GoPro Tips: How to Avoid Damaging them & how to repair them if you do!

So, I posted a photo on Facebook of about 7 GoPro cameras that I have recently had to take apart and try to repair.  Several questions arose from the post such as, “Drew, how does this happen so i will know what not to do?” or “Drew you are too hard on your gear! Lol.”  I figured it is a great winter time topic to explain what not to do with GoPros, why I made those mistakes which fried my cameras AND what to do if you do fry one.  Out of the 7 pictured, I got 4 revived and I still have hope for at least one or two of the others that my second round of treatment may bring them back to life.

Drew Gregory shows his GoPro "sky cam" and "side" or "underwater cam" setup for kayak fishing

WHAT NOT TO DO:

Ok, I guess I need to set the stage first.  So, I usually film with 3 GoPros on my kayak, one on the front facing me in the built in Jackson Kayak GoPro mount (Angler Cam), one on a boom behind me (Sky Cam) and one on a suction cup on the side of the kayak behind me facing forward that I can either duck underwater (Underwater Cam) or have it capture right at the water line (pictured to the right with Sky Cam).  When I have it set right I can purposely lean to the right to film underwater and if I decide not to lean I can keep the shot right at the water line. This camera is also on the side I “typically” land fish on as well.  The intro to this video will show you all 3 angles if you are unclear as to where they are on my kayak – One Fish, Many GoPros: Episode 1, “Jump”

1.) In my quest for, not just the best “video,” but the best audio I have been tempted to use the open air housing on the Sky Cam and on the Angler Cam.  I still have yet to flip or fall out of my kayak (except when the goose happened) so I feel(felt) pretty comfortable using those housings.

Jackson Kayak's "Angler Cam" pre-installed GoPro Mount

However, “things happen” and what has happened is this – I’ve hit some BIG waves and enough water has still gotten into the housing to fry the Angler Cam camera, even if it is working fine when I get off the water.  The eventual corrosion and rust works its way in causing it to malfunction.  However, on Sky Cam waves NEVER get that high obviously, so how have I ever fried that one due to having it in the open frame housing?  Well, a couple ways; sometimes when you pull it out of your flush mount to change the battery the weight of it, when it finally pulls out, will surprise you and the camera end of the boom will fall into the water.  Even though it may be ever so briefly, all that matters is that it went in completely and especially while it is running it will fry it.  Or, I’ve pulled the boom out successfully to extend to get a boom shot of a friend and I just lose focus for a second as I’m trying to paddle with one arm and hold the boom with the other. It just takes one second for me to let it accidentally go into the water and ZAP its done!

Lesson Learned: Use underwater housing, even when you don’t think you need it. If you absolutely want to have a camera in the non-waterproof housing make sure you put RED tape on it to reming you not to stick it underwater because, I know it sounds crazy, in the heat of the moment you just forget and are in a hurry because you know you have a very short amount of time to get cool shots with a fish before you have to release it healthy.

2.) However, I’ve fried most of mine when I WAS USING the waterproof housing!  How in the world did this happen you might ask…read on.  So, one of the tips to getting good footage (I’ll share more in another article later) is to always check your camera to make sure it has no water spots on the lens or to make sure that it is not fogging up.  Unfortunately for kayak anglers we film in a wet environment where, when you open the case to change batteries or whatever, you will inevitably leave a “trace” or drops of moisture in the waterproof housing.  When you do this, regardless of whether you have the GoPro “anti-fog” strips in there or not, you will, especially in hot/humid environments, see some fogging on the lens very soon after you close the housing making all your work/time/effort in filming effectively wasted.  Many times when I’ve run out of the fog strips I have “cracked” the housing so that it airs out.  This is done by partially opening the mechanism that fully opens the camera’s housing.  It will not flop completely open and just stays “cracked” to let some air in.  This is where my problem has always begun!  Even though after about 10 minutes the fog usually goes away I sometimes forget to close it back up.  All the sudden I have an a sweet fish on the line and my side camera that I can stick underwater is there and I want to capture the moment underwater; I reach over and shove it down in the water in excitement forgetting that it is still cracked because it had fogged earlier!!!  FRIED!   Or, I don’t even have a fish on but run into some mangroves or limbs and it knocks the suction cup off the kayak (I still have it tethered by rope) and the camera goes into the water!! FRIED! Recently in the keys I had the waterproof housing on the “Angler Cam” but had cracked it because of the fog issue and then Chris Funk caught a nice shark and it was the easiest camera to pull off the kayak with the simplicity of the Jackson Kayak GoPro mount so I ran over in the water and “thought” I was getting great underwater shots with it.  However, I had forgot to seal it back all the way!  FRIED!  100% user error but if you’re not careful the same thing can happen to you!

