Fixing a broken laptop hinge

My ThinkPad‘s left hinge broke about a month ago. I didn’t think to take a picture of it, but it broke in a way that prevented the lid from closing properly.

The ThinkPad T430’s hinges have an extender to apply torque more effectively, making opening and closing the lid easier. If you think of how a wrench or a door handle works, it’s the same idea: it’s a lot easier to turn something when you’re further from the point of rotation than it is when you’re close to it.

ThinkPad T430 hinges

ThinkPad T430 hinges

T430 hinge placement

Placement of the hinges. The extenders are attached to the sides of the lid.

The problem: the extender of the left hinge snapped off from the base of the hinge. It was probably caused by a recent accidental drop on that side into a padded laptop bag. I didn’t hear a snap and it was fine the next time I opened it, but I always cringe a little when I drop this thing. On top of that, I wasn’t the one who closed it last, so whoever closed it certainly did not use my special technique to prevent lid problems from happening.

With the extender snapped off, the only way to rotate the hinge is to rotate the base. The base is also supposed to be screwed to the lid, but that had come off, too. The base was already unusually stiff, so rotating it with just the lid without the extender and not screwed in is almost impossible. The lid’s case would pop open when I tried to open or close it; the base wouldn’t move, pushing the shell apart.

And so I used my laptop without closing it for weeks while thinking of what to do. I could try to repair the hinge, but that would probably snap off shortly after, assuming I could even figure out a way to re-attach the extender. I could cut the hinge off, but that would leave filings everywhere, make my lid less stiff and might accidentally cut some important wires. I could replace the hinge, but that would mean basically taking the whole laptop apart. Thankfully, I didn’t need to take it anywhere, so although it was frustrating at times, using it without closing the lid was fine.

I woke up in the middle of the night two days ago with an idea of how to fix it. The phrase “thinking outside the box” is very applicable here: instead of fixing the hinge inside, why don’t I secure the outside? That way, the whole lid acts as the extender and the base is forced to rotate. It sounded promising, so instead of going back to sleep, I tried it out.

I looked around for material to use to bind the hinge, some sort of tape. Eventually, I thought to use duct tape: it’s strong, durable, and it gives the “hack” fix look. I looked around but I couldn’t find my roll. In hindsight, duct tape is probably too thick anyway. I did, however, find a roll of clear packaging tape. It was perfect: packaging tape is strong, lasts long, doesn’t come off by itself, and is much thinner than duct tape. With scissors in hand, I decided to use it.

Clear packaging tape

I decided to use clear packaging tape.

I knew what I needed to do: secure the bottom, then secure the side. I did this then did a test; it still popped open. Not giving up yet, I realized that I couldn’t do that without also securing the hinge itself to the lid like the screws were supposed to do. I peeled off all the tape (it came off surprisingly cleanly), secured the hinge base length-wise and width-wise to the lid, then re-secured the outside. I did another open-close test, and would you believe it, it actually worked!

The taped hinge

The fix.

It works well enough that opening and closing the lid is only slightly stiffer than before, and I was able to take it around in my bag yesterday with the lid closed. It seems that there’s still some slight opening of the case, but the tape keeps it down enough that it’s not a problem. I wonder how long it will last, but I’ll take it while it works. My ThinkPad has its faults, but I wouldn’t trade it for any other laptop.

Have you had any experiences where you thought of a creative solution that was “good enough” to avoid more work? Share in the comments!

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