One issue that has left some MacBook users scratching their heads is the infamous “Flexgate” problem. Characterized by display malfunctions, including backlight issues and uneven lighting, Flexgate is more than just a minor inconvenience—it can compromise the entire user experience.
In this article, I’ll unravel the mystery behind the MacBook Flexgate issue, explore its impact, and offer practical solutions to fix it. Whether you’re experiencing these issues firsthand or simply want to stay informed, read on to keep your MacBook experience hassle-free.
What Is the MacBook Flexgate Issue?
The MacBook Flexgate issue primarily affects the backlighting of the MacBook Pro models with Retina displays released between 2016 and 2017. The issue is dubbed “Flexgate” because it originates from a flaw in the flex cable that links the display to the controller logic board.
This hardware flaw causes the display to show a “stage light effect” at the bottom or leads to complete backlight failure. The issue occurs due to the cables’ design, which is too short, causing them to fail prematurely. The easiest solution if you’re under Apple’s warranty is to visit an Apple Store for a free display replacement.
Now that I’ve addressed what Flexgate is and the most straightforward fix, let’s dive deeper into other potential solutions and preventative measures. Knowing all your options will arm you with the knowledge to combat this issue effectively.
Which MacBook Models Are Impacted by the Flexgate Issue?
The Flexgate issue predominantly impacts MacBook Pro models released between 2016 and 2017. Specifically, these are the MacBook Pro models with either a 13-inch or 15-inch Retina Display. This is particularly an issue in these models due to the cable’s design and location.
Specifically, the Flexgate issue mainly affects these MacBook Pro models:
- A1706 – 13-inch MacBook Pro from 2016 to 2017 (with Touch Bar)
- A1707 – 15-inch MacBook Pro from 2016 to 2017 (with Touch Bar)
- A1708 – 13-inch MacBook Pro from 2016 to 2017 (without Touch Bar)
It’s worth noting that while the issue is most commonly associated with these MacBook Pro models, users of other MacBook versions should still be aware of Flexgate symptoms. Apple has taken steps to address the issue in newer models, but understanding the problem can help all MacBook users take preventative measures.
What Are the Causes of MacBook Flexgate?
The root cause of the MacBook Flexgate issue lies in the design and material of the Flex cable that connects the laptop’s display to its controller logic board. Here’s a breakdown of the causes of the MacBook Flexgate issue:
- 🛠️ Design Flaw: The flex cable connecting the display to the controller logic board is designed to be thin and short, making it vulnerable to damage.
- 🧪 Material Weakness: The flex cable’s delicate material is susceptible to wear and tear over time.
- 🔄 Mechanical Stress: Repeated opening and closing of the laptop’s lid puts stress on the flex cable, exacerbating its vulnerabilities.
- 🔗 Integrated Cable: In affected 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro models, the cable is integrated into the display, making it less accessible for repairs.
- 🚨 Regular Wear and Tear: The wear and tear on the cable leads to display issues like the “stage light effect,” uneven backlighting, or complete backlight failure.
What Are the Symptoms of the Flexgate Issue?
The symptoms of the MacBook Flexgate issue can manifest in various ways but tend to focus on display anomalies. Recognizing these symptoms early on is crucial for timely diagnosis and repair, potentially saving you from more severe and costly damage down the line.
Here are the key symptoms of the Flexgate issue on MacBook:
1. Stage Light Effect
One of the most common symptoms is a stage light effect at the bottom of the display, resembling the lighting used in theater stages. This effect caused by the Flexgate issue emerges when the flex cable is not entirely broken, but some of its connecting lines are damaged.
Designed to loop around the laptop’s hinge, the cable tightens when the lid is opened and loosens when closed. This repeated cycle of tension and relaxation can lead to the cable deteriorating and malfunctioning, resulting in the stage light effect.
This symptom appears as a bright, stage-like illumination at the bottom of the screen or as distorted or discolored images on the display.
2. Uneven Backlighting
You may encounter uneven backlighting, characterized by inconsistent illumination across the display. In these cases, specific areas of the screen may appear noticeably darker than others, affecting the uniformity of the visual output. This is often a sign that the flex cable is partially damaged but still operational to some extent.
3. Flickering Screen
Screen flickering is another symptom that may indicate a Flexgate issue. You may notice intermittent changes in screen brightness, or the display might flicker on and off. This can be both distracting and disruptive to workflow, signifying a deteriorating flex cable connection.
4. Complete Backlight Failure
In severe instances, the backlight can fail entirely, making the screen nearly impossible to see in dim or normal lighting conditions. When this happens, the display becomes unusable, requiring immediate attention. This often indicates a complete flex cable failure.
