I should have bought the AppleCare. Damn it!
May 20, 2007 11:13 PM   Subscribe

My 13-month-old MacBook Pro broke. Can you guess? Yeah, the AppleCare warranty had just expired. The fan made a horrible "playing card in the bicycle tire spokes" sound for about 60 seconds, then stopped forever.

The machine still runs just fine, except that the fan isn't running at all, so after about an hour or two, the machine gets too hot and turns itself off.

I ran Apple Hardware Test on it, from the OS X install DVD that came with the machine, and it reported the following very long error:
Google says it's the fan, but Apple's Genius says it's my logic board. The system is out of AppleCare, so Apple wants $1259 to fix it (it would be $310, but Apple is claiming there was liquid damage to the laptop, which there categorically wasn't, but that's a whole 'nother story. Whatever, ).


1. Is Google right, or is Apple right? I think Apple's logic board theory is wrong, since the system works fine right up until it overheats due to lack of ventilation. Am I overlooking something? I looked at iFixit's disassembly photos and the fan and logic board look like separate components. The Apple Genius was claiming they're inseperable.

2. Oh, you say it really is the logic board and I should listen to Apple? Fine. I'm handy with electronics, so I want to try to fix it myself rather than spending $1259. I've found a few logic boards on eBay, and iFixit sells 'em too. Can you recommend any other outfits? eBay is sketchy-ish but the price is right; iFixit wants $900 which is out of question. Is there a happy middle? When I search Google, the majority of the results are news stories about Apple's sketchy logic boards.

3. Can I install a Core 2 Duo logic board, or won't it fit? I had a 1.83 ghz Core Duo board with the 128 MB ATI card. I figure I might as well upgrade it a bit. I'm worried they reengineered the inside of the case and a C2D board won't fit.

Special Bonus Question: Meanwhile, I bought a MacBook. I used an iSkin Protouch silicone keyboard cover with the MacBook Pro. Has the state of the art advanced or is this still the best thing to get to protect my MacBook's keyboard, too?

In conclusion, yes, I have learned my lesson, and in the future I will purchase extended AppleCare coverage for 3 years.
posted by evariste to Computers & Internet (25 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You and Google area absolutely correct; it would appear to be the fan as the machine boots, will run diagnostics and apparently OS X until it overheats.

I'd suggest a different approach than trying to replace either the fan or logic board yourself. WRITE A LETTER TO APPLE!.

The Genius messed up, and this could have led to an even more costly mistake. Document this, document everything in writing from this point on, start kicking a fuss up and accept nothing less than Apple fixing the machine.

Claiming the logic board was toast and the fan assembly is an integral part isn't what I'd expect from Apple's premier front line staff (i.e., The Genius Bar). These are the points you have to make, perhaps repeatedly, until Apple fixes it.
posted by Mutant at 11:22 PM on May 20, 2007

have you brought it into a repair shop? they will generally take a look at it for a minimal fee and then you can decide from there whether to go ahead with the repair or not if it's too expensive.
posted by violetk at 11:28 PM on May 20, 2007

1. I don't have an answer for your non-question

1a. but, generally speaking, fuck the Apple genius. Send it [ the machine] in, Apple, will overnight you the packing material.

2. I sent in my Powerbook recently , and Apple replaced it with a Macbook Pro, free of charge.


So look, just tell Apple you don't know what happened, please fix your computer. And call them every day, and insist you need it repaired for work/business/life/etc.

If you try to lawyer them, they will win. Just be cool, and talk to a supervisor - 1-800-275-2273
posted by four panels at 11:29 PM on May 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

ps: i have always purchased extended care service on apple products. in year two of my powerbook ownership, my logic board did crap out and they took care of it.
posted by violetk at 11:32 PM on May 20, 2007

Response by poster: Mutant-thanks, I appreciate the vote of confidence. At this point, I don't really want Apple to fix it, for free or for money. I have a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

When it was shipped off to Apple's repair depot, the Genius noted that the machine ran on the repair contract I signed, and he also noted that there was no visible liquid damage. I have a copy of this.

Checking my repair status a few days ago, it said it needed me to contact AppleCare immediately. I did, and the guy claimed there was evidence of liquid damage on the LCD and keyboard. First of all, I've never spilled a drop of anything on it, second of all, I only ever used it with the iSkin on it which would have caught any stray droplets, and third, if there really was any liquid damage on such obvious places as the keyboard and LCD, shouldn't the Genius have spotted them? Anyway, they want $1259 instead of $310 to fix it, and they emailed me pictures of some kind of brown residue inside the case that they say proves their liquid damage theory. I think it's just the way dust looks when very high heat is applied to it.

