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Burning smell - what could it be?

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#1 ebugg26


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Posted 25 January 2009 - 11:14 AM


So on Thursday night (three nights ago), I sat down in my chair a bit too forcefully, causing some water to fly out over the rim of my glass in my hand and land conveniently in the upper right-hand side of my laptop keyboard. I have a Dell Inspiron 1501, which I got in December 2007 and is now past warantee (not that they cover for spills anyway.) I dried the keyboard off as best I could and within about a minute, the left speaker started crackling and went out. I then turned the laptop off and went to bed. It was a really small amount of water, so I thought it might be OK.

The next day, I tried turning it on to see how it was doing. It turned on and started up normally, though within about five minutes I could feel that the left-hand side of the computer (right next to where the left mouse key is and right by the DVD drive) was getting quite hot and putting out this burning plastic smell. So I turned it off again. I probably shouldn't have turned it on at all at that point, but I was totally freaking out about it...

Later on, my boyfriend was over, so we took the keyboard off and found a few drops of water on the right-hand side beneath the keyboard. We also shone a flashlight into the computer to check for water, and couldn't see any, though the hard drive (in the right-hand side, very close to where the water spilled) showed some signs of moisture contact. We let the computer dry out until today, and then put the keyboard back on and turned it on. It turned on fine, got into Vista and all my docs and everything seemed to be fine. BUT the burning smell and the heat on the left-hand side came back after about five minutes again. I'd thought that maybe the smell was coming from a fried CD in the DVD drive, but no such luck. We'd also shined the flashlight into the computer after removing the drive, and it looked like all the wires in that spot were in good shape.

The fan is at the back left of the laptop and seems to be working fine, so I'm not really sure what else it could me. My boyfriend says maybe the power supply?

I'm not even sure what's IN the laptop in that front left spot that could be giving off the smell and heat. I'd really appreciate it if anyone has any ideas as to what's there, what the problem would be and if it's worth trying to fix. Since the thing turns on and seems to be in order in other ways, I figure it might be a matter of just replacing something, which would hopefully be cheaper than buying a new computer. Since I'm in Austria until June, I really don't want to have to deal with buying a new computer here, since the OS and everything would be in German (I can understand it but people in America probably can't), I'd have a German keyboard and also wouldn't be able to take advantage of the in-store warantee once I'm back in the States.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Edited by ebugg26, 25 January 2009 - 11:42 AM.

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#2 garmanma


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Posted 25 January 2009 - 01:46 PM

The only recommendation I can give is to take it apart
Fortunately, Dell has excellent tutorials on how to disassemble your computer
Just take care when removing the connections - do it gently
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#3 E-werd


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Posted 25 January 2009 - 08:38 PM

You said the speaker crackled and went out... was it the left speaker? It is possible that the speaker is shorting out and the wires are just burning.

You can rule out a power supply because, on a laptop, the power supply is external. The closest thing you have is a battery, try seeing if that is getting hot--perhaps an internal short in the battery? Very unlikely, but things happen.

I can't think of anything else that could be getting hot... just take it apart (or have somebody trained do it for you) like garmanma suggested and see if there are burn marks anywhere. If you are smelling plastic, you will see something melted or charred.

#4 ebugg26

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 08:05 AM

Thanks to both of you for your advice.

Yes, it's the left speaker that went out. The battery seems to be in good shape and isn't getting unnaturally hot, so I think that's OK. I'm bringing it in for a consultation tomorrow, so hopefully we'll be able to disassemble it and see if anything is black and smoking. >_>

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