The MacBook Air, probably one of Apple’s most innovative products in recent history. I, for one, personally believe it’s one of the computers that started the ultrabook trend. It’s the first time Apple tried to do something different with its already popular form factor MacBook. It’s probably a bigger leap than any of the most recent iterations of its iPhone.

I get excited when my brother buys a new Mac. For good reason too… My brother, well, he’s not the most nurturing of his computers. As a result, it does mean that in about a year or two’s time, I get a free Mac to fix.

This MacBook Air now marks the third Mac I’ve fixed for him in recent history. But, I have a feeling this is going to be the most challenging yet. The last two computers had relatively simple issues – damaged hard disks, a pranged chassis… both of which were relatively easy to fix. They just needed new parts. This MacBook Air, however, this is a completely different story.

The Lights Are Out

Yep, this dodgy MacBook Air has a problem with the backlight. This is the first time I’ve worked on a computer that’s been somewhat water damaged. In fact, this would be the first time I’ve worked on a machine that may involve some soldering work.

To be completely honest, I’m glad this opportunity has come around. I’ve always told myself to go ahead and learn to solder, well, this is that chance. As well as that, I’ve been looking for an excuse to use a £20 Amazon gift voucher… so why not get a soldering kit?

As with my previous “Project X” overview, I’m going to try my best to explain a few things and how I plan on fixing them.

The Likely Culprit

If watching any of Louis Rossmann’s videos has taught me anything… it’s more than likely the backlight fuse. That’s because this issue is usually caused by water damage. Why have I come to this conclusion? Well, it just so happens my brother travelled with his MacBook Air kept in a bag along with a bottle of water. I’m just putting 2 and 2 together here, it’s almost too much of a coincidence.

It’s not always necessarily linked to that, though. But that will be for me to test when my equipment arrives. The problem is, as it’s been water damaged, there’ll more than likely be more than one issue. A simple search on the iFixit forums for MacBook Air backlight issues is more than enough to show the complexity of this issue.

What Do I Already Know?

The system works almost flawlessly. Almost

Whereas the system boots and runs apps brilliantly, there can be a little bit of a hitch. It seems like there’s an occasional power outage when booting and can cause the system to just drop completely and shut down. However, once it’s passed the boot stage and you’re logged in, it seems to be running perfectly fine.

I’ve managed to hook the MacBook Air up to a monitor to confirm whether everything is working. So far, it seems to be just fine.

The MacBook Air with a blank screen connected to an external monitor showing the desktop in macOS.

I’m also aware that the machine is filthy. It had some built up grime over regular use and I’m sure some of that had seeped its way inside. Naturally, this is bad news for the future degradation of the MacBook Air. To top things off, the aluminium shell is in a rather tatty condition. So, as well as fixing the main issue, it’s also going to need a cleaning overhaul.

It Kind Of Works…

This is really interesting, only because I haven’t seen this posted anywhere else. The MacBook Air’s backlight does work. Just rather intermittently… It flickers.

This isn’t anything new, in fact, there’s a rather good diagnosis with a little bit of trial and error in one of Louis Rossmann’s videos. But, with that particular computer being worked on, I can only assume it starts like that every time. There’s a slightly different method to get this MacBook Air’s backlight flickering:

Don’t be fooled, the screen of this MacBook Air actually flickers rather erratically.

It starts with diagnostics. Running Apple Diagnostics upon starting the Mac by pressing “D” brings forward some unexpected results. It will run through the test as normal – no backlight. But once it finishes the diagnostics test and the MacBook is powered off by the power button and then back on again, it will start with a rather flickery backlight.

This is something I’d love to follow up on so I might try a few forums for some answers on this.

My Little Soldering Adventure

As mentioned earlier, this MacBook Air is more than likely going to need some soldering work done. Whereas I could hire a professional to fix this for me, that defeats the object of attempting to fix by myself. I’m not expecting great results from my first attempts at soldering. Hence the reason for me buying a basic soldering kit along with a practice board to get started.

I’m going on a soldering adventure to get to grips before tackling this MacBook Air. However, while I am leading up to the task, I’m going to try and diagnose the fault. Thankfully, the schematics were rather easy to find, I just need to work out what it all means and work our how to measure voltages with my multimeter. I’m very new to all of this…

Although, I do think it’s going to be quite a bit of fun learning to solder. I’ve only ever soldered once in my life, and that was way back in high school. I can’t remember if what I made was particularly good or bad, but it worked, I remember that rather fondly. Naturally, I’m going to need some more equipment if I want to get the MacBook repaired to a satisfactory condition.

So, like the iMac project, this isn’t one of those projects that’s going to be completed in a few weeks. However, it’s going to give me a chance to film my soldering journey, hopefully we’ll see an improvement over time.

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