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Dell Latitude palmrest crack

Posted on 2006-06-29
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Last Modified: 2013-11-17
A small crack is commonly developing in the left front corner edge of the Dell Latitude series laptop computer palmrest.
A search of the internet turns up a number of used Latitude laptop computers with exactly this flaw. What is the cause of this crack and is there a permanent fix, before my own Dell Latitude D810 develops such a crack?
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Question by:ESQuicksall
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by:jamietoner
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I have a D810 and used to work at dell and have a buddy who still does, when i was upgrading the graphics card in it he warned me not to overtighten a screw on the left side of the palmrest because he was seeing alot of cracked palmrests because techs and customers were overtightening when replacing parts.
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by:ESQuicksall
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I'm increasing the points because I have never opened this computer case and have not had any technician work on it.
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by:RJSherin
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I have just been through exactly this problem on my new Dell M70.  No, it is not caused by overtightening, but rather by a Dell engineering design error which I doubt that Dell will  ever fix.  In my case it was at the left front screw coming up into the palmrest.  Dell has left about an .018" gap between between the bottom of the screw receptacle coming down from the palmrest and the base of the computer.  Tightening the screw closes this .018" gap, putting tension on the plastic at the corner of the palmrest.  Under tension the plastic separates and you have a crack.  If you leave the screw very loose, you will avoid the Dell engineering design error.  Leaving a screw loose is a "workaround" but not a sound solution.  Customers and techs should not be blamed for Dell's engineering error.

Although I paid a bundle for "Complete Care" warranty on this computer until 12/8/2008 including next business day service, the best Dell would do for me was to send me a replacement palm rest to install myself.  By following a DVD service manual procured from Australia right after purchasing the computer I had no problem doing the replacement myself.  It was during that replacement that I used shims to make measurements and accurately determine the existence of the above Dell error.  My permanent engineering fix was to add a .020" thick fiber washer having 3mm hole and 8 mm OD (conveniently available in my junkbox of small parts) where the subject screw came through the base.  That made the palmrest seat upon the base of the computer very nicely, with no tension on the plastic at the problem corner.  There will be no more cracking there.  You might make a similar fix before (not after!) your D810 develops this very common separation (crack).
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by:ESQuicksall
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Thanks, you have saved me from a problem I'm sure I would have had.

I'm going to do that.
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by:ESQuicksall
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Can you please give me some instructions on how to take it apart?
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RJSherin earned 450 total points
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0.  Turn the computer off.  Remove the battery.
1.  Open the lid 180 degrees, face up on the table.
2.  Pop the center control cover with a plastic tool (e.g. a plastic knife tip) starting at the notch at the right end.  Tease the whole cover out, using logic to find and release the plastic hooks.  Do not just yank!  It is really pretty easy if you use your head.
3.  Two short screws pinning the top of the keyboard are exposed.  Remove them and tease the keyboard toward the back and out of the slight side detents.  Easy.  Don't yank up!
4.  Lift the front of the keyboard.  Under the front elevated keyboard, using the cable connector pull handle, pull straight up remove the keyboard connector from the motherboard.  Set the keyboard aside.
5.  Close the cover and turn the computer over to work from the bottom.
6.  Remove the two long screws marked "D" from the extreme rear corners.  These release the display.  The legs of the display go through the palmrest, which is why you will have to remove the display.
7.  Turn the computer over and open the cover to about viewing position.
8.  Remove the display cable connector from the mother board and take the cable out of the routing channel.
9.  There is a black and white wire pair coming out the bottom of the display to a black wire to wire snap connection near the left edge of the right hinge.  That is the wireless antenna.  Fish the black wire to wire snap connector out of its little pocket and pry the snap connection apart.  The display should then lift straight out, unimpeded.  Set it safely aside.
10.Turn the computer back over so the bottom is up to remove exactly 13 screws holding the palmrest.  11 of these are along the very outside perimeter and easy to locate.  One more is inward about 1/2" from the edge and obviously goes to nothing other than the palmrest.  The 13th screw if off one corner of the battery roughly midway left to right on the base and about 1/3 of the way from the front of the computer to the back of the computer.
11. Turn the computer over so the top side is up.  Remove exactly 4 short screws labeled "P" holding the palmrest down.
12. Remove the system board connector over at the right near the rear.
13. Gently remove the touchpad connector from the motherboard near the middle center.

You can use the plastic knife to pry back and forth on the connector ends till they come loose of the weak detents.  Look for the bumps and depressions of the detents when you have the connectors apart.  Later in reassembly align these surfaces (e.g, don't get a connector turned around 180 deg) and the connectors will easily snap into place.

16.  Tha palmrest should lift off easily, unimpeded.  If not look for a screw or connector not removed.
17.  In putting the palmrest back, insert the front left screw up from the bottom first.  Put a small .018" - .020" thickness fiber or metal washer on the projecting screw.  Put the palmrest on the screw and turn the screw in a few turns, enough to hold.  Set the palmrest down in place temporarily and verify that the lower left corner of the plamrest is closing against the body of the computer to within, say, the thickness of a piece of paper.  You can sand down your shim washer as requred to get nice closure to within the thickness of a piece of paper.  It is this washer which will permanently overcome Dell's design error.

Then resassemble in the reverse order.  Be sure the wireless antenna connector is snapped fully together when it is placed back in its pocket.

With the above and your common sense and a light hand you should have no problem in doing the disassembly/reassembly.  You can improvise the washer out of cardboard by searching out the right thickness, drilling or punching a small hole and cutting to a good diameter with scissors.  You may find a suitable washer in your junk box.  I think that you could find suitable fiber washers holding the screws from falling out of a new 115VAC outlet.  A hardware store or Home Depot probably has a washer which will work.
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by:ESQuicksall
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Ok, thanks for the really detailed instructions. It looks like you have figured out how to fix this problem. It is too bad DELL didn't send someone out to fix it, especially when they must know of the problem and since you have the "Complete Care" warranty. I had always counted on DELL's support when buying a new computer and advised others based on their support but now I will be a bit leery.
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