How I fixed trackpad, keyboard after water spill on Macbook Air

posted in: Apple Products | 6

MacBook Air with not working keyboard and trackpad

In this post I explain how I fixed the trackpad and keyboard after water spill on a MacBook Air. The trackpad and keyboard stopped working completely after a very minor spill somewhere in the area of the spacebar.

Everything else in this MacBook Air kept working fine like the water damage has never happened. An external keyboard and mouse connected via one of the USB ports also functioned properly.

First of all, I removed the bottom cover to do visual inspection of the internal laptop components. For removing the bottom cover you will need a special P5 Pentalobe screwdriver.

Two screws I marked with green circles are longer than other eight screws.

Remove bottom cover

After removing the bottom cover I disconnected and removed the battery to take a closer look at the trackpad area. For removing the battery you will need a T5 Torx screwdriver.

Again, three screws I marked with green circles are longer than two other screws. Pay attention during the reassembly process.

I didn’t find any water damage on the logic board. No signs of oxidation or corrosion.

Remove MacBook Air battery

In order to troubleshoot a problem like that you have to understand how the signal goes from the keyboard and trackpad into the logic board.

In a Macbook Air the keyboard is not connected directly into the logic board. A signal from the keyboard travels into the trackpad (red arrow), after that it travels through the trackpad circuit board (green arrow) and eventually goes into the logic board though the trackpad cable (yellow arrow).

  • If the trackpad still works, but the keyboard doesn’t, it’s either bad keyboard which has to be replaced or there is a failure in the chain somewhere between the red arrow and green arrow.
  • If the trackpad acting weird (the pointer moves on its own, moves erratically, clicks by itself) but the keyboard still works, most likely it’s just a bad trackpad and replacing it with a new one will fix the issue.
  • If both stopped working at the same time (like in my case), you’ll have to take a closer look at the cables and connectors in the red-green-yellow chain.

How the signal goes from the keyboard and trackpad into the logic board

There are three connections in this chain:

  • Red rectangular- connection between the keyboard cable and the trackpad circuit board.
  • Green rectangular – connection between the circuit board and the cable.
  • Yellow rectangular – connection between the trackpad cable and the logic board.

How the trackpad and keyboard connected to the logic board

My troubleshooting steps


I disconnected the trackpad cable from the logic board. In order to release the cable you’ll have to unlock the connector by lifting up the locking tab (red arrow) and after that pull the cable out.

Be very gentle because it’s a fragile connector. The locking tab can be easily damaged if you apply too much force.

After that I looked very closely into the connector and found some evidence of the water damage inside. There was some light blue residue on the golden connectors. You’ll see on the last picture what it did to the cable.

Disconnect the trackpad cable from the logic board

I very carefully cleaned up the bluish residue on the connector pins using a soft toothbrush and 99% isopropyl alcohol.

Clean up the connector with alcohol


I disconnected the cable from the trackpad and inspected the connector. I didn’t find any water damage in there.

Disconnect cable from the trackpad


I removed the trackpad cable and set it aside for later.

Remove the trackpad cable


The last connector to inspect was for the keyboard cable. Releasing this cable can be a little bit tricky because the connector is hidden under the cable.

The keyboard cable connector hidden under the cable

Again, unlock the connector first (red arrow) and pull the cable out. I didn’t find any damage inside this connector either.

Disconnect the keyboard cable


After inspecting all the connectors, I moved to the cables. The keyboard cable looked clean and undamaged.

Inspec the keyboard cable for water damage


Now it’s time for the trackpad cable.

Inspect the trackpad cable for water damage

The end that connects to the trackpad looked great. All golden traces were intact and undamaged.

One end of the trackpad cable undamaged

The end that goes into the logic board, on the other hand, didn’t look healthy! You’ll have to use a microscope or magnifying glass to insect those traces.

As you see, in my case two traces on this end of the cable were corroded and burned.

In MacBook Air laptops this cable is a very common point of failure. There is some voltage running through the connectors and when liquid gets inside, the cable traces get damaged very easily.

I was able to fix the trackpad and keyboard issue in my water damaged MacBook Air simply by cleaning up one of the connectors and replacing a $7 cable.

The second end of trackpad cable damaged by water

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6 Responses

  1. Gina

    Fabulously detailed tutorial. Cables and connectors were all great. Unfortunately, the computer was toast.


    I spilled a small glass of Tullimore Dew (Irish whiskey) onto my MacBook keyboard and killed it. After reading the above article, I purchased a keyboard and installed it after finding that there was no problem with the flat cable connections. You need to cover this keyboard replacement job. It is a JOB. Around the periphery are 39 teeny screws – no problem. But distributed throughout the key area are 50 teeny rivets that hold the stainless keyboard part to the aluminum frame. These have to be pried out with a big screwdriver. Most of them come out, but some lose a little ring, leaving just a tiny post sticking up. After the whole thing is finally removed, the little posts remaining have to be pulled out with diagonal pliers. The keyboard seller provides 50+ teeny screws which miraculously thread into the unthreaded little holes to hold the keyboard in place. They just sort of self-tap into the frame. There were no instructions for all of this job; I had to figger it out for myself. Fortunately I am an old engineer. No, I did not take any pix. Wish I had. But you guys oughta cover this strange keyboard replacement job, I think. (I donated to your fund, by the way.)

    • IML Tech

      Thank you for your support! By the way, I did cover keyboard replacement a while ago in this article: and linked to this guide in the article.

    • IML Tech

      Yes, the power button worked just fine. If you spilled something on the keyboard and the power button stopped working, most likely you will have to replace the keyboard.
      If your MacBook Air 2012 or newer you can turn it on this way:
      1. Disconnect the battery from the motherboard.
      2. Plug in the MagSafe adapter.
      It will take about 20 seconds to turn on assuming the motherboard is not damaged.

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