Why Water Damage Cell Phone Repairs Often Fail

We get this call all the time: “Do you guys fix water damaged phones? I just dropped mine in the toilet.” Yes, the toilet is one of the top 5 reasons for water damage repair. A few others include “I dropped it in my coffee,” “My friend tipped her beer over on it,” and “I was taking a bath.” I’m not kidding about that last one. You’d be shocked how many people use their phone while taking a bath.

But I digress…

The point of this post is to let you know that fixing a water damaged phone is, at best, a 50/50 proposition. We know because we have made several different attempts to make this repair work. We just want to make sure anyone coming to us for this repair knows some of the risks.


Our water damage repairs only come with a 90 day warranty instead of our traditional lifetime guarantee. We want to make sure you’re aware of that before proceeding with this work.

The Long Version

To understand why a water damage repair is so hard to fix, let’s start with how liquid damages a cell phone. There are three basic things it can do (and it can do 1, 2, or all 3 of these):

Water Damage Repair Gotchas
Water Damage Repair Gotchas
  1. Some of the non-motherboard components get damaged. This might be the battery, screen, power button, charging port, etc. These are generally pretty easy to replace and not a problem if you can identify which components are bad.
  2. Some of the components on the motherboard get shorted out and damaged beyond repair. This basically turns your phone into a paperweight (you can do some soldering tricks but they aren’t usually economically feasible).
  3. Some of the wiring on the motherboard corrodes and creates a shortage with other wiring. This is often fixable – at least in the short term.

I’m most familiar with iPhones so I’m going to discuss them going forward. However, everything I’m going to say should apply to most any electronic device that gets wait – from phones to laptops.

Many iPhone repair shops will follow one of 3 models to fix (or attempt to fix) your water damaged device. Some will charge a non-refundable diagnostic fee. This is where they figure out if your phone is in state 1, 2, or 3 above. If they think they can fix it, then they’ll tell you what it will cost (which will be an additional charge). If they can’t, they just pocket the $20-$40 fee and you still have a broken phone. I would avoid these shops.

Other companies will quote a fixed water damage repair price but it won’t include any components that might be needed – that will be an extra charge. So an advertised $49 water damage repair might end up being $149 after a new screen and new battery are put in it. Once again, I’d  stay clear of this type of business.

Lastly, is the model we use: A flat-rate water damage repair cost that is only charged if the phone is fixed. If it can’t be fixed, then there is no charge. Another variation on this is a completely free diagnostic where they give you a set price after examining your phone. You can choose to do the repair or not at that point.

One really important piece of information you should have is the warranty policy. Even a high-quality repair businesses like ours will have an initial success rate of 70%. I say “initial success rates” because about 1/3 of all the phones that go out working will come back within a month with more problems.

That’s the biggest problem with water damage. It doesn’t all happen at once.

Think about a rusting car. Your car doesn’t rust the first winter you drive it on salt covered roads. But after 10 years of winter driving you start to see rust. Then every year a little more rust. It develops slowly over time.

The same thing happens with water damaged cell phones – only instead of years we’re talking weeks. You can clean them out using a sonic cleaner and electronics safe cleaning solution. That might remove 95% of all corrosion and debris. But that other 5% doesn’t stay put. Like rust on a car, it slowly starts to grow over the course of a week, a month, or 3 months. It will begin to spread until one day your wifi won’t work, your camera goes out, your phone stops charging, the screen goes black, or some combination of all those things.

This is why our water damage repairs only come with a 90 day warranty instead of our traditional lifetime guarantee. We want to make sure you’re aware of that before proceeding with this work.

All that said, only you can ultimately decide if you should or shouldn’t get a water damaged phone fixed. It may work for you. Or maybe you have some invaluable pictures you want to get off your phone and you don’t care if the phone is fully functional. Or maybe you just have a couple more weeks until you can upgrade to a new phone.

Whatever you’re looking for, you should be aware of all the possible problems that can occur even with a professional, water damage, cell phone repair. And don’t forget to always ask and get in writing how their warranty policy works.

2 thoughts on “Why Water Damage Cell Phone Repairs Often Fail

  1. Pingback: Cell Phones and Water Damage: Why Home Repairs Typically Fail - Phone and Computer Repair

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