I Spilled a Full Cup of Coffee on my MacBook Air – Tutorial

That’s what I said… I SPILLED A FULL CUP OF COFFEE ON MY 2013 MACBOOK AIR!!!!!
Read on to find out how to get your Macbook Air working again if you spill coffee or another liquid on it and it shuts off. First thing to know, DO NOT try to power it on until you dry it out. This can cause a short in your circuits and permanent damage. UNPLUG IT, FLIP IT OVER, and then follow the steps below.

How to Handle Spilled Coffee/Coke/Other Liquid on a Macbook Air

This section outlines the actual process that I followed after spilling coffee on my MacBook Air. I’m not a computer expert, but I actually did this, and my computer was DRENCHED.

spilled-liquid-macbook3 I know because once I got to the step of opening it up, 3 days after the spill, it was still wet inside and the wetness was under the fan (will get to that below).

I am writing this post from the still sticky keys of my MacBook Air just 3 days after spilling a cup of coffee on it.

Steps:

Your goal here is to let the MacBook dry, open it up, clean and dry the parts, then unplug and re-plug the battery. Once you are able to replug the battery, the computer should start up again.

  • Let it Dry then Wait. Flip the laptop over and allow as much liquid as possible to drain off of it.
    • Don’t panic. Act fast.
    • DO NOT wipe it off!! Just flip it over onto a towel in the position shown below and let it drip. Note that you want to coax the liquid to drain out at an angle away from the components which are housed at the top of the laptop. Try to get it going out of the front lower left corner near the trackpad.
    • IMG_0001

    • If you start wiping, you run the risk of pushing the liquid into the inner components.
    • It could take all day for all of the liquid to drip out. But be patient and keep checking it until all of the dripping stops.
    • After the dripping has slowed considerably, you can towel it off and clean the outside, but try to keep it in position down so that no liquid drains into the inner components.
      Some might advise that you start drying it immediately. All I can say is that I didn’t do this. I didn’t risk damaging the components by blow drying it or trying to open it up too soon. I just wanted as much liquid as possible to naturally drip off of the computer.
    • Before you walk away leaving the machine to dry, take off the cover if you have one and make sure the machine is powered off and unplugged with all peripherals removed. Still try to do all of this with the machine in drainage position and angled so that liquid will run away from the upper section near the top keys. At no point do you want to give the liquid a chance to drip into the important components.
    • DO NOT try to power it on until you are done with all the steps.
      Attempting to power on can cause a short on wet components.
    • Also note that you are much better off if the liquid you spilled doesn’t have any sugar in it, but all is not lost if it does. My coffee had a ton of honey in it and cream.

  • Prepare your Tools. While you wait for the machine to drip dry, gather/buy/order your tools:
    • Tweezers – use to help lift components or remove stuck screws.
    • A Pentalobe Screwdriver Set 5 Point Star
      I could not find this in a store so I had to order it on Amazon with 2nd Day shipping.
      You can’t do anything until you have this, so get it right away.
      Notice how the screws have 5 points.
      Macbook Pro Screws
    • A precision screwdriver set – usually these sets do not include a five-point pentalobe screwdriver, so you need both sets.
      You need one small flat head to help pry things.
      You can use this in place of a spudger. You also need the three types of heads shown below:
      Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 6.38.44 PM
      IMG_0002_2
    • Rubbing alcohol
    • Cotton Swabs (Q-Tips), Cotton Balls and/or Tissues
    • Paper Towels
    • A heart full of Courage – Saying a prayer can’t hurt.
    • I got this from the site where I found instructions on what to do, and boy was he right! This is going to take guts… the terms and conditions of Apple’s warranty exclude damages due to liquid spills, among other things. This means that you will have to bear the repair costs. This also means that if you’ve had a spill accident in the past, even if your Mac is working perfectly fine after the spill but has to be repaired for some other reason later on down the line – Apple has the right to refuse warranty. So you either try this, or take it to the geniuses or a repair shop and pay them to try it for you. If I could do it, you can do it (as long as your laptop is still salvageable).