They say they have to replace the LCD, keyboard, logic board, and bottom case. All those things are working fine and don't need replacing. I'm not really here to complain about how Apple's treating me, I should have bought the extended AppleCare and I really don't have much recourse, so I just want to fix it rather than arguing with Apple over why I deserve for them fix it for free. I figure by the time I win that argument, I'll have long since fixed my own Mac.
posted by evariste at 11:38 PM on May 20, 2007

Response by poster: four panels, violetk: sorry, I guess I wasn't totally clear with what's happened so far. I've already sent it into Apple's repair depot; that's where the $1259 quote came from. The initial $310 repair quote (from the Genius at the store) was supposedly a flat out-of-warranty fee to fix anything and everything wrong with it, but then they told me to contact AppleCare because they couldn't honor that deal after finding alleged evidence of liquid damage, which disqualifies my Mac from the flat-rate repair deal.
posted by evariste at 11:41 PM on May 20, 2007

i meant to take it into an independent shop for an assessment. i wouldn't necessarily automatically go with just apple's opinion either.
posted by violetk at 11:47 PM on May 20, 2007

Response by poster: violetk-gotcha. Well, the urgency to fixing it is gone since I bought a MacBook to replace it. Now it's a tinkering project, so I don't mind fixing it myself. I figure I'll start with the left fan, then if that doesn't do the trick, I'll shell out $300-400 to replace the logic board.

An independent repair shop might be able to get me a better price on parts than iFixit, so that is a good suggestion. It won't hurt to ask.
posted by evariste at 11:51 PM on May 20, 2007

Best answer: The fan is a separate component, but it's controlled by a component called the System Management Controller (SMC), which is on the logic board. If the fan isn't kicking in due to a mechanical failure (i.e., burned out fan motor) then you can replace the fan without having to bother with the logic board, but if it isn't kicking in because the computer doesn't think it needs to, that's a bad SMC, and therefore the logic board needs to be replaced.

I believe (but have no proof) that Apple's policy is to replace both the logic board and the fan rather than test each separately.

Oh yeah, and I know you know this, but for those playing along at home: always buy the manufacturer's extended warranty for a laptop, no matter what manufacturer. Just consider it part of the purchase price.
posted by jjg at 11:56 PM on May 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh, now that's a useful tidbit. So it really could be the logic board, or a combination of both the fan and board.
posted by evariste at 12:05 AM on May 21, 2007

If you sent it in, they must have tried this, but here it is anyway: Resetting the MacBook SMC.
posted by jjg at 12:28 AM on May 21, 2007

Best answer: Most U.S. cities have shops with techs who do out-of-warranty repairs on Macs. (The honest techs are deliberately not certified by Apple, because doing so obligates them to observe Apple's repair procedures.)

Apple controls the channels for components, so the only way to get parts is through the greymarket. This is why they're expensive even through resellers. Somebody selling a board for 1/3 the price is either scamming or pulling it from an already-dead computer, and the board might or might not have been affected by its death.
posted by ardgedee at 4:37 AM on May 21, 2007

Did you purchase it with a Credit Card? Many credit cards double the manufacturer warranty, so they'll foot the bill to get it replaced. I've fixed many a Mac Laptop in the second year this way.
posted by AaRdVarK at 5:21 AM on May 21, 2007

Best answer: The usual cause of card-in-the-spokes sounds from computer fans, btw, is pretty much just that - the fan has sucked in something that's got stuck in the blades; maybe a bit of paper, or a loose staple off your desk? Have you had a good hard squint at the fan and made sure there's nothing jammed in it?
posted by flabdablet at 5:54 AM on May 21, 2007

Best answer: I can at least partially confirm some of the above: One of my MBP fans failed, and they replaced the board AND the fan. Whether they do this as policy or if it was my specific case, I cannot say, but....
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 6:17 AM on May 21, 2007

Best answer: I just got my MBP pro back from the Apple jerks (11 months, barely still under warranty for the exact same issue). When I first took it in, the "Genius" took one look at it (aka opened up the RAM slot) and said that it looked like there was water damage. I said that's impossible. He continued to look at it from different angles and pretended to do things, and finally I said that it looks like carbon dust -- because, guess what, my fan is broken.

Then he proceeded to tell me that the logic board most likely needed replacing because of the water damage (which he still was pretty adamant about). Anyway, I let those guys take my computer, and when I picked it up I asked about the water damage and the logic board. Surprise surprise, they were both non-issues. Only the fan was replaced.

