This week’s repair involves a first-generation black MacBook whose display mysteriously started flickering and then went dim a few days afterwards. Usually this is just a failure of the inverter, which is fairly common; this case, however, was unusual in that the failure disappeared whenever the computer was lifted in just the right way.
Whenever we see a flickering screen or a screen that has a very faint picture, the main component we consider is the inverter. If you can see a very faint image on your screen, odds are it needs a new inverter. In this case though, we had to look elsewhere due to the unusual intermittent nature of the failure. If the MacBook was picked up with my left hand, squeezing around the MagSafe port, the screen would light up just fine. This made some sense because the inverter plugs into the main logic board right in that area. I reseated that cable and reassembled the machine to find the symptom persisted.
I took the machine apart again and found that I could apply pressure to the inverter connection to the logic board to get the backlight to stay on reliably. But there had to be a fair amount of pressure applied—not enough to just use nonconductive, heat-resistant, residue-free tape to hold it down. I switched out the inverter cable to see if it’d make a better connection, but it was down to the connector on the logic board itself. It had somehow deformed, perhaps as a result of expansion and contraction from heating and cooling. I ordered up the logic board and the problem was solved. AppleCare on this nearly three-year old computer saved the customer about $400!