2017-08-29

Saving an iPhone 6 from Water Damage

The other day, my cousin was thrown into a pond with his clothes on.  You know, a really funny thing, unless, of course, he has his iPhone 6 in his pants pocket.

Panic ensued.  "Quick!  My iPhone!  It got wet and is acting all weird!  What can be done?  Should I get some rice?"

The reality is that rice cannot absorb a significant amount of water from the inside of a tightly-constructed device.   Happily, I was there, and I happened to be there with my small electronics tool kit.

The iPhone was powered up at the time it went into the drink (no surprise), and the screen was flickering. It was back at the Apple logo, and it soon fully booted.  But the display was fading in and out.

How I saved this iPhone 6:

First, I tried to power it off.  No luck!  It wasn't turning off.  Nothing was actually working.  So I grabbed my small electronics tool kit and opened up the iPhone.  I'm very familiar with iPhone disassembly and needed no instructions, but then again I've worked inside dozens of iPhones.  Most people can use the ifixit guide for help.  But remember, time is of the essence!

Upon opening, dang, there was water EVERYWHERE.

I quickly disconnected the battery and used some facial tissue to mop up some of the water.

From there, I removed the display, the SIM tray, and the logic board.  Of course it is important to keep track of all the little screws - and that's not so easy in the heat of the moment.  I continued to mop up the water along the way.

I didn't remove any other parts - so I basically had the logic board in hand.  I made sure everything was as dry as I could make it with some tissues.

The Somewhat Aggressive Dry-Out

Then I turned on the kitchen oven and set the temperature to 165 degrees.  I put the logic board alone in the oven on a piece of parchment paper and let it get nice and warm for a few hours.  I flipped the board several times over the hours to ensure there was decent airflow over the entire board.  My intent was to help quickly evaporate any hidden water remaining in, under, and around logic board components.  I left all the other parts (the housing with battery, and the display) in a safe, airy place to dry out.

Later that day I put some dry silica gel packs in  tuperware container, and then I added all the iPhone parts to the container.  I sealed it all up and let it sit for two days.

After those days went buy, I opened the tuperware container and inspected each part.  All of the little formerly-white water damage indicators were triggered red, but otherwise it all looked good, with no evidence of water and no water stains.   I re-assembled the phone and powered it up.

The phone successfully started (yay!), and then I tested each feature of the iPhone.  It worked perfectly, except that there was a little bit of staining under the glass of the display panel.

Success!  An iPhone saved from serious destruction.  I am confident that if I left the phone alone, all that water would have done a lot of damage.


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