DIY Computer Repair – Hinge is Loose

bad hinge imageIf you notice that your laptop’s screen is not standing up on its own like it should or even just a few degrees off from wherever you try to set it, this usually means one of two things: either your hinges have weakened and become loose, or they have broken away from the laptop frame.

This can be an expensive repair process, whether you feel brave and want to attempt the process yourself or if you choose to hire a professional technician to handle the job for you. Labor cost isn’t usually bad, we typically charge around $80 for this sort of thing in our shop. Parts are usually the major expense.

First, you’ll need to assess the damage. Unfortunately, the only good way to do this (most of the time) is to perform a full teardown. Hinges can give out in multiple ways, and replacement part numbers can vary by model even for laptops of the same series. If you have a unit with an HDMI option, for instance, there will be 2 versions of the bottom case – one with the HDMI port opening and one without. That may sound off-topic but stay with me, it’s all relevant.

TEARDOWN

Tools:

  • A manual micro Philips screw driver is a must.  You’ll need to be able to feel the tension as you tighten the screws to get them just right.
  • A spudger – basically a small prybar designed to get in the seams between parts and pry them open. They come in many styles.  We are partial to metal ones for most laptop repairs; narrow ones for more precision and an iSesamo opener for when a softer touch is needed.
  1. Unplug the laptop and remove the battery (some are built-in on the inside, we’ll get to that).
  2. Remove all screws from the underside, making sure to check the battery compartment and taking note of the hinge areas. If you find that the hinge mount screws are flopping around loose and can’t come out, or are missing altogether, this is an excellent indicator of a damaged palmrest assembly. If one of the screws holds an optical drive in, slide that drive out and check the drive bay for screws. Remove any access panels and remove the hard drive, wireless card and RAM. Once that is all out, time to address the top side.
  3. If you have a Lenovo or Toshiba, this is when you want to check around the keyboard for additional mounting points. Toshiba usually has a bezel strop over the top edge by the FN keys. Remove it and unscrew the keyboard tabs. Lenovo may require sliding the keyboard back (check for a locking tab in the battery compartment) or have a plastic bezel under the keys that slides back to reveal mounting screws – this requires a careful touch and a thin NYLON spudger or guitar pick. Anything metal will likely scratch it and possibly break tabs off in the process.
  4. Once you have the keyboard out, remove any screws in the keyboard tray area. Pop any cables out and then carefully use a spudger to separate the top and bottom halves. We recommend tipping the laptop on its side and working very slowly to avoid popping it open and letting gravity suddenly take over. The seam should be just under the edge of the palmrest, follow it all the way around. Pay attention to the LCD at this point, you will be exposing the hinges by doing this and if they have broke away from the frame or casing this will allow the LCD assembly to fall over.

DAMAGE ASSESSMENT

bad hinge imageNow that you have a clear view of the damage, verify if either/both of the hinges are attached or separated from the laptop body. If they are not, there may be a mounting plate they were attached to that has broken loose, embedded grommets they were screwed into that have broken free, or both. This is applicable to the top and bottom halves, so look carefully. Broken grommets can be harder to identify under a mounting plate, try threading a screw in and wiggling it or if the mounting plate can be removed, do so. If the damage is in either case half, that will need to be replaced, which means all hardware will need to be transplanted, which requires putting everything back together in a new case, in the correct order, and routing cables properly.

If the casing is in good shape, look at the hinges. If they are cracked, missing parts, or loose they must be replaced. This is a much simpler repair but much less common, given the abundance of lower-cost machines available these days. Metal hinges are far harder to damage than the plastic they are frequently attached to. The absolute WORST of these repairs are the ones where a hinge breaks loose, and the resulting stress on the remaining hinge causes it to break down. One might say it goes even further, when the LID is the weak point (common with ultrabooks on account of thin frame design) but those are generally not repairable due to parts scarcity so the laptop ends up being replaced instead.

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