Curing wobble wear on a laptop

I have a Compaq Evo N610C laptop. The power plug one day started getting hot, the motherboard was making this god aweful squealing noise, and the computer would die randomly. The culprit turned out to be a broken solder on a pin in the DC power jack in the back of the laptop. With some solder work and a little help from our old friend JB Weld we can repair and make sure it never happens again.

"Wobble Wear" is a condition that forms when the notebook manufacturer makes poor design decisions and doesn't take into account the abuse you are going to put on your notebook. We all lounge around the home or office with our laptop in precarious positions. Most of the time your power AC/DC plug is stretched and contorted. On some laptops however all this wobbling and moving around can break the solder loose on one of the elecrical pins. This happens because there is no other means of support for the jack other than its pin connectors.

I have a Compaq Evo N610C notebook. The battery lasts maybe 15 minutes on it. I rely on my AC adapter PSU. Over time it started developing a squealing noise coming from inside the laptop. If I didn't reposition the plug it would eventually cause my laptop to die. I took it apart one time and bent the offending dc jack pin over onto the solder pot to give me a temporary fix. Four day ago my fix ended when I couldn't get the laptop to recognize it was plugged in and it died on me. What to do.

I went to Radio Shack and picked up some tools. By the way, Radio Shack used to be nerd paradise. Now it's all cell phones and crap. Anyway, this is the supplies I got while I was there.

A 15 watt soldering iron - $7.99USD
small diameter silver bearing solder. The low heat kind that only requires 475F to melt. - $3.85USD
a set of soldering tools - $3.99USD

The other tools are listed as follows since I already had them.

Precision screwdriver set
JB Weld brand cold steel epoxy

It's better to get your tools together first so you won't forget anything at a bad time.

Basically what I was about to do was tear the laptop down to just the motherboard, resolder the broken pin and re-enforce the other two pins on the jack with more solder. then seal the plastic jack to the motherboard with JB Weld so it wouldn't ever wiggle again.

Let's get started.

Go ahead and remove any components from your laptop that aren't screwed in. Things such as the Optical Drive, battery, storage drive, etc.

All notebooks come apart differently so yours may vary greatly in the process of taking it apart. To learn how mine opened I inspected it carefully and used my precision hook to pry on it in suspected clip locations to remove panels. You must be careful not to break anything. Mine has a bunch of little screws of carying drives and sizes.

It is VERY important to keep up with which screws go to what. To do this I normally lay my screws out in the same general pattern as I removed them from the notebook like in the following picture.

Once you have the outer shell screws off you can remove the keyboard by sliding down on the clips along the top and making sure you removed its screw from the back panel when you removed the others. There are 4 more screws once you remove the upper button panel and keyboard. When you remove the upper button panel there are two small plugs on my model for the speakers and quicklaunch feautres. Unclip them carefully if you have them.

Once you remove those 4 screws you can raise the screen off of the chassis once you disconnect it's plug. You can then pop the whole top cover off the the notebook but be careful. The plugs for the touchpad are delicate and aren't very long. Carefully use a precision hook to disconnect them.

Once you have the top cover off you can easily see the culprit but cannot get to where you need to be, as seen in the picture here

 (I know the camera doesn't do closeup shots but it's the little black plastic square to the right of the modem jack.)

There are 3 screws holding the motherboard onto the bottom cover. You can tell which ones they are because there are small copper colored rings made onto the motherboard for them to lock down onto. One is visible above the jack in the above picture slightly to the right, the screw is black.

Once you have the motherboard lifted out of the frame you can gently unsnap the modem extension wire from the frame to give yourself more room to work. You'll need to flip the board over to get to the pins on the jack itself like in the following picture.

I hope at this point you know how to solder but if you don't I'll go over what I did. I let my iron get hot while I took the solder tools and cleaned the contacts on the pot where the pin resides. When it was shiny and clean I drew a small bead of solder up onto my iron and sat it on the pin. I let the iron heat the pin up and i very so gently moved the tip of the iron around to get it to run down the pin and onto the pot. I used the tip of the iron to smooth out a few burrs that formed and made sure no solder created a bridge to any other pot near it. Pretty easy. I did it to the other pin that looked weak and only one didn't need any attention.

After close inspection I saw it was a strong joint and was ready to go. But remember it came from the factory like this and it broke last time. We need to fix that. JB Weld is a substance that I believe should be in every glove box in every car in the world and even on the NASA space shuttles. You can form something out of it, then tap and die it. I use it on car parts like engine blocks in the garage. It's a non conductive material. What we are going to use it for is to epoxy the jack onto the motherboard so it never wiggles loose again.

To mix JB Weld is simple, it comes in two tubes. An epoxy and a hardener, kinda like Bondo. Well you simply spread a mixture of the two in 50/50 ratio onto a surface and mix them up until they are a uniform gray color like so:

 As you can see I reused the solder packaging as a palette to mix it.

I then used a small lolipop handle to apply the JB Weld to the DC jack around its base where it meets with the motherboard. It looks like a small bead of caulk you would use on a bath tub or sink. I let it dry for 24 hours to make sure it would never move again. Then I carefully reassembled the notebook making sure I reconnected all the ribbons and harnesses correctly.

In conclussion I have a fully repaired notebook. I even used it to write this report and am very pleased with the results. Most people who throw a laptop away over something this simple. You can always Do it Yourself. Or pay one of the Gods of NOS to do it for you.


Written by Ghost on 2015-01-22 18:20:37

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