Preparing the MacBook Display Backlight cables for Flexgate Repair

Flexgate Failure – 2016-2017 MacBook Repair

  • Post published:December 27, 2023

Flexgate Introduction

Vancouver Mac Service Centre has performed almost 100 repairs to alleviate the common “Flexgate” failure found in 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro models. The specific models affected are A1706, A1707 and A1708. Apple had a service program available for some of these models, but it has unfortunately expired, despite these issues arising more than ever in customers’ MacBooks. Furthermore, the issue never covered the 15″ Model A1707, which the issue is very prevalent in.

Preparing the MacBook Display Backlight cables for Flexgate Repair

The Flat Soldering Method

The issue arises from an improperly designed display backlight cable, which was made too short. When the display is opened fully, the cable bends very sharply, which over time causes it to crack, and eventually fail. The issue is diagnosed by shutting down the MacBook, opening the display slightly, then power the laptop on. If the display then shuts off after further extending the display, this is almost certainly the root cause. Sometimes, the display will not shut off, but instead show a “stagelight” effect on the bottom of the display. This is caused by the same defect, but the issue may not have progressed as far.

There are various ways to repair the issue, but over years of working through this MacBook Repair’s specific procedure, a very specific method has been refined. The video below demonstrates the procedure:

There are three main methods of repairing this issue. The traces of the broken cable can be bridged using small copper jumper wires, but this method is not very reliable, since the small jumper wires cannot withstand the repeated bending that the cable must endure. It is also possible to remove the glass LCD panel, and replace the cable from it’s root connection to the LED backlight strip, but this method is more time consuming, and there is a risk of breaking the glass. Vancouver Mac Service Centre’s method of extending the original backlight cable using a new backlight cable is very reliable, and across approximately 100 flexgate repairs, not one has come back due to the issue reoccurring.

This method requires precision and experience to ensure a proper and reliable connection. The backlight cable has 10 traces, made of very thin flat copper. Each trace must be fused properly inside the joint to prevent excessive strain and prevent solder bridges, which can prevent the display from working altogether or result in a “stagelight” effect when one of the six LED return lines are not making a proper connection back to the main logic board. The video demonstrates a method of testing each of the 10 traces resistance to the ground line, to ensure that the cable will work without any issues.

Various tools are used in this repair demonstration, including a JBC Soldering Station and Quick Hot Air Station. These tools are expensive, but are important to performing this repair repeatedly and for good results. Improper temperature regulation and delivery can deform the internal layer of the backlight cable, which can reduce robustness and increase the complexity of the repair. In addition, a quality leaded solder and flux are necessary to produce a strong and reliable bond between the old and new backlight flex cable. Lastly, a quality stereoscopic microscope allows for proper visual inspection and for accurate positioning and soldering to be performed.

Camera cable failure

In some rare cases, the camera cable also fails in the same way. It is much less common, because this camera cable is slightly longer, but it is still possible. This issue presents with a “No Camera Detected” message when opening up applications such as Photo Booth. Unfortunately, the camera cable has a much higher density of traces, and it is not possible to reliably repair this cable using this method.

For MacBooks that present with the Flexgate failure in both the backlight and camera cables, a full display repair is necessary wherein the cables will be replaced from their root attachment to the LED strip inside the display assembly. The camera cable pinout has been reverse engineered and displayed below:

Flexgate Repair resource - pinout of the TCON camera cable from MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models between 2016 and 2020

The camera connector contains a high-speed serial interface, as well as dual I2C data lines for communication with both the camera module and ambient light sensor modules. As a result, the traces are too small inside the camera connector to ensure a long-lasting repair using this flat soldering method.

Get your MacBook Repaired

The repair can be readily performed at Vancouver Mac Service Centre, please view the contact page to get in touch with any questions or the repair page to view pricing. Pricing is reduced from the full cost of a display repair.

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