Bringing Samsung Galaxy Nexus back from dead

Today we have a new patient in the lab: a Galaxy Nexus phone that took a dunk in a river. It has been dried right after that and continued to function for a good six months after until it finally died. The only thing that happens when power is turned on is you get a short but blinding flash of camera LED and then everything goes dead. Time to take it apart and see what we can do. There isn’t much hope or a component level repairs on something this dense, but we’ll never know if we don’t try. I won’t bore you with the details of taking it apart- it’s been documented countless number of times on the web. Basically take the back cover off, remove battery and SIM card (this is a Verizon version, so card gets in the way) and remove 6 screws. After that it’s all prying and pulling. Plastic case tools or a guitar pick come handy.

Once the case is open, there is one more screw holding the bottom speaker/antenna assembly. After that it all comes apart fairly easy, just need to unplug a variety of flex cables.

All the bits.

Water damage is pretty obvious- all immersion indicators went from red to clear on the battery and the speaker assembly. There is also  plenty of white corrosion powder all over the boards, in some cases bridging across pins or smaller parts or even between parts and shields.

I wonder what caused that discoloring on the shield- some bridging/shorting?

Lots of stuff around TI PMIC (Power management IC that generates all the processor voltages)

Heavy corrosion

More corrosion

There is white residue even on the metal frame of the unit -pretty bad. First step is to try cleaning it off with some regular rubbing alcohol and brushing. That did not seem to help much, so it was time to bring out heavy guns (err bottles). A 91% alcohol and full immersion shoud do the trick:

A nice long dunk

I found a suitable plastic tray from an LCD panel, poured enough 91% rubbing alcohol to cover the board and left it there for a few hours, Then I literally brushed it with a toothbrush while submersed. Finally, a rinse in a clean batch of alcohol and things were left alone for a night. Next day inspection showed no signs of corrosion anywhere on the board. Note that only main board was washed. I did not feel like trying to wash camera or speaker modules. Put the board back in, connected power and we have a Google logo on the screen. Put the whole thing together, press power, volume up and down, and the bootloader screen is on in its full glory. And no pesky Flash LED on power up either!

We has a Droid!

 Conclusion:

The phone now operates completely normally, with no visible problems. At this stage I can only speculate what the corrosion was doing to the circuits and how conductive it was, but the fact remains that a scrub in alcohol has restored things to normal function.

 

14 thoughts on “Bringing Samsung Galaxy Nexus back from dead

  1. Hi, I just read your X31 revival, which was quite interesting, now this; I had* a Samsung Wave 723 which fell in the toilets (very slippery case), teardown + 3 days drying period the thing boots, but after a few minutes of usage (complete function, lcd, wifi, touchscreen, audio) the system fall into random reboots. Do you think corrosion could trigger late~ bugs like this ? Asking this out of curiosity because since, I tried to boot it without the sdcard module and I think I either shorted the circuit or the lcd (no signs of life anymore). I don’t have a scope nor a multimeter, basically a greedy programmer interested in low level “things”. If it’s worth your time feel free to answer.

    Regards

  2. did you leave it to rinse in a clean batch of alcohol over night? or did you rinse it off for an hour or so then left the project for the night.

  3. Thank you for this article. My Galaxy Nexus died yesterday evening some hours after it was left forgotten in a rain-cover pocket for about two hours. The phone was not immersed in water, it was just wet. It stopped responding all together and could not be switched.

    I disassembled it, and found some white residue mainly on a charging part of the main board around the pogo pins and the bottom assembly near the usb socket. There was even some discoloring on the copper parts of pogo pins and on parts of copper coating of the main board. Really bad sign. I brushed of all the white residue and cleaned all suspicious parts of the circuitry with small toothbrush and 70% alcohol (usually used for disinfection). Afterwards I placed all cleaned components in a ventilated oven at 60 to 70 °C for about an hour to dry out alcohol.

    Afterwards I reassembled the phone which is now working perfectly. All together, the procedure took about 2 two 3 hours and saved me a good 300 €.

    Thank you once again!

  4. I followed every step you showed me but my galaxy nexus is still not working. Is it because right after i dropped it in my sink, I tried to on it. I doNT know whats wrong, plz help!!!!!!!!!!
    Thanks

      • Had similar incident dropped it in the sink worked for 5 months then wouldn’t charge bought a new charge port replaced it and still will not charge looked around found lots of corrosion ….trying this now as last ditch effort to save my phone ….if unsuccessful what would be my next approach I like to tinker

  5. Thanks a lot for posting this very useful information.
    After only 4 months of use, my Samsung Galaxy Nexus died while still under warranty and the phone company, charged me $25 to tell me I am at fault and gave board corrosion as the excuse, then said they will charge $350 to fix it!!!! After much fuming, and reading your page, I opened the phone and cleaned the board using 70% rubbing alcohol and a brush, as you have suggested. There was a small part that looked as if it has gathered some dust – am still not sure what exactly it was or what has caused it. The phone is turned on and seems to be working fine. I will give it another 48hrs to conclude it is fixed for good.
    I hope the cell phone companies start caring about their own and their product INTEGRITY again.

  6. i dropped my galaxy nexus in the toilet about two years ago and nothing turns on anymore obviously! we sent it to sprint but it was reported DAMAGED BEYOND REPAIR so is there anyway that this alcohol trick could still work on my phone now!?!? please im DESPERATE!

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