Since late February of 2013 we’ve been researching, developing and repairing Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4 phones. It took us six months and thousands of dollars to really fine-tune our process and we decided to share what we’ve learned with the rest of the world. The only thing we ask in return is for you to use the comments section to make suggestions on how we can do it even better. We’d like to see this blog post become the definitive guide on how to fix Galaxy S phones the right way.
Things to Know Before You Start
First, this is a real customer’s phone. It has never been taken apart before. You are seeing a live repair from start to finish exactly the way we would do it.
Secondly, this process is for a blue Galaxy S3. The glass removal process is completely different if you’re fixing a white, black, or red phone. I know that sounds strange but it’s true. Samsung put a small film between the glass and the LCD on blue phones. If you get underneath that film, you can peel it off in a single piece. On white, red, and black phones the glass is glued directly to the LCD. That means you have to pick each piece of broken glass off one at a time on those phones. It’s much more difficult and takes a lot longer. Stay tuned – we’ll film a white glass removal in the near future.
Third, we’ve already made a few modifications to this process since the video was made. That’s how we roll – constantly trying to innovate and find better, quicker, and safer ways to do a repair. I’ll kick off the comments below with our latest discoveries.
Lastly, you should know that this is a difficult repair to do right and a mistake could end up costing you a lot more money. For example, you can easily crack the LCD if you don’t heat the glass enough – or you can burn it if you heat it too much. In either case you’ll end up having to replace the entire front assembly. Right now the going rate for a full front assembly on Amazon is anywhere from $110-$140 depending on the vendor and quality.
0:0 to 2:23 – What You’ll Need
Here’s a list of the tools you’ll need. Obviously you’re not going to want to buy a $300 hot plate if you’re an at-home do-it-yourselfer, so I’ve listed some alternatives for the bigger ticket items.
- Safety glasses. This is a must. Little shards of glass are going to pop and go flying as you remove the glass.
- Heat resistant glove. Any glove will actually do – you just need it to protect your hand from the 200+ degree heat.
- Precision, adjustable hot plate. You could use a cheap heat gun (pick it up at a hardware store) or even a hair dryer.
- An infrared thermometer. You don’t have to have this but you should. Get the LCD too hot and you’ll burn it. Don’t get it hot enough and you can crack it trying to take the glass off. Ideally you want the glass to be between 200-230 degrees Fahrenheit and the only good way to do that is with a decent IR thermometer.
- Metal spudger. You can purchase a slightly different but cheaper version of the one we use on eBay for about $2.
- 1″ wide, flexible, metal putty knife. You can get one of these at a local hardware store for a couple of bucks.
- Alcohol wipes. Pretty cheap at most drug stores but we love the ones from CVS.
- 2 mm double-sided tape. Again, try Amazon for this.
- 1/2″ wide double sided tape. We buy this from Uline. This stuff is incredibly strong and works great but it’s expensive. I don’t really have a proven substitute. You might be able to use a cheap double-sided Scotch tape but I can’t guarantee that.
- X-acto knife.
- #00 Phillips head screwdriver.
- 1mm flat-bladed screwdriver. We use this to pop connectors. You could use your fingertips or any small, sharp object. Just be careful not to chip anything on the motherboard.
- 2-2.5 mL of Ultra-Violet curing Liquid, Optically Clear Adhesive (UV LOCA). This is a must for holding on your new glass. Don’t use tape or you’ll have all kinds of problems with touch sensitivity and dust. You can find LOCA on eBay or Amazon.
- Plenty of paper towels. The adhesive can be a bit messy.
- A magnifying glass. We use a lab quality magnifier with a light, but a simple, cheap magnifying glass should work.
- Foodsaver handheld vacuum sealer and resealable vacuum sealer bags. We use this to evenly distribute the adhesive under the new glass. You could just use your fingers but be gentle. It’s easy to create air bubbles or push too much adhesive through the frame and then you’ll have a mess.
- UV Light for curing the glue. Alternatively, you can just walk out in the sunshine with your phone – lots of UV light in sunshine.
- A brand new piece of glass for your GS3.
2:24 to 10:36 – Removing the Glass
Once again, this is for a blue Galaxy S3. A white, red, or black one will be significantly different. Here are the highlights.
- Try to keep the glass between 200-230 degrees F. Hotter than that and you’ll burn the LCD. Cooler than that and you’ll crack the LCD trying to pull the glass up. This means you can’t err on the side of too little or too much. It has to be just right. When training new techs I always tell them that they should never overheat the glass but they should heat it often. That’s good advice.
- Use your metal spudger to free the top and then slide the putty knife across the entire top. Then slowly, at the appropriate temperature, slide the putty knife down the glass. The factory adhesive should release like liquid – not like wax. Make sure to keep the temperature right. Heat often.
- Be extra careful when you get to the bottom. There is a fragile ribbon cable by the home button that is used for the back and menu buttons. This ribbon cable is taped to the glass. You’ll tear this ribbon cable if you just rip the glass off – then you’ll need to purchase an entire new LCD assembly. It’s extremely difficult to replace that ribbon cable without breaking the LCD.
10:37 to 25:58 – Preparing the Phone for Adhesive
There are a number of tricky things when using the UV glue. First and foremost, it hardens as soon as it hits UV light (aka: sunlight). So you need to do this repair in a space free of sunlight or you’re going to have problems.
The other big problem is that, before it cures, it’s a liquid. That means it flows into places you don’t want it – like the proximity sensor, front camera, volume button, home button, etc. We need to carefully control the flow of the liquid.
