Water under the screen of your MacBook Air can cause serious damage if left unchecked. The most common causes are spills, humidity/condensation buildup, or a leak from the internal cooling system. Don’t try to power on your MacBook if there is water under the screen. First, dry the outside of the laptop with a microfiber cloth. Then, stand it vertically and leave it open to air dry for at least 24-48 hours before attempting to turn it on. If there are still water spots or the screen looks damaged, you will likely need professional repair. Water damage often requires replacing the entire screen and other components.
What causes water or moisture under the screen?
There are a few common ways that water ends up behind the screen on a MacBook Air:
- Spilling liquid directly onto the computer
- Using the computer in high humidity environments
- Internal coolant leaks from a failed cooling system component
Spilling water or another liquid onto your laptop is an obvious cause of water getting where it shouldn’t. Coffee, soda, juice, plant watering cans, rain, melted snow – all sorts of liquids could end up on your desk or bag and get splashed onto the MacBook Air. Even a small amount of fluid seeping between the keys or through ports along the edges can reach underneath the screen.
High humidity or rapid temperature changes also introduce moisture into places it doesn’t belong. If you move your cold laptop from an air conditioned room out into hot and humid weather, condensation can form both inside and outside the machine. The reverse is also true – bringing a warm laptop into an air conditioned space can cause condensation. This moisture can potentially get behind the screen.
Finally, though less common, a leak in the internal cooling system could push coolant underneath the screen. Apple uses a network of heat pipes and plates to draw heat away from components and disperse it. If one of these components fails it can leak, allowing liquid past the seals and underneath the screen.
How to dry out a wet MacBook Air
If your MacBook Air is exposed to liquids or you notice moisture or water spots behind the display, you need to dry it out as soon as possible. Water causes corrosion and electrical shorts as it sits, damaging more components over time. Here are some steps to dry a wet laptop:
- Immediately power off the MacBook and unplug all connected cables.
- Use a microfiber cloth to soak up any liquid on the outer case.
- Stand the laptop vertically and open the lid to expose the keyboard and screen.
- Allow the laptop to air dry for at least 24 hours, up to 2-3 days if very wet.
- Check for any remaining moisture before attempting to power on.
- Backup data immediately if it powers on successfully.
Do not attempt to power on your MacBook Air when wet. It could short circuit immediately or simply fail to turn on. Let it dry thoroughly first. Position it on its side or in a stand rather than flat to allow airflow across all surfaces. Point a fan towards the computer to speed up evaporation. Remove any case or shell that might trap moisture inside.
Be patient during the drying process. Liquid could still be present deeper inside the computer even if the outer case feels dry. Wait at least a full day after you think it’s ready before attempting to power it on again.
Signs of water damage
How can you tell if water exposure caused damage inside your MacBook Air? Here are some symptoms that indicate water caused a problem:
- Visible water spots behind the screen
- Blurry, distorted, or black display
- Flickering screen image
- Corrosion around ports, buttons, or vents
- Keys or trackpad not responsive
- Faulty speakers, microphone, or webcam
- Not powering on successfully
- Battery won’t charge
- Random shutdowns, crashes, or program errors
- Electrical short odor
Water spots inside the display are an obvious indicator, but water can reach many other components and cause more subtle issues. If your laptop exhibits new problems immediately after getting wet, suspect water damage as the cause.
Don’t assume your MacBook Air survived unscathed if it powers back on after drying. Liquid could still be present in places that haven’t yet caused a major failure. Create backups of important data right away in case problems show up later after further use. Oxidation and corrosion takes time to develop.
When to get professional help
Liquid exposure does not necessarily spell the end for your MacBook Air, but it’s not a DIY fix either. Once you’ve dried it out completely, some scenarios require professional repair:
- Any amount of visible water behind the screen
- Screen is flickering, distorted, or unresponsive
- Obvious external corrosion around ports, vents, or buttons
- Not powering on successfully after drying 48+ hours
- Battery won’t charge after drying
- Odor suggesting significant liquid infiltration
Removing the battery and attempting to open or disassemble your MacBook Air to dry it risks causing further damage. Leave internal repairs to professionals.
