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How to waste time and money: Changing laptop backlight bulb

By robo_dev ·
There are some things you can fix, and some things that you can't.

When the display backlight lamp failed in my old trusty Compaq Armada E500, I figured I would just 'pop in a new one'.

I repair all sorts of stuff, from power supplies, to TVs to Nintendo DS units. I can do component-level repair on SMD-based devices with a pretty good success rate.

My attempt to change the backlight bulb took over an hour and the end result is that it did not work. (I'm pretty sure I damaged a ribbon cable that was adhered to the display panel with copper-foil tape).

There are repairs that are fun, fast, and easy. This is not one of those. I've changed head gaskets on car engines that were easier and took less time than this.

Everything inside this display was all glued and/or taped down with foil tape, the replacement lamp leads were a bit too long, and you even have to make sure no solder blobs are on the lamp contacts, or it won't fit back in the device.

It was a miracle that I did not break the replacement lamp..imagine a fluorescent lamp tube that is about the diameter of a toothpick and 15" long (a $20 part).

So the lesson of the day: there are 'serviceable parts' and there are 'non- serviceable parts'.

A VERY talented and skilled tech might be able to swap a LCD backlight on a laptop display, but I would guess most normal humans could not.

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If you're really dedicated to this hunk of junk,

by CharlieSpencer In reply to How to waste time and mon ...

I've got two working E500 in SC that I'll sell you cheap. You can either pay the shipping or come after them yourself. Peer mail me.

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yes, but you don't know until you try

by Tink! In reply to How to waste time and mon ...


A co-worker here had an HP flat panel monitor that suddenly wouldn't power on. I researched online and found out it was a common problem and required just replacing 3 capacitors on the board. Seemed easy enough. The co-worker went out and bought all the necessary supplies including a soldering gun.

I must say, that was one of the more difficult repairs I've ever done. Removing the capacitors was incredibly difficult as they were soldered to the board and you had to be extra careful so as to not to damage any circuitry. (he happens to enjoy repairing things too, but I ended up slapping his hands away from this job - he was just too rough! Nearly put a hole through the doggone circuits!) This job made me sorely wish soldering guns were made alot smaller.

But the repair was eventually done successfully.

All in all, you won't know for sure when a part is non-serviceable until you try or hear about someone else trying.

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Even an unsuccessful repair is a learning opportunity :)

by robo_dev In reply to yes, but you don't know u ...

A couple of tips for soldering (pun intended).

There's a product called SMDQuick that makes it much easier to desolder surface mount devices without cooking the whole device.

Also, you need the right soldering tool for the job. A Weller variable-temperature soldering station is the tool for any SMD work.

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by CharlieSpencer In reply to Even an unsuccessful repa ...

What you got stuck with when you didn't get what you really wanted.

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A few tricks with SMD

by mjd420nova In reply to How to waste time and mon ...

One of the tricks I use when dealing with SMD soldering is to attach in various areas around the devices you wish to replace, some little one inch strips of solder wick. These will help to disipate any extra heat away from the board and other devices. It looks a bit strange with little copper strips waving around but works very well. Using a large magnifier with a lamp helps to make it a bit easier to see what you're doing and having a few extra solding tips for a low wattage iron can allow you to shape and bend the tips into shapes that will fit into the areas you need to work in. Having a couple extra small padded vises and an extra iron can help hold another iron to provide some extra heat in adjoining areas when an extra hand is needed.

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