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LG VX8600 Cell Phone survives trip through washing machine

An article by Plainsboro.COM owner Kennedy Lemke
April, 2008

[See also my followup on this incident (below), containing detailed information about what I did to fix the power key.]

A few weeks ago (beginning of March, 2008) I was doing laundry and during my first load of shirts I accidentally left my cell phone, an LG VX8600 in a shirt pocket. I didn't notice that I had done this until the load of shirts was completely finished--the washing cycle was done. And, since I have neither a land line nor a backup cell phone, I was pretty pissed off at myself and the circumstance and was envisioning having to shell out another few hundred bucks for yet another new phone--I'm already on my fourth in four years (three Motorola's and one LG). Arggghhhh.

The phone was in a leather carrying case with a buckle on it to attach to your belt, so the phone was protected somewhat by this, but still, my guess is that it was completely submerged for some large number of minutes and also experienced the agitator knocking it around.

At first it didn't work at all. I searched the internet a bit for other folks who have had a similar experience and found a few successful resuscitation stories. So I took the battery out of the phone and essentially tried to dry out the phone sans battery over the next couple days by letting it sit in a sunny window or over a heating vent.

Long story short, the drying out worked. The battery that went through the wash was completely hosed, but I had a spare battery, and after some fiddling around and some more drying out, the cell phone seems to be working at about 99%, and has been for about three weeks now. I can still make and receive calls, check my voice mail, use the tools like the alarm clock and so forth. The only thing that doesn't yet work is the "Power/End" key. But I've found that I can get by just fine without using that key anyway.

So my kudos go out to LG Electronics, manufacturer of the phone. I'd say that many electronic devices that are fully submerged and put through a wash cycle might very likely not ever work again, so it's a testament to some great manufacturing and some luck that this phone still works. THANK YOU LG ELECTRONICS! I'll very likely choose an LG product for future electronics needs because of this positive experience that saved me real $$.

By the way, I don't work for LG or any other cell phone manufacturer. I'm just a user who had a good/lucky experience.

UPDATE 4/5/2008: After the latest battery charging, the Power/End key now seems to be working again! Woohoo! So now the phone is working exactly as if it were brand new (plus it's CLEAN!).

Followup: September 3, 2008

Previously above, I had reported that my LG VX8600 cell phone had survived a trip through a washing machine. This was true, and after I dried it out for a couple days, it seemed to work fine, except that the power key wasn't working. Later in an addendum I stated that even the power key seemed to be working again. However, I had spoken too soon apparently as the power key stopped working again shortly thereafter. No problem, right? Just leave the phone on all the time, even when recharging, and I wouldn't NEED the power button.

Well, this month (September 2008), in anticipation of an upcoming out of town trip, I purchased a cheap-o spare battery and a car recharger. Before trying to swap the battery out for the new one, I was aware of the possibility that I might not be able to power the phone back on (since the power key was hosed). However, I checked the VX8600's manual, and somehow had gotten the impression that the phone would power up also if I just inserted a charged battery. But I didn't read the remainder of the information that indicated you also needed to press the power key.

So (*sigh*) of course as soon as I swapped the battery out, I was able to charge the replacement battery, but I wasn't able to turn the phone on. Arrgggh. So I looked into getting a new phone. I was just about to order a replacement phone (I was within seconds of pressing the online "order" button), when I decided to try one more thing: taking the entire phone apart to see if I could fix the power key.

So I proceeded to take the phone apart to investigate. It wasn't going to be any good to me if I couldn't power it on anyway. I took the phone out of its protective leather case, and checked out what I needed to do to take the thing apart. This was the process I used:

  • With a small knife, I removed four little pieces of plastic that cover the tiny screws on the back of the unit.

  • I then unscrewed 6 screws: the four on the back of the unit that I uncovered, and 2 inside the battery compartment. I needed a *tiny* screwdriver to do this; my normal tiny screwdriver that I use with many computer-related screws was too big. Luckily I did have a super-tiny screwdriver that worked great for removing these screws

  • Once the screws were out, I was able to remove the back cover. This back cover is essentially there to protect the circuitry and provide a way to lock the battery in place.

  • I then found that I could remove the small power/microsd circuit board, and also removed another separate piece of plastic at the bottom of the device near the microphone (perhaps part of the microphone sub-assembly)

  • I was then able to remove the main circuit board from the phone. The black plastic cover for the numbers you press came out at this point. I could remove the circuit board to the extent that it was separate from the piece of plastic that covers it, but the circuit board was still attached to the display portion of the phone via a small piece of circuitry encased in plastic (like a small, flat ribbon cable).

  • At this point, I snapped back into place the small power circuit board, then I held a charged battery in place with one hand and tried pressing the power button. Nothing :-(

  • So the next thing I tried is some further disassembly, peeling back a piece of plastic stuck to the actual circuit board covering all the number and navigation buttons, including the power button

  • I then fiddled with the buttons a bit, pressing them with the small screwdriver and with my fingers. After a bit of this fiddling and with the sticky plastic piece still pulled away from the circuit board, I again tried holding the battery in place with one hand and this time pressed the power button. LO AND BEHOLD, the power came on! Wow. I then powered off and on a few times and it kept working (yay).

  • Next, I tried slowly re-assembling the phone, checking at each point along the way to make sure the power button continued working. I re-attached the sticky plastic piece over the buttons, put the flat black plastic numbers piece back in place, made sure all the circuit board pieces were properly in place, snapped the back on again, put back the 6 screws, and re-attached the little plastic screw covers. At each step of the re-assembly process, I kept checking to make sure the power button continued to work, and it did!

So, after completely disassembling the phone, fiddling with the power button completely uncovered, and testing, I was able to get the power button working again. There is not one thing that I know I did for sure that fixed the problem; perhaps it was just exposing the button to air that may have caused some deeply buried water to evaporate, or just the fiddling that caused that button's contacts to connect again. But whatever it was, I have ended up with a working power button, and after testing I can report a fully functioning cell phone once again.

I unfortunately didn't think to take pictures along the way during this process, but if I ever have a need to take the phone apart again, I'll be sure to do so.