How to recover from liquid inside your equipment
By C. JÃƒÂ¤rnÃƒÂ¥ker
Update 19th of March 2007 – Wine in laptop and how to salvage it.
Some time ago I helped a friend to install his DSL line with a Linksys WRT54g at his house. Everything was fine until one day when he called me and asked for help as he couldn’t reach the net anymore. His stationary computer had no link on the Ethernet port and his wireless computers couldn’t find his access point. When I came there I first checked that the lights we’re burning which they were and then I saw the WAN light blinking like there was no tomorrow. That seemed a bit odd as no computers could reach the Linksys. I unplugged the cable going to his stationary computer and plugged that one into another port and got a link light.
After checking that I got an IP number I logged into the access point and everything seemed fine except for that I didn’t get a WAN IP from the DSL modem.
I did what you usually do in such a situation and unplugged the Linksys and the DSL modem and plugged it back in. With a smile of a support person I told him that we should just wait 10 minutes and then everything would be back to normal.
Well – it didn’t. As I went back to the electricity closed my iPAQ sounded and asked if I wanted to connect to his wireless network – so, it did work after all. But I got the reception you could expect when standing three floor up from the access point and when I walked across the room 5 meters I lost the signal again.
Then I noticed the white calcium rings on the box and on the transformer, something had been dripping into it. Apparently it had rained quiet hard a couple of days earlier and water had dropped in from the balcony through a crack in the concrete and dropped down on the Linksys.
It didn’t look that bad from the outside, but gee it really looked bad on the inside. The brown gook is what was left after the water dried. It seems like the water wasn’t that clean and that it contained a lot of minerals which has rusted.
The water in itself is not your enemy but what is contained inside the water is. Especially the minerals which will be left after the water evaporates and in this case it went really bad as the minerals decided to corrugate. What has happened inside this box is that the rust has laid itself as a layer over the components and coils that control ports 1, 2 and WAN. There’s also a substantial amount right over the HF box and the components that go to the antennas.
On the next page I’ll show you the steps to clean your device.
No matter if you have a keyboard with coffee or a laptop with coke, you can always clean it. Well, sometimes it doesn’t work but you’ve got nothing to loose, right? What I’m going to do here goes against all current laws about static electricity protection (ESD) and other things that you’re not supposed to do with your electronics devices.
1. Disconnect your device as soon as you realize that the liquid is inside it. Normally it just stops working but you might get electric shocks or it might explode or it might break if you leave it connected.
2. Take the device apart. Every box has its own way of being disassembled but don’t use too much force and if you can’t get it apart then there’s usually some hidden screws under a label or a foot.
3. If the substance is already dry, as it was for me, then use your wife’s toothbrush (you don’t want to use your own, right?) to brush off as much as possible. Remember not to brush to hard as you might damage components.
4. Rinse the PCB (Printed Circuit Board) under the shower. If you have one of those showers with high pressure or a massage handle then use that as the pressure will help getting the substance off. You can also brush with the toothbrush (your wife’s) now when it’s wet and you should get most of it off.
5. Use kitchen paper (not toilet paper as the fibres are way to show and it falls apart when wet) to carefully dry off all the water. Don’t rub but simply put the paper over the wet spots and apply a little bit off pressure so that it will suck up the water.
6. Now put the PCB on top of a warm radiator and let it dry for at least 12 hours. It’s tempting to use a hard dryer to speed up things but don’t do this as the air that comes out is way to warm and you might zap your device with all the static electricity that the blowing of air causes.
7. When it’s been drying for those long 12 hours it’s time to clean the components so that the last of the residue comes off. This is easiest done by using chemical gasoline or another solvent that is clean and only contains one substance which evaporates. Do not use nail polish remover (acetone) which also contains oil, or regular gasoline which contains a lot more then gasoline.
On the next page I’ll show you the end result.
|These pictures describe quiet good the difference in each step.
Right – Original state
Below left – Rinsed off and tooth brushed
Below right – Cleaned with gasoline
After putting everything back together and connecting power and network it still worked. Well, not as good as new but still worked. Port 1 and 2 on the LAN side are still dead most probably because of the water sipping under the coils for those ports and I can probably only remove it by de-soldering the coil chip. But port 3, 4 and WAN works fine as far as I can tell and that’s sufficient as there will only be one computer connected by wire.
The Wi-Fi works better but not as it used to do. On my WRT54gs at home I get -10dB 1m away and on this Linksys WRT54g I only get -45dB. Then again, it’s enough for my friends house and his laptops work fine in all rooms.
In my case cleaning the equipment solved the problem and turned a dead (bricked) Linksys router into one that worked well enough. I know people who has cleaned laptops after cola spill, others that has salvaged stationary computers after a cat has done its thing in it, and my experience is that unless you have an insurance company that is willing to buy you a new one then this is definitely worth a try.
What you got to loose? If it’s broken then it can’t break more, right?
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