White Unibody MacBook Bottom Case Fix: Upholstery

In 2009 Apple introduced a new polycarbonate unibody white MacBook to replace their older white MacBook body style. This new body was a plastic version of the aluminum unibody design earlier introduced in the MacBook Pro line.

Apple-MacBook-White-mid-2010Apart from being white plastic/polycarbonate, it looked more consistent with the MacBook Pro line and also got a one-big-button multi-touch trackpad, similar to the Pro models. It received a single hardware revision in 2010 before being phased out sometime in 2011 and replaced by the lower-cost 10-inch MacBook Air.

This is a great MacBook even in 2014/2015 and will run OS X 10.10 Yosemite just fine – especially if you replace its original hard drive with an SSD and have more than the introductory 2 GB of RAM.

However, the one catch for this MacBook body style is the rubber-covered bottom. I have yet to see one that doesn’t at least have some of the rubber layer being loose around the edges. Often people just tear the rubber layer off completely, leaving a bare steel bottom with holes in it and screw heads that don’t sit flush with the surface.

Apple-MacBook-White-mid-2010-bare-bottomTo Apple’s credit, somewhere along the line they started offering to replace this bottom piece for free with their MacBook Bottom Case Replacement Program. But it doesn’t seem like many plastic unibody MacBook owners were notified about this. If you own one of these, call Apple. They might still replace your bottom case depending on when your MacBook was originally purchased. But the one I recently bought (USED!) missed the cut-off date by a month or so. Apple said they would sell me the bottom case piece for about $100 – a bit too much for a 5-year-old laptop in my humble opinion.

There are people selling new bottom cases on Amazon and elsewhere for much better prices. I tried to buy one but it never arrived. I am currently awaiting a refund, but the seller is not responding to my messages.

Which is why I had to get creative.

Finding a New Covering for MacBook Bottom Case

Turns out that replacing the faulty rubber covering on your plastic unibody MacBook’s “bottom case” isn’t that difficult. A few months ago I helped a friend buy one of these and I used packing tape to attach a cut-to-fit piece of 5/16-inch-thick masonite to its bottom case. I did pretty clean work and the masonite protected the user’s lap from the high heat generated by the MacBook and the packing tape covered up the screw heads that could get caught on clothes or scrape the finish off of your table top. But it looked … a bit low rent, to say the least.

More recently I purchased another one of these for a family member. That’s where me ordering a new bottom case from Amazon comes into play.

But out of this frustration with a failed purchase and a faulty product design came a brilliant new, better-than-tape-and-masonite solution: use the upholstery off of an old couch as a replacement for the original rubber covering!

I simply cut a piece of upholstery from the dump-destined old couch, bought some E-6000 Craft Adhesive, detached the bottom case from the MacBook and spent way too much time patiently fitting and adhering the upholstery onto the bottom case.

I used a 1/4-inch margin to wrap over the edge of the bottom case, ensuring a nice, rounded edge. With a flat scraper razor I removed the soft, fuzzy threads from that wrap-over margin to make sure the newly-covered bottom case fit as tightly onto the MacBook as possible. Those little screws are not even an 1/8-inch long, so there wasn’t much room for additional spacing.

The final result is thick enough on the outside that the screw heads are now more or less flush with the upholstery material. It also provides a cushioned bottom for the laptop, similar to the original rubber material.

It’s frugal. It’s functional. It looks friggin’ awesome.

1997 Ford Escort: Varying Idle and Stalling

My wife’s 1997 Ford Escort suddenly started having idling problems today. Basically, whenever the car was fully stopped or in park it would idle up and down, hovering over stalling and eventually doing just that. However, it would have no problems restarting after the stall.

Initially I thought the problem was related to the status of motor oil… but that’s another issue. Topping off the motor oil to the appropriate level did nothing to correct the idling problem.

After that disappointment I started noticing a hissing, or air-sucking noise coming from somewhere around the engine. This turned out to be the key.

I found a small hole in the L-bend of the PCV hose, which sits along the top-back of the engine on this particular Escort model. I put my finger over the hole and the engine suddenly returned to normal idle. The L-bend piece was actually caved-in around the hole, so proper repair would mean replacing the PCV hose or PCV hose and valve, depending on how Ford sells the parts. However, with one day left in the work week I temporarily repaired the L-bend with an abundant wrapping of black electric tape. This seems to work and will hopefully keep the car running properly until I can replace the PCV part or parts on Saturday.

You can read more about the interesting history and functionality of the PCV valve at Wikipedia.

Car Brake Lights Stuck On

Last night my wife informed me that her brake lights were stuck on. It had been a rainy day, so my biggest fear was that there was some sort of electrical short God-knows-where inside the car. This could be expensive. After some back-and-forth of tapping the brakes, turning on the car, turning the lights on and off with no result I finally changed clothes and squirmed under the dash to see what was up. Here’s what I found, in case it might be helpful to others.

The brake pedal is connected to at least one button for turning the brake lights on and off. As the pedal is released, the button is depressed. As the pedal is pressed, the button is released. When the button is depressed, the lights go off. When the button is released, the lights go on.

In the case of my wife’s 1996 Ford Escort, there is a small, blue rubber pad on the ‘contact plate’ that the brake light button presses against. The reason I was looking under the dashboard in the first place is because my wife asked if maybe the blue rubber filings and rubber pad that she recently found on the driver-side floorboard might have something to do with her brake light problem. She was right after all.

Brake Light Button Diagram

Since the pad had fallen off of the contact plate the button was not getting depressed far enough to turn off the lights when the brake pedal was released. The solution is to replace the little blue pad. I was not able to find out what this thing was called or even if you could buy one without replacing the entire brake light switch.

The rubber pad worked like a ladies ear ring. It had a little nub on the back that fit into a hole in the contact plate. Probably due to age, this nub broke off and created a big headache for me. In order to avoid visiting the Ford dealer I simply reconnected the nub with some super glue and, after a lot of sweating upside down under the steering wheel, snapped the blue pad back in place. It’s been a few days. So far the super glue is still holding the rubber pad together. My wife’s brake lights are back in action.


Well, the repaired rubber pad didn’t last long: 2 days. Now it’s broken into several pieces.


But I came up with a better solution. This time I rebuilt the pad using a foam-based wine bottle cork, a circle cut-out in heavy coated paper (a better surface for the button to press against) and the original pad’s little stem. All assembled with super glue. Let’s see how long this one lasts.