Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fixing The Hinge On A Dell Inspiron 6000 Laptop

Story So Far:
I have a five year old Dell Inspiron 6000.  For a long while the screen has wobbled somewhat while open.  As in it would move about an inch back and forth.  A few months ago I decided to open it up and attempt to tighten whatever was loose.  I discovered what was loose was the screws holding the screen to the hinges.  When I tightened these screws it become obvious that the holes were stripped and that they wouldn't hold.  Shortly after that my left hinge failed entirely.  The right hinge could hold the screen open when it was nearly vertical, but not if it was close to being closed.  Also, the screen would slam shut when it reached the threshold for where it would no longer hold.  In this state the laptop was usable, but I knew the right hinge, already weakened, wouldn't last much longer.  Sure enough, after about a month it also failed, and with that the screen was no longer able to hold itself open.

Details of Problem:
Before I go into my attempts to fix this, I think I need to go into details about what exactly is wrong with the hinges.  A search for "inspiron 6000 loose hinges" reveals this is a common problem.  First off, let me clarify that the problem is not with the hinges.  Rather, it is that the piece of metal that the screws holding the hinges to the screen screw into becomes stripped and won't hold the screws anymore.  Here are some pics of the problem area:
http://lh5.ggpht.com/_DRVzh9KIeTg/SnyUnWjnQaI/AAAAAAAAIRU/HtW1QOpR1vs/s912/DSC_0153.JPG
http://repair4laptop.org/contrib/dell_inspiron_6000/pics/dell_inspiron_6000_hinge_repair_screwinplace.jpg

Both of these are from guides that fix this problem by replacing the screws with larger screws.  The first pic has the original screws; the second has a larger screw.  As you can see the screws attach to some sort of metal block.  That block is permanently attached to the whole plastic screen backing.  That means if you want to replace the pieces you need to buy a whole new screen backing.
http://www.parts-people.com/index.php?action=item&id=2707

Attempts at Fixing It:
My first idea was to use JB Weld on the screws as a sort of super threadlocker.  I had a very high level of confidence in this plan.  After some research I bought JB Kwik which sets faster than the normal JB weld.  There must have been a defective batch at the Home Depot, because the tube burst when I squeezed it, and the hardener was already dried.  I took it back and exchanged it, and the second one was the same way.

After that I just went with JB Weld.  As I said above I had high hopes for JB Weld's mythical strength.  I coated the full surface of both the hinges and the pieces they attach to.  I used the stock screws, with JB Weld on the threads, and tightened them fully.  I clamped this with some alligator clips and let it set over night.  I reattached the hinges to the laptop body and it seemed to have worked quite well.  I knew it would likely either fail very soon, or not at all.  Sure enough, after about a day of normal use the one hinge had clearly failed.  Still, the other hinge had managed to hold on for a few weeks.  Eventually it too failed.

I decided to try the JB weld again.  I figured that it seemed the one hinge had worked well, and only failed because it had to support the full weight after the other hinge failed.  I thought that if I could get both hinges to work they'd last much longer.  I did some more research into JB Weld and followed the advice I found online.  I used a dremel to scratch up the areas to be bonded, giving it greater surface area.  Then I cleaned them thoroughly with acetone.  I also didn't use any clamps, as I had read that only minimum clamping should be used, and the screws were quite able to hold the hinges in on their own; they just failed when there was additional pressure.  Finally, I let it set for over 24 hours without touching it once.

As before it worked well at first.  I had decided to move the screen as little as possible, no longer closing it at all.  However, both hinges failed within a couple of days.  I tried the JB Weld one more time, going even more overboard with scratching up the surface, cleaning with acetone, using an excessive amount, and waiting a full 48 hours.  Even with all that, they failed in a few days.

The Final Solution:
In the time that all this had happened I had been thinking about other possible solutions.  The best idea I came up with was to just replace the screws with larger screws.  I figured I could go with thicker screws and create new threads.  The problem would be that they would probably fail just like the first ones had.  Still, if I could get even a year before they failed that would be quite good.  Also, I figured that I could use the JB Weld with the new screws to give it even more holding power.  However, I also thought that instead of using thicker screws I could use longer screws.  I could simply drill through the back of the screen backing, which is just plastic, and then use washers and nuts on the outside of the screen.  I was pretty sure that would work forever.  The only issue was if the plastic of the backing was strong enough, but I figured that if it was holding the existing pieces the hinges screwed into that it must be strong enough.

I went to home depot, and bought #4-40 screws and nuts.  These screws were both wider and longer, so I figured I'd get the best of both worlds.  Plus I'd throw some JB Weld on there as a threadlocker.  As I was browsing around I saw some 1" C clamps, and figured they might work as a temporary solution to hold the hinges to the screen to allow me to do some more research before trying the screws.

When I got home I used the C clamps to attach the hinges to the screen.  Right away I could tell they worked quite well.  The screen seemed quite sturdy.  I did some more research into the screws, but the clamps were working very well.  I decided that I would see how well they held up.  I had to do some slight adjustments to the clamps (i.e. move them up so the screen could open past 90 degrees, and glued the handle up so that they were out of the way).  They also look regoddamndiculous, but have held up very well.  I've been using the laptop like this for over a month.  From a functionality point of view the only problem is that the screen only goes from about 45 to 135 degrees.  This would be alleviated by smaller C clamps.  Still, they seem to be perfect for my purposes.




Epilogue:
I may well try the screws, but there is a certain charm to the huge red clamps.  When researching this problem I couldn't find anyone that had done anything to actually fix this problem.  When searching for pics of the stripped pieces for this post I found a writeup of a guy who used larger screws to fix the problem, as well as a link he gave to someone else who had done the same.

http://repair4laptop.org/contrib/dell_inspiron_6000/dell_inspiron_6000_hinge_repair_guide.html
http://picasaweb.google.com/charlesdhouse.com/HingeRepair#slideshow/5367328182660654050

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for the tips. My wife computer is an Inspiron 6000 and your post has been the best resource available. I feel it's just a defect with the laptop design and the clamps are more than likely the best way to go unless you want to keep fixing it every now and then. It's frustrating.

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  2. I know this is quite old, but epoxy made specifically for PLASTICS works quite well. JB Weld is for metal.

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