5. Color Distortions
Less commonly, you may observe color distortions or streaks appearing on the screen. These can manifest as irregular color bands, unusual pixelation, or other graphical anomalies. This suggests that the flex cable might be affecting the display’s color rendering capabilities.
6. Display Turning Off
In some instances, the display may turn off while the MacBook is still running. This can happen sporadically and can be a significant disruption. This issue could be linked to flex cable wear and tear affecting the display’s electrical connections.
7. No Display
The most extreme symptom is when the display doesn’t turn on at all, even though the rest of the MacBook seems to be functioning correctly. You might hear the startup chime or the keyboard may light up, but the screen remains black. This is usually indicative of a total flex cable failure.
8. Graphic Glitches
Graphic glitches such as random lines, blocks, or artifacts appearing on the screen can also be symptoms of the Flexgate issue. These glitches can affect both the functionality and aesthetics of the MacBook experience and may be linked to the flex cable causing irregularities in data transmission to the display.
Is the Flexgate Issue Repairable?
Yes, the Flexgate issue is generally repairable, but the method and cost of repair can vary depending on a few factors like warranty status, model, and the severity of the problem.
The Flexgate issue is repairable through a technique known as micro-soldering, where a small supplemental cable is soldered to the existing Flex cable. This added length alleviates the stress on the original cable, reducing the likelihood of Flexgate issues resurfacing.
The root cause of the Flexgate problem is damage to the flex cable, making micro-soldering a logical repair solution. By extending the cable’s length via micro-soldering, you decrease the chances of further damage.
Additionally, removing a small section of the Wi-Fi antenna can further lessen the stress exerted on the flex cable.
How to Verify the Flexgate Issue on Your MacBook Pro
Before diving headlong into any repair or replacement, you must confirm whether your MacBook Pro is actually experiencing the Flexgate issue. Misdiagnosing the problem could lead you to a wild goose chase of irrelevant solutions, costing time and money.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to accurately identify the Flexgate issue on your MacBook Pro:
- Turn on your MacBook Pro by pressing the power button and wait for about a minute.
- Hit the Caps Lock key and make sure its indicator light is on.
- Using a single finger, touch the center of the trackpad and move your finger towards the upper-left corner of the trackpad.
- Take your MacBook Pro into a dark room. Use a flashlight to illuminate the upper-left corner of the screen. If you can spot the cursor, you likely have a Flexgate backlight issue.
- If the Caps Lock light fails to turn on, your MacBook Pro may have other issues such as a faulty logic board, which are unrelated to Flexgate.
- If your MacBook Pro has a Touch Bar that lights up, that means the CPU is functional, and you can skip testing the Caps Lock key.
- Only use one finger for the trackpad test in Step 3 above. The macOS default setting uses single-finger movement to control the cursor. Since you can’t see the cursor, you might need to repeat this step multiple times to ensure it’s in the upper-left corner. If unsure, practice on a fully functional MacBook to get a sense of how the cursor moves.
- If you can’t detect a dim image after several attempts, it doesn’t necessarily eliminate the possibility of a Flexgate issue. Variables such as insufficient darkness, incorrect flashlight angle, or a non-functional keyboard could impact the test results.
How to Fix the MacBook Flexgate Issue
Now that you’re well-versed in identifying the symptoms and understanding the causes of the MacBook Flexgate issue, let’s pivot to the most crucial part—how to fix it.
Whether you’re considering taking your MacBook Pro to an Apple Store, opting for a third-party repair, or even thinking about a DIY approach, I’ve got you covered. Read on to explore how to fix the MacBook Flexgate issue.
1. Use Apple’s Display Backlight Service Program
Initially, Apple overlooked customer complaints about the Flexgate issue that emerged in the 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro models. As grievances continued to accumulate, Apple eventually took action and rolled out a free display replacement program in 2019 aimed at addressing the Flexgate problem.
If your MacBook Pro falls under Apple’s warranty or is eligible for Apple’s Display Backlight Service program, the best course of action is to take it to an Apple Store or authorized service provider for a free display replacement.
Which MacBook Pro Is Eligible for the Apple Backlight Repair Program?
Apple’s display backlight service program doesn’t extend free repairs to every MacBook Pro model affected by the Flexgate issue. The program specifically covers only two models:
- MacBook Pro 13-inch (2016, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
- MacBook Pro 13-inch (2016, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
If you have one of these eligible models, you can submit your laptop for a complimentary Flexgate fix. For those with models not covered by this program, DIY or third-party repair services are the alternative, offering options like display replacement or micro-soldering of the flex cable.
Here’s how to check if your MacBook is eligible for the Apple Backlight Repair Program:
- Click the Apple menu in the top-left corner of your screen.
- Select About This Mac.
- Review the details in the About window to see if your MacBook falls under the eligible models (mine doesn’t).