Water beneath the screen requires completely replacing the display assembly. Corrosion also necessitates part replacements like a new logic board or battery. Pro technicians have the tools, parts, and experience to properly diagnose issues and make necessary fixes.
Can you fix water damage yourself?
It’s not advisable to attempt do-it-yourself repairs for water damaged MacBook Air components. However, you can take steps yourself to dry out the laptop initially:
- Immediately power off and disconnect all cables
- Dry exterior liquid with microfiber cloth
- Stand vertically and open lid to air dry 24-48+ hours
- Point fan at laptop to accelerate drying
- Create backups immediately if powers on
- Watch for new issues that develop over time
The inner workings of a MacBook Air are tightly packed and meticulously engineered. Water exposure demands a specialized repair skillset. Well-meaning attempts to pry open or disassemble the computer often makes the existing damage much worse.
Your best bet is to promptly dry the laptop exterior, allow plenty of time to air out internally, and then seek professional assistance handling any components damaged by moisture. Be sure to backup data right away in case your MacBook Air fails later after seeming fine initially.
Cost to fix water damaged MacBook Air
Unfortunately, water damage repair costs are high due to the sensitive parts involved. Expect to pay:
- $300 – $600 to replace water damaged keyboard
- $400 – $700+ to replace entire trackpad/keyboard assembly
- $400 – $800 to replace logic board
- $500 – $800+ to replace display
Full liquid damage cleanup can tally $800 – $1500+ in parts and labor. Extended AppleCare+ warranty coverage may offset some costs but has many exclusions for accidental damage.
Weigh the repair cost against a new or refurbished replacement MacBook Air if the total exceeds 60-70% of the laptop’s original purchase price. Older models in particular may not be worth the investment to fix extensively.
How to prevent water damage
While accidents happen, you can take proactive steps to minimize exposure of your MacBook Air to liquids:
- Use laptop away from drinks
- Don’t eat over your computer
- Install a liquid skin/cover for the keyboard
- Avoid using laptop outside in rain or snow
- Carry in waterproof case or backpack section
- Don’t use around sinks or tubs
- Set devices containing liquids away from the computer
- Move humidifiers/vaporizers away from work area
Making smart usage choices reduces risk tremendously. Also make it a habit to keep drinks, vases, sprinklers, and other wet sources clear of areas where you use electronics. Pay attention to humidity and moisture when moving equipment between rooms or taking it outside.
If you need to use your MacBook Air in wet environments regularly, invest in a good waterproof shell or bag. Some even provide builtin keyboards and trackpads so you don’t have to expose the actual laptop.
Stay alert and exercise caution to avoid situations that could lead to a damaging spill or moisture issues. But also be prepared in case an accident does occur – keep this guide handy and know your repair options before problems arise.
Water and electronics don’t mix well, especially inside tightly packed laptops like the MacBook Air. Moisture exposure requires prompt action to dry your computer out and seek professional help if any components seem damaged. With rapid response, some minor spills can be harmless. But larger amounts of liquid can necessitate expensive repairs or full replacement if not addressed quickly. Prevention is definitely preferable – be cautious when using your laptop around potential wetness hazards. But also keep this guide handy just in case the worst happens. Armed with the right information, you can minimize any water damage and get your MacBook Air working again.
 Apple Support. “About liquid contact indicators”. https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204104
 ifixit. “MacBook Air 13″ Repair”. https://www.ifixit.com/Device/MacBook_Air_13%22
 Apple Support. “AppleCare Products”. https://www.apple.com/support/products/faqs.html
 CNET. “How to fix your MacBook after spilling water or soda on the keyboard”. https://www.cnet.com/tech/computing/macbook-liquid-damage-water-soda-repair/
 Mashable. “2019 MacBook Air survives 12 hours in a pool of Coke. Here’s how”. https://mashable.com/video/2019-macbook-air-survives-12-hours-pool-coke