Gatorade on a digicam... too corrosive to salvage?
September 24, 2006 6:40 AM   Subscribe

Gatorade on a digicam... too corrosive to salvage?

A coworker spilled Gatorade on his $300 digital camera and has given it to me since I claim I can maybe fix it. I tried soaking it in bottled water, as has worked on cell phones before, but it didn't work. Another AskMe thread mentioned a Gatorade spill corroding electronics....

is this camera salvageable? Is there something that might remove the corrosion inside?
posted by trinarian to Technology (4 answers total)
Since Gatorade is basically salt water, there's the corrosion aspect of it, and then there's the electrical potential of the solution. Gatorade conducts electricity a heck of a lot better than just water, so it may have caused shorts which may have destroyed sensitive circuitry.

If it didn't destroy the electronics, it may still just be gunked up, since Gatorade dries sticky. You'll have to tear it apart and wash it good - most digicams are many layers of parts, all sandwiched together.

Follow a disassembled water washing with an alcohol (>90%) bath and make sure everything is completely dry before reassembling and powering on.
posted by tomierna at 7:31 AM on September 24, 2006

I'd also be willing to bet that the digicam suffered damage immediately when the Gatorade hit it, since there are probably circuits that are electrically active even when the camera's turned off (i.e., the clock, and maybe the flash capacitor). Most cellphones, when turned off, are truly OFF, meaning that they are a bit more tolerant of spills if they happen when they're turned off. I'd bet that this isn't the case with cameras and the like.

Of course, I might be talking out of my ass.
posted by delfuego at 9:48 AM on September 24, 2006

No, delfuego, you hit it on the nose.

The big problem is that flash capacitor, which is probably a cap in the 300V, 300μF range. That's a lot of power that, if shorted out across the camera's control electronics, would almost certainly have destroy them. Heck, shorting that cap out with your finger hurts badly.

You can try high grade isopropyll alcohol, but that might destroy the LCD. My bet is that the camera died hard, but opening it up and inspecting the board would be the only way to be sure -- and you might not actually see any damage.
posted by eriko at 10:46 AM on September 24, 2006

Sounds like you have already tried to power it up. Technically, you should be cleaning it out first.. Of course at some point you have to try it, or what's the point :P

So, when you tried to turn it on, what happened?

There are moving parts, and very likely reed switches that detect when the appropriate motion has happened (or optical encoders, or something I haven't thought of?). So, there is a lot of mechanical stuff to clean. To save time, what you need is a shortcut that can indicate if there is electrical damage.. Even then, cleaning all of those tiny little gears and all of the groves in those tiny little encoders, and then putting it back together right.. That is going to be very hard!

You might try measuring the input current. However, the start up sequence is going to be complicated, and there are probably a whole bunch of failure modes, so there may not be any useful information available that way..

I'm thinking that, if it tries to turn on at all - indicated by a short duration high current draw or flashing/whirring/whatever - but quits, there is a good chance it is a mechanical problem. If it doesn't ever draw any current, and never shows any indication of getting power, there might be a blown fuse (which sounds promising, but it won't be easy to find, it will be hard to find a replacement part, and it will be very hard to solder). If it draws more than tens of milliamps constantly, but the LCD is off and no motors are whirring, there is a short - it might be stray Gatorade, but more likely a blown IC.
posted by Chuckles at 4:14 PM on September 24, 2006

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