I just delt with a coffee spill last week nearly the same description except after they pulled out the battery they did not try to turn it back on. The computer is actually back up and running completely fine. I completely disassembled the laptop only minutes after the spill, dried up all of the coffee, and cleaned any residue I could see. I let it sit over night and did a bench test with the computer apart. It worked. I ran diagnostics on the ram, cpu, etc. Everything passed. I put it back together and suprisingly the keyboard (I waited to put the keyboard in for about 4 days) and everything else worked. The computer did shut off when the spill happened and near the dc jack I could see some spots that were corroded on the board. I cleaned everything up with 90% iso alcohol. (Coffee does not leave a sticky residue so this is one benefit over soda).
2 weeks before, exactly the same model (company computers). Less coffee was spilled on the computer, they did not take out the battery and continued to try and turn the computer on. There were many burn marks near corroded components and the computer did power on after cleaning it up however: memtest failed with known good sticks of ram, I swapped the cpu with a known good working cpu, memtest still failed. I cleaned the ram slots as much as possible: memtest still failed. I knew in this case the board was bad. Also the mini pci-e slot did not work and usb ports all were not working.
EDIT in the case where I replaced the board, everything (except the keyboard) worked after replacing it. The cost for a new board was $160 and the keyboard was $45 for the backlit model. Both computers were dell Vostro 3460.
The only way to know if you need to replace the board is to test every component to verify that it works. Video outputs, usb ports, expansion ports, etc. Also you may have to find known working parts to rule out the board as anything installed at the time of the spill could be affected.
Edited by zingo156, 27 March 2014 - 02:05 PM.