The last thing to note is that once you cure it, it’s set. There’s no reflowing it. So if you get hair, air bubbles, or big dirt particles in it you’ll have to go through the messy and painful process of redoing everything. Trust me when I say this is not fun – I’ve done it more times than I’d like to admit.
The way to prevent all these problems is with proper preparation.
- Test the screen after you remove the glass. If you did break the LCD, you want to know before going through the rest of the process. Make sure both the LCD lights up and the touchscreen works.
- Tape down that ribbon cable at the bottom. You don’t want to tear it so get it secured and out of the way.
- Do an initial cleaning with just your fingers to get all the original adhesive off the glass. You’re also going to remove the original, black, double-sided tape on the sides and bottom of the phone. Your home button won’t sit quite right if you don’t.
- Use an alcohol wipe to clean the LCD.
- Remove the motherboard. You want to do this to make sure that if any adhesive does leak through the frame, it doesn’t get on the motherboard and damage it. In addition, we want to make sure the proximity sensor and camera areas are exposed (at the top) so that we can clean those out easily should any adhesive flow into those areas.
- Use 2mm tape to protect the top, power button, volume button, and the spot where the LCD plugs into the motherboard. All of these strips of tape should cover the seam between the LCD and the frame. This will keep the adhesive from flowing off the LCD and into the phone in those areas.
- Use a strip of 2mm tape and a custom cut strip of 1/2″ double sided tape to cover the bottom. We MUST cover the ribbon cable at the bottom of the LCD to make sure the adhesive doesn’t flow on to it and short it out. That’s where the 1/2″ tape is very useful.
25:59 to 35:08 – Getting the Glue in Contact with the Glass
Getting the glue in contact with the new glass is tricky. Your first goal is simply to get the glass put down on the LCD without any air bubbles in it. The best piece of advice I can give on this is: GO SLOW! I will repeat that again below.
- Make sure you are in a space with no ambient sunlight in it. Sunlight is full of UV rays and they will cause the glue to cure right on the LCD before you can get the glass down. This is a bad thing so get setup in an interior room (or do this at night).
- Start with 2.5 mL of adhesive and make sure it has no air bubbles. Small air bubbles in the liquid tend to become big and annoying air bubbles when the glue is cured.
- Apply about 2 mL of glue in a double V formation (one V at the top, one at the bottom) and a line in between the two. Most of the glue should be placed in the line connecting the two Vs. We’ve found this glue pattern works the best (and we’ve tried a lot of patterns).
- Use a magnifying glass to inspect the liquid glue and look for air bubbles. Remove them with a small flat bladed screwdriver. Make sure to get all air bubbles and debris.
- Use a long spudger or screwdriver to slowly lower the new glass onto the adhesive. GO SLOW! I can’t emphasize that enough. You will get air bubbles if you drop the glass down too fast. Plan on taking at least 2 minutes to lower your new glass.
- Once you have the adhesive fully in contact with the screen, use an alcohol wipe to clean it and look for imperfections. It’s much easier at this point to start over than it is after you cure the glue.
35:09 to 40:55 – Spreading the Glue Evenly and Curing It
The previous section got the glue in full contact with the new screen but did not get it evenly spread over the entire LCD. That’s what we do here and our process is a little unorthodox – we use a handheld vacuum sealer and a resealable vacuum bag. It’s pretty slick.
- Place the front screen assembly in a resealable, vacuum sealable bag.
- Start pulling the air out of the bag. As soon as you see the adhesive starting to move towards the corners, STOP! If you pull too much of a vacuum, you’ll end up pulling adhesive into all sorts of bad spots. We want just enough vacuum and pressure to pull the adhesive into the corners.
- When the adhesive stops moving, pulse the vacuum sealer for 1/2 to 1 second and wait again. Repeat as necessary.
- Feel free to use some gentle finger pressure to help push the adhesive around. Be careful when doing this because if you push too hard, you’ll push adhesive into bad spots. You can also create a thin spot in the adhesive that might come lose in a few days. So be careful if you decide to use your hands to help move the glue around.
- Once the LCD is completely covered with glue, you’re ready to cure it. Do one last check for air bubbles before hitting it with UV light because once it’s cured, there’s no going back.
- Do an initial cure of just 15 seconds and then pull the phone out of the bag. 15 seconds gives a solid bond on the LCD but still allows you to clean the excess adhesive off the edges of the assembly. Much longer than 15 seconds and the excess glue starts to get pretty hard and difficult to remove.
- Inspect the back of the screen assembly and clean out any excess adhesive you see. Then cure the back for about a minute. This will make sure any adhesive that might be coming through the back cures and “dams” things up.
- Flip it back over and cure the front again for at least 2 minutes. Longer is better.
- Test the home button and volume buttons to make sure they work. Also do a visual inspection of the front camera and proximity sensor windows to make sure they’re clean.
40:56 to 43:46 – Final Details
That’s it. The tough stuff is done. Now put everything back together, turn it on, fully test it, and do one last cleaning.
Did you watch this video and feel a bit intimidated? Don’t feel bad. It’s not an easy thing to do and, as I said at the start, we spent months figuring out all the little details. So why not let us do it for you? We charge a very reasonable price for the glass replacement and guarantee it’ll work or we redo it free of charge. It takes 2 hours if you live near one of our repair stores. Otherwise you can mail it in and we’ll fix it in 24 hours and mail it back.
Whichever option you choose, DIY or to have us fix it, we hope you found this repair video useful. Please comment below if you have any questions or suggestion on how we could do it even better.