Of course, I didn't have a computer for 3 days, and there was no way that they'd sell me a logic board or a replacement fan so I could do it myself.

As for what you should do, I'd recommend shelling out for AppleCare right now to extend that warranty. And if you are somehow comfortable with replacing the fan and have instructions on how to do it (without voiding your warranty) then go ahead.

(And how do they know you opened up your computer anyway?)
posted by ruwan at 6:43 AM on May 21, 2007

Best answer: I just had a similar set of fan issues. 11 month old MBP, fan noise, then temp spike. I called apple, resetting it got the fans started again but the temp stayed up. I brought it into the apple store near me and got it tested. The fans were working... but just barely. The person at the genius bar ordered fans and a new board. When I got it back, they had not installed a new board, only the fan. I have complained, I guess mainly to establish a paper trail.
posted by RMD at 7:01 AM on May 21, 2007

Most U.S. cities have shops with techs who do out-of-warranty repairs on Macs. (The honest techs are deliberately not certified by Apple, because doing so obligates them to observe Apple's repair procedures.)

Only if the tech is working for an Apple Authorized Service Provider would this be an issue. There's no real "obligation" involved. Certification just shows to the company that one is skilled enough to perform repairs.

I have certification on Apple desktops and laptops, but off work, I can do as much out-of-warranty work as I please. You can possess an Apple certification and go to work for a non-AASP shop, same thing applies.
posted by porn in the woods at 7:23 AM on May 21, 2007

Best answer: I just want to echo one tangential bit of your post. I had problems with a cellphone and when I sent it in they told me it had water damage and wanted to charge me a chunk of cash. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the phone hadn't gotten any water damage and went back and forth with the company. The problem is that the company has an incentive to lie (i.e., with water damage, they expect the customer to front money, but they have to swallow replacement costs if it is a manufacturer error). Long story short, I fought the hell out of it, got the third-party manufacturer to back up that there had not been water damage and cingular, sans apology, finally dropped the charge. Long story short, it is possible for consumers to win the water damage fight, but I'm curious if there are any attorney generals or class action attorneys who've systematically looked at the "water damage" excuse.
posted by history is a weapon at 8:15 AM on May 21, 2007

Best answer: Funny. I just had to sign up to metafilter just to comment on your question, given that I was in a similar situation very recently. My ibook started having severe kernel panics and freezing, making it completely unusable. I have applecare and brought it to my local genius bar where after leaving the computer for 24 for "observation" - I was informed that I need a new logic board and that Apple would NOT honor the applecare because of "liquid damage." There has never been any liquid damage to my computer. However, the "genius" was adamant that I spilled coffee or some such other sticky substance all over my computer and that was why I was having kernel panics. I've never spilled anything on my ibook. Ever. Anyway, I began to investigate this online and noticed that there were other people with the SAME EXACT problem... and were turned away by the "genius" at Apple because of "liquid damage." I finally contacted an independent third party applecare specialist (there are hundreds of them) who replaced my logic board-- no questions asked under applecare. I asked about the liquid damage and he laughed, saying that it was one of the cleanest ibooks he had ever seen. So... before you go taking the "genius" word as gospel, go see one of the applecare certified folk--- you'll certainly end up paying (out of warranty)--- however, you may just get by with the flat fee repair charge. A list of certified apple techs is available online... as luck would have it, mine was only 1 block from my home. Good luck.
posted by starsixnine00 at 1:35 PM on May 21, 2007

Response by poster: starsixnine00-do you have a link to the list? Thanks!
posted by evariste at 1:54 PM on May 21, 2007

http://www.apple.com/buy/locator/service.html -- just ignore the apple store locations.
posted by starsixnine00 at 2:00 PM on May 21, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you very much.
posted by evariste at 2:03 PM on May 21, 2007

Best answer: Here is the directory of Apple Certification Alliance members, encompassing portable and desktop service as well as higher-end certs, such as Apple Certified System Administrator. Search by ZIP and you can email techs directly.
posted by porn in the woods at 3:06 PM on May 22, 2007

Response by poster: Followup: I ended up successfully doing my own repair. I bought replacement fans. I needed to replace both, which I found out by replacing them one at a time. Installing them is easy with iFixit's guides. iFixit only sold the left fan, and We Love Macs only sold the right one, so I had to buy them separately. Around $50 each, plus shipping.
posted by evariste at 3:33 PM on August 8, 2007

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