Saturday, May 30, 2009

How to replace your iPod Touch 2nd gen digitizer / outer glass and bezel frame

If you're like me, you recently had a small accident with your iPod touch... you broke the screen! In our case, the iPod had slipped from a pants pocket into the recliner. It got caught between a few internal recliner arms and pinched to the point where the upper portion of the glass was broken.

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In the case where your outer glass (called the digitizer) is broken but the LCD underneath is still perfect, you can replace the glass for $50-$75 in parts and tools. If you just want someone to fix it for you, it'll run $100+ for a 2nd gen from a parts store. Much better than the $200+ I've heard about from the Apple store.

I found a few video tutorials and other articles about replacing parts on the iPod Touch 2nd gen, but nobody described a few issues that I ran into. First, a few good resources:

Things you'll need

  1. Plastic opening tools (these often accompany digitizer replacements on ebay)

  2. A new digitizer. Available from eBay or a parts shop like

  3. Most likely you'll also need a new front bezel or frame. For best results, get one with rubber gasket around the edge and double-sided tape on the inside

  4. A thin knife with a strong blade (mostly optional)

  5. A small pair of wire cutters (optional)

  6. Intermediate skill if you buy a new front bezel / frame, and advanced skill if you salvage the old one . I took the easier route and bought a new front bezel. Either way, you still need the button seat from the old bezel.

Unfortunately most of the part stores and eBay sellers that advertise replacement digitizers for 2nd generation iPod touches don't mention that the front bezel is extremely difficult to remove without damage. The front bezel and digitizer are attached through buttons around the digitizer edges. My broken digitizer was also glued down to the front bezel. Additionally, there is a thin rubber gasket that runs around the length of the digitizer. Even with careful prying with my fingers and plastic tools I tore the gasket in several places.

Take it apart

The youtube video linked above gives very good information about the location of the clips and how to pull the digitizer off without damaging it. Be careful that you press the plastic tool on the outside of the rubber gasket (closest to the metal backing) rather than the inside of the rubber gasket (closest to the actual glass). This is especially important if you don't want to damage the bezel. I found that I accidentally separated the bezel from the digitizer because I didn't realize the distinction.

Once you have the digitizer off, you can put the rest of the iPod aside and focus on separating the glass from the bezel. It is a pain, and assuming your digitizer is cracked, is likely to drop pieces of glass. You only need to separate the glass from the lower portion of the bezel (near the home button).

The goal is the grab the home button and its seat. I haven't seen any parts stores that sell the seat, so don't mess it up! The button just fails out.

The edges around the button seat are raised. After bending the plastic various ways, I found the easiest way to retrieve it is to use a small wire cutter and snip off the edges to the right and left, removing the raised edges. This will allow you to take a small, thin knife and slide it under the tiny plastic buttons that hold it on. Keep the knife away from the center of the button seat because that might sever the electrical connection.

Attach the new digitizer and bezel

Since I didn't know that I needed a bezel to do the replacement, I just ordered it tonight. I will post more information and pictures when the part arrives.

Slide in the new assembly

After you have the new digitizer and bezel together, complete with home button, you can put it back together! Don't forget to attach the digitizer ribbon to the rest of the iPod.

Thats it! Post a comment about how your replacement goes.