  • Disassemble and Clean. Open and disassemble the MacBook Air according to the instructions on iFixit.com. By the time I did this step my Mac had been drying for three days because I had to wait for my Pentalobe screwdriver to arrive. You might do it sooner, but you also may need to do more drying.
    • This tutorial gets you all the way to removing the fan.
    • As you complete each step, carefully look for the spilled liquid and clean and dry each part using the Q-Tips or Tissues as appropriate and the rubbing alcohol.
    • If you think you need to try and disassemble more of it to clean more, follow the other tutorials.
      I only went as far as removing the battery and cleaning under the fan. I couldn’t get the trackpad off completely because one of the screws was too tight, but I loosened it and cleaned around it as much as I could. That was enough for me to get things working based on my spill.
    • TIP 1: Take pictures of the components and the locations of the screws as you go. This helps a lot when you are ready to reassemble.
    • TIP 2: Keep track of your screws. Lay everything on a towel in the order that you take it out so that you can simply put it back in reverse order.
  • Moment of Truth. After you’ve cleaned and dried everything you can see, plug the battery back in and put it back into position. DO NOT put the screws back yet.
  • Power up. Plug in the power adapter and see if the green or orange light comes on.
    If the light comes on you are on your way!
  • Start the machine.
    • Try starting the machine normally by pushing the power button.
    • If simply pushing the power button doesn’t work, try a hard boot (press the (on the LEFT SIDE) Shift-Control-Option keys and the power button at the same time).

      Your MacBook should power on at this point.

      If yes, Congratulations!!!

      If no, try opening it up again and doing more cleaning. Make sure you unplug the battery again before you go back in!

  • Test. Shut down and restart the computer to make sure that it can actually boot back up using the start button.
  • Reassemble. Shut down the computer again then reassemble the back of the computer by following the directions in reverse order and replacing the screws and components that were removed.
  • (Optional) Clean the keyboard keys. You may want to remove the keys on your keyboard and clean under them. Put the keys in warm soapy water to clean them off, then lay them out to dry on a towel. This is only needed if they are excessively sticky. Take pictures of the keyboard before you start so that you know where to put everything back.

In my final act of dumb-ness I managed to lose the bag where I was keeping the screws from the back panel of the laptop. Don’t Lose Your Screws!

How Did you Spill Coffee On Your Precious Macbook Air anyway?

It was just another day at the home office. I was set up on the couch with two work computers to my right and my personal MacBook Air to my left (on the couch).

Why did I leave it open and put it on the coffee table? Why did I put my full cup of coffee right in front of it? WHY did I make that one fateful too sudden move knocking the cup of coffee over causing all of the contents to spill onto the keyboard??!?!?!?

Why oh god why did I never back this thing up? WHY did I recently move all of my files which were safely stored on Dropbox onto the local Documents folder?

So many mistakes. But don’t lose hope. I am writing this post from the still sticky keys of my Macbook Air just 3 days after spilling a cup of coffee on it. It still stinks of that gross old coffee smell, but I guess that will be a constant reminder not to be careless.

I keep having these waves of gratitude. I can’t believe I got a second chance and I’m sitting here using my MacBook Air again!! Wow.

I’d love to hear your story, especially if you use this process to successfully fix your laptop. Please share in the comments!!

How to Prevent Damage to your MacBook Air or other Laptop

Don’t let an unfortunate incident like this happen to you in the first place. Be careful, be smart, and back up.

  • Get a keyboard protector!
  • Use a case
  • Back up your computer using Time Machine
  • Use cloud storage such as Dropbox, Google Drive, or Box
  • Make sure you have the proper screw drivers and tools mentioned above on hand in case of emergency
  • Back up! (this bears repeating)
  • Be careful!!!! No liquids sitting in front of an open laptop, ever. NEVER!

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