Replacing MacBook Air keyboard after liquid damage

16 Feb

In this post I will guide you through the keyboard replacement procedure on a liquid damaged 11″ or 13″  MacBook Air.

In my case a little bit of water was spilled on the lower right corner. After that some of the keys stopped working but the rest of the laptop worked just fine. I was able to use it with an external USB keyboard.

MacBook Air liquid damaged keyboard

Unfortunately, the keyboard is permanently attached to the top case and cannot be easily replaced like on a MacBook Pro.

I will show you two methods. One is relatively easy but expensive and another one is pretty difficult but cheap. Read on.


Method 1. Expensive and easy.

If the keyboard is damaged you can replace the entire top case assembly which includes the palm rest and keyboard.


Make sure you have all necessary screwdrivers before starting the disassembly process.

Models 2008-2009: Phillips #00 and T6 torx.

Models 2010-2014: Phillips #00, T5 torx, T6 torx, 5 point pentalobe (this is a special one).

Complete MacBook Air screwdriver kits are available on eBay.

On the following picture you can see the 5 point pentalobe screw.

MacBook Air Pentalobe screw



Find a new (recommended) or used replacement top case assembly.


MacBook Air top case keyboard

Make sure it matches your laptop model number (for example A1369, A1466, etc…). The model number can be found on the bottom cover.

Alternatively, you can search for the replacement part using the model year and screen size (for example 11.6″ Mid 2013, 13″ Early 2014, etc…).



1. Select your screen size from the disassembly categories.

2. Select your model year.

3. Select the upper case replacement instructions. This is the most complete guide which you can follow in order to replace the top case keyboard assembly.


Method 2. Cheap and difficult.

Apple designed the top case assembly to be not serviceable but it’s still possible to replace just the keyboard.

Disassemble the laptop so you have only to top case with the keyboard and trackpad attached to it.

It’s not necessary to remove the display.

Top cover ready for keyboard replacement


Lift up the keyboard cable and VERY CAREFULLY unlock the connector on the trackpad.

Do it by lifting up the right side of the cable retainer. It will open up at a 90 degree angle.

Work slowly. If you break the connector you will have to replace the trackpad.

Unlock keyboard connector


Pull the cable out of the connector.

Disconnect keyboard cable


I would suggest covering the screen with a soft cloth. It will help to prevent any accidental scratches.

Cover laptop screen


Start separating the backlight from the keyboard.

It’s secured by sticky tape.

Start separating backlight


The backlight has a few layers.

Basically, you will have to remove all layers located above the metal keyboard surface.

Do not separate them from each other.

Backlight layers


I found the backlight glued to the keyboard very well and hard to remove.

Heating up the backlight with a hair dryer made it much easier.

Heat up the backlight


Continue separating the backlight.

I was very careful but still damaged the lower layer of the backlight assembly.

If you do that, don’t worry too much. It still can be reused.

Continue removing backlight


While removing the backlight keep heating it up with a hair dryer.

Continue heating up backlight


The backlight has been removed! A little bit damaged but still can be used again.

MacBook Air backlight removed

STEP 10.

Now the fun part begins.

The keyboard is ready for the removal.

Keyboard ready for removal

STEP 11.

The keyboard is secured to the top case by 40 black screws (marked with yellow circles) along the perimeter and 52 rivets (green circles).

Remove all screws using a hight quality precision Phillips screwdriver. I suggest using a Wiha PH00 or something similar.

If you proceed with a bad quality screwdriver, it will be a nightmare to remove and install all those microscopic screws.

Screws and rivets

STEP 12.

After all 40 black screws removed, cover the back side of the keyboard with clear tape.

The tape will help to keep rivets attached to the keyboard during the disassembly process.

Apply sticky tape on keyboard

STEP 13.

Again, make sure the keyboard cable is disconnected from the trackpad.

Make sure keyboard disconnected

STEP 14.

Now start separating the keyboard from the aluminum frame.

You will have to apply some reasonable force to break the rivets.

The keyboard will bent… badly.

Start separating keyboard from top cover

STEP 15.

The rivets will stay attached to the keyboard because you secured them with clear tape in the step 12.

Rivets secured by tape

STEP 16.

Continue separating the keyboard.

Again, some force is necessary.

Continue removing keyboard

STEP 17.

Now it’s completely removed and damaged. I don’t think I will use it anytime soon. :)

Keyboard removed

STEP 18.

On the aluminum frame you will find a few small studs. Make sure there are no debris left on those studs.

Studs has to be cleaned up

STEP 19.

You can removed debris using a flat head screwdriver.

Clean up the stud

STEP 20.

A new aftermarket keyboard is ready for installation. New replacement keyboard available on eBay.

Also, you will need 52 screws to replace the rivets. Also available on eBay.

By the way, some sellers offer sets of 50 screws but you need 52 of them, at least for a MacBook Air 13″ used in my example.

New MacBook Air keyboard and screws

STEP 21.

Before installing a new keyboard clean up the aluminum frame using a cotton swab and alcohol.

Clean up laptop frame

STEP 22.

Plug in the keyboard cable into the connector and lock it.

Connect keyboard to trackpad

STEP 23.

Turn the keyboard upside down and position it on the top case frame.

Push on the cable to bend it the same way as the original one.

Place keyboard

STEP 24.

Make sure the keyboard positioned correctly and all studs on the frame go thought the holes.

Make sure keyboard positioned correctly

STEP 25.

Secure the keyboard with 40 black screws (along the perimeter) and 52 silver screws (instead of broken rivets).

Install keyboard screws

STEP 26.

Install the backlight back in place and glue it back to the frame.

If you damaged the backlight while removing it, you can buy a new one on eBay.

Install backlight

Assemble the MacBook Air and test the keyboard.

My damaged backlight works just fine!

Backlight works

If you removed the logic board and found that it’s damaged by liquid, you can try cleaning it up.

Don’t want to fix the laptop but need the data?  Here’s how to access files on the hard drive or SSD.

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