- If it does, remember to back up all your Mac data before reaching out to Apple for the complimentary repair service.
2. Third-Party Repairs
If your device is out of warranty and not eligible for any repair program, third-party repairs are an option. Skilled technicians can replace the faulty flex cable or even the entire display assembly, depending on the extent of the damage.
Note that this option may void any existing or future warranty with Apple.
3. Do It Yourself
For the technically savvy, DIY repair kits and tutorials are available online. This is the riskiest method and is generally not recommended unless you have significant experience with hardware repairs.
But if you’re confident, here are the steps to fix the Flexgate issue on Mac yourself:
- Set up the MacBook in a brightly lit and clutter-free space.
- Shut down your MacBook and unplug all cords to mitigate the risk of accidental electrical issues.
- Unscrew the base plate to access the internal components. Keep track of all screws.
- Shine a flashlight on the cable that links the display to the motherboard and look for signs of damage.
- Identify the specific cable that needs attention, making note of its appearance for later reference.
- Gently unhook the damaged cable from the motherboard, taking care not to harm other components.
- Whether you’re repairing or replacing the cable, attach the new one as per manufacturer guidelines. Ensure all connectors are tightly secured.
- Reattach the display and secure it using the original screws, applying minimal force to avoid damaging sensitive components.
- Before turning your MacBook back on, ensure all newly made connections are secure.
- Power up your MacBook and perform a quick test to ensure everything is working optimally.
How to Prevent MacBook Flexgate Issue
Preventing the Flexgate issue from occurring in the first place can save you a lot of trouble and potential repair costs down the line. While some factors might be out of your control, such as manufacturing flaws, there are proactive measures you can take to minimize the risk.
Here are some preventive tips to help you ward off the dreaded Flexgate issue and prolong the life of your MacBook Pro’s display:
- 🤲 Gentle Handling: Always open and close your MacBook lid gently. Sudden movements can put excessive stress on the flex cable.
- 🛑 Limit Full Extension: Avoid consistently opening your MacBook lid to its maximum extent, as this can strain the flex cable over time.
- 🧹 Regular Cleaning: Dust and debris can get lodged in the hinge area, causing wear and tear. Regularly clean this area with a soft cloth.
- 🛡️ Use a Supportive Case: Consider using a hard shell or protective case that provides some support to the hinge area.
- 🌡️ Temperature Management: Extreme temperatures can affect your MacBook’s hardware. Use your device in a controlled environment to prevent your Mac from overheating and minimize stress on all components, including the flex cable.
- ⚠️ Avoid Overloading USB Ports: Using all the Thunderbolt ports simultaneously for extended periods may generate extra heat, which can potentially affect the cable. Try to limit this as much as possible.
The MacBook Flexgate issue is a hardware problem that affects the display backlight of certain MacBook Pro models. While it’s a frustrating issue to experience, solutions are available to fix it. Here are some more troubleshooting tips for related MacBook problems:
- If your keyboard backlight is not working on Mac, check the keyboard settings, boot your Mac into Safe Mode, reset the NVRAM/PRAM, and SMC.
- If your Apple Mouse is not working, check its batteries, Bluetooth connectivity, your Mac’s USB ports, and mouse settings.
- Mac Cursor Frozen? Try force-quitting conflicting apps using the keyboard shortcut (Command ⌘ + Option ⌥ + Esc).
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I fix MacBook Flexgate at home, or must I take it to a professional?
Fixing MacBook Flexgate requires a delicate repair process and specialized tools, so it’s only recommended to attempt it at home if you have the necessary experience and tools. It’s best to take it to a professional with experience with MacBook repairs to ensure the repair is done correctly.
Does Apple’s warranty cover MacBook Flexgate?
If your MacBook is still under warranty, then it may be covered by Apple’s warranty. However, it’s always best to check with Apple support or an authorized service provider to determine if your issue is covered.
How much does it cost to fix a MacBook Flexgate?
The cost of fixing the MacBook Flexgate can vary depending on the severity of the issue and the MacBook model you own. It’s best to consult a professional or authorized service provider for an accurate cost estimate.
How much time does it take to fix the Flexgate issue?
The time required to fix the Flexgate issue can vary depending on the repair method used. If you’re opting for a professional repair service, expect the process to take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours. If you’re tackling the problem yourself, allocate at least 2 to 4 hours to ensure a thorough fix.
Can I get my Mac Flexgate repaired for free?
Yes, you can get your Mac’s Flexgate issue repaired for free if your device is eligible for Apple’s display backlight service program. However, this program currently only covers certain 13-inch MacBook Pro models from 2016. If your MacBook Pro is not eligible, you will need to seek a paid repair, either from Apple or a third-party service provider.