Following up my article on replacing the glass on a first- or second-generation iPad, the question came about as to how to repair an iPad mini’s glass in the event that gravity should exert itself on an off day.
For the answer I returned to Fix That Mac in Berkeley, California, and the mighty Rory Pierce for his perspective. Pierce has been busy lately with this particular repair, citing that the shop handles between five and 15 iPad mini repairs per month, then points to a white iPad mini with a cracked screen that fell face down onto a hard surface.
Pierce explains that the iPad mini is a different beast to repair than the standard iPad and is both easier in some ways while harder in others. The iPad mini uses thinner glass that’s easier to crack should you make a wrong move, so extra care is required as you fix it.
Putting on his safety goggles to prevent flying shards of glass (that will inevitably crack even more as he pulls the iPad mini apart), Rory gets to work.
There’s an appreciable online market for iPad replacement parts, all of varying quality. In many cases, a vendor may offer to sell just the iPad mini replacement glass. This is a trap to avoid in spite of how cheap and tempting the glass is, as the glass will lack the connector that attaches to the logic board and you’ll have to harvest the connector from the old glass, carefully cut through its eight solder points, then solder the connector onto the replacement glass. If you’re feeling brave or are a neat hand with a soldering iron, this’ll save you some money, but otherwise, opt for the more expensive iPad mini replacement glass. Elekworld has a good selection as well as a variety of colours if you’re tired of Apple’s selection of black and white.
Caution: broken glass
Should you attempt this repair, remember that it’s not a race. “Go slow. Patience is critical,” says Pierce. That isn’t bad advice.
Place the iPad mini horizontally in front of you, plug in a heat gun and begin heating the edges on a low to medium setting to begin melting the thin layer of glue holding the glass to the surface. Don’t overheat the tablet or you might damage some of the cabling inside. You should occasionally stop with the heat gun and feel the tablet; once the tablet begins to become uncomfortably warm, it’s ready to be cut open.
Now the scary part begins. Take a strong, steel razor blade and begin working along the top, taking care to avoid cutting the tablet’s camera cabling while reheating the edges with the heat gun as needed.
As you work your way around the sides with the razor, the glass will begin to splinter even further. Don’t panic. This is normal, but just make sure you have your safety goggles on and be careful not to scratch the tablet’s LCD screen as you’re working around the edges with your razor.
Once you’ve pried up a decent amount of the glass, you need to hold it up. A plastic opening tool is perfect for this and iFixit sells these in pairs for about US$3. Use the plastic opening tool as sort of a wedge/placeholder, finish cutting around the edges and begin gently prying up the screen.
Now it’s time to get the LCD out of the way so that you can remove the old glass from the iPad mini’s logic board and begin installing the replacement glass. Peel the broken glass up, let it rest at an angle and begin removing the four screws at the corners of the LCD, peeling the black sticky tape out of the way to get to the final screws.
After the corner screws have been removed, you’ll need leverage to help get the LCD out. Find a prying tool such as a plastic spudger. Pierce also recommends getting a three-ring binder, taking it apart and getting the a long piece of metal underneath the ring assembly. You want to then work the metal piece until it’s almost like a slim jim that’s used to open locked car doors. You’ll take this metal piece and slide it under the LCD to help pry it up for removal.
After prying the LCD up, gently lay it flat against the broken glass without disconnecting it and remove the 16 screws holding the back plate in place. Take care, as the right side of the iPad mini is heavily magnetised and will happily snatch your screws from you. Remove the 16 screws holding the back plate in place, remove the back plate, then remove the three screws holding the small silver plate in place.
Remove the connector attaching the LCD to the tablet’s logic board – it takes a gentle touch. The iPad mini doesn’t use nearly as much glue to hold its glass in place as the full-size iPad, but it’s still worth cleaning out before you go any further. Once the broken glass and the LCD have been detached from the rest of the unit, go around the edges and remove the remaining glue particles with your razor. This will take a minute or two, but allows for a cleaner fit when putting the tablet back together.
Attach the replacement iPad mini glass, reattach the LCD and you’re ready to start sealing the tablet back up.
Reattach both the small and larger plate, replacing their screws as needed. Remove the magnet from the broken iPad mini glass, attach it to the new iPad mini glass and clean the LCD with both a soft cloth and/or an ammonia-free glass cleaner.
Swing the replacement glass down to test the fit, turn the iPad on, test its functionality, remove any and all adhesive coverings inside the new glass, and it’s time to reapply the glue holding the glass to the rest of the iPad. Once again, you’ll want to use 3M’s Scotch Weld 4799 glue (US$21). Unlike the full-size iPad, you won’t need to frost the entire cake on the iPad mini’s edge to hold the new glass in place and a small dab on the four corners will do the trick.
After the new glass is in place and working, check the edges, make sure it’s in cleanly and it’s time to break out four clamps to help the glue set. Irwin Handi-Clamps (US$4) are perfect for this job, so place one clamp at each corner and let the repaired iPad mini sit in the clamps for an hour for the glue to dry.
by Chris Barylick