Lesson Learned: If you have to crack it to let it de-fog you will end up forgetting to close it back up at some point so your best bet is to buy a ton on the “anti-fog” strips and put at least 3 in each camera housing when in warm/humid environments AND to have a dry towel with you to clean and dry your hands BEFORE you open your GoPro and changing batteries/SD Cards while on the water.  And, use the extra battery pack and at least a 32gb card to minimize the time you will have to open up your GoPro while filming all day.  Aside from all this I’d try using some “anti-fog” spray/liquid like this video here shows.  This does the trick.

3.) I’ve just fumbled a couple. A couple times I was just clumsy and after getting them out of their case to change batteries/SD Card I just dropped them and they fell in the water.

Lesson Learned: Not much to learn here except if I had gone over to a bank, gotten out and changed them over dry land I would still have those cameras working.

HOW TO FIX THEM!What you'll need to fix a GoPro camera

1.) Immediately after they have been in the water take the battery and SD card out and dry all 3 off.  Shake them as much as possible to get all droplets out of the inside of the camera.  Put in a dry safe location on your kayak to deal with later.

2.) If you were in freshwater don’t read this step until after you’ve done #4.  So, you’ve dropped it in saltwater, don’t fear, it can still be salvaged.  Obviously the salt starts corroding immediately and you have to stop that process from continuing further into the cameras components.  For the Hero1 and Hero2, remove the back cover of the GoPro by opening the battery compartment and finding the 4 screws that hold the cameras “silver” cover together.  Once this happens you’ll see the circuit boards.  If you already see corrosion then get a toothbrush and clean those areas off then rinse with a little white vinegar. And, if you see corrosion or know you REALLY SOAKED this unit then go ahead and take out the other 3 screws that are holding it still onto the front “silver” cover.  Two screws are obvious as they are on the corners and then the last one is hidden on the opposite side of the GoPro and on the lower circuit board (of the 3).  Once you remove that one you’ll have it basically free enough to completely submerge into white vinegar for about 5-10 seconds.  Shake it around in there and make sure the vinegar coats every part of the camera.  Vinegar is a weak acid and will eat at and stop the corrosion.  Take the camera out and leave out by a window or somewhere safe for it to dry out for a few days.  I don’t like to put it in rice when its opened up because I want to vinegar to really stay on and do some work, and I don’t want rice to get lodged down inside all the areas it has access to when your GoPro is open like this.

If you have the HERO 3, the good news is that it on its own, without a housing, is much more water resistant than the HERO 1 or 2 so you have a great shot at recovering it.  However, it is not easy to get into unlike the HERO 1 or 2.  All you really can do is pry open the front panel (lens side) which reveals some of the most exposed and vulnerable components and if you have the proper micro hex screwdriver then you can dig into it deeper (but most people don’t even have a micro screwdriver let alone a micro hex!).  However, there are plenty of open air areas that lead to the other circuit boards to where I feel confident when you dunk the camera into vinegar for 5-10 seconds it will coat everything inside.  Then, simply let it air dry for a few days and then turn it on to test.

3.) Make sure you clean off any corrosion on your battery (if you want to try to save it.  A lot of times its not even worth saving) and dry your memory card.  If you so desire you can clean the battery corrosion and dunk it into vinegar as well to stop the corrosion and that may help bring that battery back.  Then put the battery and memory card in a bag of rice and seal it for a few days. After you’ve dried the battery out in rice you can help it regain strength by putting it in the fridge overnight.  Then, recharge it with the charger and test it in a GoPro to see if indeed it does last as long as it used to.

4.) If you just dunked your GoPro in freshwater you should be able to recover it so long as it wasn’t in the water too long.  After you’ve finally got home put it into a bag or tupperware container of rice and seal it.  Let it dry for 3 days, open and test with a battery you know to be charged.  If it still doesn’t work, go up to step #2 which is for severely damaged cameras or cameras that were dunked in salt water.

5.) If you can’t wait 3 days and need it to work asap, you can try the “quick method” which is to place the GoPro in the oven at 175 degrees (or “warm”) for 3-5 minutes.  This will quickly dry it out.  Then, let it sit for 10 minutes.  Then, place it in the fridge for 30 minutes.  Assuming you have a “good” battery around go ahead and put it in and give it a shot.  Again, only try this if you HAVE TO!

Hope this helps someone out there because you don’t want to spend days fiddling with opened up GoPros like I’ve had to do!

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