave. Weirdly, the volume notification seemed to be stuck on the screen and nothing I could think off would get it off. Seeing the volume level stuck at the lowest it’s then I notice the dent on the top right corner, right where the volume rocker is. It seems in the fall last night the iPad caught it’s edge on one of the stools next to the counter somehow. As this realization dawned on me I let loose a string of expletives that could peel the paint off of walls and wonder if there’s anyway to fix this without dropping some serious coin. Without time to pursue the matter I head off to work…

 Fade to black…

Hope you enjoyed the melodramatic intro. I find it’s best to picture it in your mind like a film noir while reading it. Anyways, I made an appointment at the closest Apple Store to me when I got into work hoping the fact that the iPad (second gen by the way) was still under warranty would count for something. The dent wasn’t that bad from an aesthetics standpoint and if it occurred literally anywhere else on the device I wouldn’t have cared less. However, the iPad happened to fall and dent itself on one of the few areas that could actually affect functionality making it so I couldn’t ignore the problem. Murphy’s kind of a douche if you ask me.

When I got to the Apple Store they said I was out of luck. The warrant doesn’t cover accidental damage and all they could do was replace it for $250, take it or leave it. After leaving the store and a quick check on my phone for replacement back panels showed iFixit didn’t carry them and one random website sold them for $150. No luck there. Looking at the dent though I couldn’t help but think it was fixable if I sat down and tried. I went back asked the Apple employee if they could possibly let my in back to try but he rejected me. I said I swore I wouldn’t sue if it broke I just needed a small screwdriver. Again I got rejected so I went home full of piss and vinegar to try to tackle the repairs myself.

Looking over one of iFixit’s iPad 2 guides I saw they recommend heating the front panel with a heat gun to soften the glue before removing it and using guitar picks to hold the front panel up as you make your way along the edge. Well I don’t own either of those thing so I had to improvise. Girlfriend’s hairdryer, close enough? Toothpicks, why not? For the actual prying I was going to be doing I used one of the soldering picks I got from RadioShack ages ago.

Turning on the blow dryer I heated the corner of the iPad with the dent for about a minute or so, all the while keeping the nozzle ~1 inch from the iPad. A minute was all I needed to heat the tablet enough to make prying at the edge somewhat easy without using excessive force. Obviously if you’re removing the whole panel it’ll make longer to heat everything. Slowly and very gently I worked my pick into the device and applied pressure on the dent to pop it out. Every now and again I would fiddle with the volume rocker to see if it released at all giving me control over the volume again. When my initial prodding didn’t work I started to feed toothpicks into the crack I was creating to hold it open. I didn’t really have a plan in mind, I was mostly just slowly working on the dent and hoping volume control returned. Finally after ten minutes or so of playing around with various numbers of toothpicks stuck in my device I hit pay dirt. Volume control returned! Slowly with the pick I worked my way down the gap I had opened up and removed the toothpicks one by one.

Apologies for my awesome camera phone photography. It’s all I have to work with. Click a thumbnail to enlarge a picture.

After taking all the toothpicks out and seeing that the fix still worked I looked over my handy work. You can definitely tell the iPad was dented but overall things look good. There’s still a slight gap between the front and back covers which I may seal with some super glue or epoxy later but I’m not sure yet (my apologies to any Apple fanatic whose heart just skipped a beat). The RadioShack soldering pick worked pretty well but it did leave some scratches in the back panel. I would definitely recommend investing in some tools designed to open cases without leaving marks to anyone trying this themselves. I’ll probably wind up ordering some myself once my next paycheck hits just to have on hand. Also the toothpicks worked okay to keep the gap in the panels open but a few of their tips broke off and one may now be inside my iPad. Use them in a bind but invest in some guitar picks or similar item in my opinion.

Was this the greatest fix ever under taken? No, but I did save $250 dollars on a replacement, more if I wanted to upgrade to the new iPad, and I feel pretty damn happy about that. I’m now settling down with a cold beer (see the gallery above) and watching Community. I’ll leave you with this clip of Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear that totally describes my current mood (0:15 to 0:50 is the most relevant chunk).

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