My iPhone 3G recently got some serious water damage (immersed completely in water) and I thought I killed it, but I managed to bring it back to life.

First off, it met with water while switched on and by the time I plucked it out the screen was flickering badly and I could see it was not in a good way. Anyway bad things happened and it became unresponsive. So I did some googling and it seemed the best solution at this point was to try to dry it out and not turn it back on until it was fully dried out. So I put it on a window sill in a container full of rice grains for 1 week in an upright position. During the week I rotated the phone to try and get all the water out.

After a week I turned it on and attempted to charge it. The screen was this greyish colour with sort of crazy lines and what looked like cloud formations on it. Being that the screen looked like this I was unable to use the phone. I thought maybe the screen artefacts were due to water still being in the phone so I dried it out for another week this time placing it on it’s back and later placing it on it’s front. At the end of this time the screen artefacts were gone but I was still left with nothing but a white screen.

A white screen is bad but my iPhone still basically worked. I discovered I could unlock it (the digitizer worked) and receive calls. I decided to open it up and check the connections inside. Note that opening your iPhone will void your warranty so proceed with caution. It is recommended that you open the iPhone up by removing the two screws at the bottom of the handset with a small phillips head and then use a suction cup to gently prise the glass screen up from the bottom part of the screen. You have to be careful because the glass screen and LCD are still attached to the motherboard by three cables at the other end. If you are going to attempt this then check out a YouTube clip that details the process, there are many to be found. I didn’t have a suction cup so I used a really thin instrument to prise the glass screen out. All of the connections looked fine but I reconnected 1 through to 3 just to be sure but it still resulted in a white screen.

I decided to have one final stab at fixing it by replacing the LCD screen. I purchased one off Ebay for $29.95 and it arrived within a couple of days. It came with a handy tool set including a suction cup.

Tools that you will need (if you don’t have them improvise):

  • New iPhone 3G compatible LCD screen
  • Razor blade
  • Thin plastic instrument/thin metal instrument/guitar pick
  • Suction cup

Instructions:

  1. Turn the iPhone off and remove your SIM.
  2. Remove the two screws at the base of the iPhone using a small phillips head and put them somewhere for safe keeping.
  3. Gently pull up the glass screen using a suction cup positioned at the base of the screen, just above the button – but do not attempt to pull the glass screen off completely. Alternatively, prise the glass screen up by inserting a thin instrument in the center of the bottom of the glass screen and leverage up.
  4. The glass screen should be connected to the motherboard by three connections labelled 1 through to 3. Gently remove each connection in order (1,2,3). I found that 1 and 2 came off easily, but 3 is clamped down with a small white piece of plastic so you need to flick the clamp up before pulling out the connection 3 ribbon. Once completed your iPhone should be in two major pieces.
  5. There are 5 screws to remove from the sides of the metal casing on the back of the glass screen, 2 on the left side and 3 on the right. You may need to remove some tape to expose the screws. These screws are smaller than the ones removed from step 2 so you won’t get them mixed up.
  6. Put the glass screen on a bench top such that the glass is touching the bench top and remove the final screw located at the top of the metal bracket (in proximity to the top right corner). At this point we are positioning ourselves to remove the LCD and it’s metal casing from the glass screen.
  7. The LCD is basically glued to the glass screen but it will come off if you do the following. Take a razor blade and use it to cut around the edges then use a thin instrument (preferably plastic) to start to pry the LCD and metal casing from the glass screen. You will probably damage the old LCD during this step which is OK since it is what we are replacing but be careful not to break the glass screen. I used a guitar pick to get between the glass screen and the old LCD. Once you have got something between them you can use the metal side rails to try and pull it up so long as you have removed enough of the adhesive with the razor blade.
  8. Once you have separated the old LCD and metal casing from the glass screen you should be able to slide it out, noting that there is a metal clip holding it in place at the top.
  9. Separate the old LCD from the metal casing. I found that I peeled the LCD off but it left this strip of reflective plastic on the casing which I had to peel off separately.
  10. Have a look at the old LCD and note that there is a right angle bend in the ribbon connector. Your new LCD will have a flat ribbon, so reproduce the bend in the ribbon on your new LCD carefully without damaging the ribbon.
  11. This step is important! You need to attach your new LCD to the metal casing. There are two pins in diagonal corners which you should use as a guide so that it fits together perfectly. But you also need to make sure your LCD is the correct way around. So get it right before you do it for real as once you have exposed the sticky side and they are stuck together it is very difficult to get them apart without damaging your new LCD.
  12. You should now peel off the protective plastic covering your LCD display. Try to avoid getting finger prints on it. Reinsert the new LCD and metal casing into the glass screen housing, sliding it under the metal clip to hold it in place.
  13. Replace the screw you removed in step 6.
  14. Replace the 5 screws you removed in step 5.
  15. You are ready to reconnect the two major pieces of the iPhone. Starting with connection 3, make sure the white plastic clamp is flicked up and gently insert the ribbon as far in as it will go and then clamp it down by pressing down on the clamp.
  16. Reconnect connections 2 and 1, making sure they are fully snapped into place.
  17. You now need to put the glass screen back in place, starting at the top end ensure the small tabs at this end are in position underneath the chrome border. Gently press the glass screen in place.
  18. Replace the 2 screws you removed in step 2.
  19. Reinsert your SIM and turn iPhone on.

After performing the above, I could finally see my iPhone display without any artefacts. However, I noticed immediately that the contrast of the new LCD was very poor, it was as if the LCD screen had a contrast setting up way too high. I looked for a contrast setting in my iPhone but discovered there is none. At the time I figured this was a consequence of fitting a cheap LCD screen but the bizarre thing was, about two weeks later I went to use my iPhone and the contrast issue was gone and it hasn’t returned since. My display is as new. I figure there was still some residual water damage that was affecting the contrast of the LCD screen when I initially fitted it that managed to resolve itself over time.