Can You Repair a Water Damaged Phone

Tech Tips

iPhone/Cell Phone Water Damage Introduction

Water damage can happen to anyone. Any liquid can wreck havoc on your electronics and potentially send them to an early watery grave. If your phone has taken a dive and doesn’t seem to be working, you’re probably wondering what your options are.  If your manufacturer’s warranty doesn’t cover water damage and you don’t want to get a brand new device, it’s lucky that you’ve found uBreakiFix. We’ve got you covered. We can tell you everything you need to know about water damage and why you should rely on us to fix your iPhone, smartphone, tablet or even your laptop.  


Our water damage service is one of our most common repairs and we’ve been able to successfully return thousands of smartphones and tablets to their anxious owners as good as new.


This short guide will tell you everything you need to know about water damage and the consequences of leaving your phone unchecked after something happens. With that said, if your phone is currently in a bag of rice because of an altercation with water, time is of the essence. We offer a free diagnostics on all devices, which will tell you exactly the state of your device and an obligation-free quote detailing exactly what it will take to resuscitate it. To find your closest location, check out the list here.


If you’re just browsing and all your devices are safe and sound, please read on!

In this guide you will find everything you ever wanted to know about water damage such as:

  • What exactly is considered water damage?
  • How is water damage repaired?
  • What should I do if my phone is water damaged?
  • and much more!


Water Damage Sensors

All smartphones have water damage sensors spread throughout the inside of them. The purpose of these sensors is to determine if water or any liquid has come in contact with the delicate hardware of the phone.


As an example, let’s look at the water damage sensors on the iPhone 6. However, water damage sensors function similarly in most devices.  


The water damage sensors in the iPhone are small adhesive pads that start out white, but turn irreversibly red or pink when exposed to dangerous levels of moisture. The sensors help technicians and providers determine if the iPhone was exposed to liquid before or after it was manufactured. Usually warranties do not cover water damage so the presence of moisture or a tripped sensor will inhibit your ability to have the device serviced.


The iPhone 6 contains 3 liquid damage indicators: One in the SIM tray, one on the logic board and one on the back of the LCD screen. The latter two are only visible by taking the device apart.


The internal water damage sensors are located on the logic board of the iPhone. If either of these sensors are tripped, it means that your device was fully or partially submersion for a pretty long time.


The image below shows the visible upper sensor on the logic board of the iPhone 6. In the first picture it is tripped and fully red and in the second picture it is white and untripped.


Though Apple and other manufacturers may refuse warranty service if your water damage sensors are tripped, uBreakiFix take a look at it regardless of tripped water damage sensors.




Damage Caused to an iPhone or Cell Phone by Water

When a device comes into contact with water, two major issues occur. The first is an electrical short circuit. This happens when electrical current is allowed to travel along an unplanned path. Below is an example of a simple circuit where a battery powers a lightbulb.


A simple circuit where current travels correctly from the positive terminal of battery though a light bulb and back to the negative terminal


Current travels from the positive terminal of the battery through the light bulb and back to the negative terminal. The current from the positive terminal will look to reach the negative terminal as easily as possible. The only way to do this is through the light bulb which forces current through the filament in the bulb and produces light. Now, imagine a drop of water has fallen in the circuit like the one shown below.




A simple circuit where a short circuit caused by water does not allow the light bulb to function.

A short circuit on a disposable camera flash


Thanks to the water droplet, the current has found an easier or less resistive path from the positive terminal to the negative terminal. Water can be very conductive and electric current always chooses the path of least resistance. In this situation, the current never reaches the light bulb and the circuit is shorted.


iPhone logic boards have thousands of these complex circuits and even one droplet of water can have a massive effect your phone’s functionality. With thousands of possible short circuits, damage caused by water in an iPhone can be completely unpredictable. It is often impossible to tell exactly what damage has been done on the phone without an in-depth diagnosis.


Let’s look at some of the other consequences of a short circuit. Like we showed above, if the drop of water stays on the circuit for too long, the battery will drain and eventually die all together. Don’t believe me? Try connecting the positive and negative terminals of a battery together. The battery will begin to get hot as it quickly discharges and eventually reaches a state where it cannot recharge. This is a very common issue in water damaged phones and if left unchecked, the lithium ion battery found in the device can be irreversibly damaged. Other parts that commonly short out are charge ports, flex cables and mechanical buttons.


The second issue that plagues a water damaged cell phone is one that you can’t detect right away. As the water in the device begins to evaporate and the phone dries out, small particles that were in the water get left behind. This leaves small deposits of residue behind on the hardware and will quickly cause corrosion. This residue and corrosion blocks important connections and creates unwanted new current paths. What’s worse is the corrosion can spread and affect other functions of the phone. On water-damage cleanings, uBreakiFix uses a proprietary process to stop corrosion build-up and remove residue. Below you can see some images of corrosion and residue build up on some critical connectors on the iPhone 6 logic board.

IMG_5978 copy

Fatal corrosion build-up on the proximity sensor connector on the iPhone 6 logic board.


What To Do if your Cell Phone is Water Damaged

Water damage can happen to anyone but knowing what to do when it happens will keep you from making any damage worse. Try to remember the following steps if your phone is exposed to water:


  1. PLEASE not attempt to turn it on! Resist all urges! This one move can cause short circuits when current is pushed through the phone while it’s still wet. To stop the flow of current, it would be ideal to remove the battery as quickly as possible, but since most batteries are internally placed on most smartphone models, most users can’t do this.
  2. Bring the water damaged device to uBreakiFix for a free water damage diagnostic as soon as possible. The sooner we receive the phone, the better our chances of fixing it. Starting the cleaning process before the residue deposits begin to form will stop corrosion before it starts.



Our Process

There are two steps in our water damage repair process. We’ll first open the device up and investigate the extent of the damage. Since turning the device on is a big no-no (see above), we won’t put your device at risk and verify full functionality until we know what we’re working with. Once we see what shape the main boards are in, we’ll give you a detailed repair quote and you can then decide whether or not to move forward with the repair.


The next step would be to put the board through our proprietary cleaning process. This process is excellent at removing residue and corrosion, even at microscopic levels.


After that, we can replace any parts that we weren’t able to save. These parts commonly include the battery, dock connectors, flex cables, the mechanical button flex cables, the proximity sensors, the ear speakers, microphones, loudspeaker, and display assemblies. The main board is the one part of most cell phones that cannot be replaced at a reasonable cost. If this part is irreversibly damaged, it would not be in your best interest to move forward with the repair.  


Once the device is fully repaired, it is returned to you and all parts that we replaced are covered under our warranty for 90-days. If any water related issues reappear in that time, we’ll do right by our work.

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