Lenovo ThinkPad T400 R400 42X4861 Scharniere Left and why eBay is a POS (WHL #66)

Two weeks of repairs and tidying up the place – not much time for new content. Let’s use something canned instead – from a repair, of course.

My Thinkpad T400, which is still on the to-be-replaced list but no T25 Anniversary Edition or similar Frankenpad has showed up so far, recently experienced the second broken hinge. It was replaced like four to five years ago with a used part from the TP forum, when I thought it would be replaced entirely by the time this part would fail again. Well, it’s still in use as my main machine.

The thing with broken laptop hinges is that they are such a central part of the chassis that often times a mechanically fully split unit would still somehow function, as it cannot go anywhere. It might damage the parts around it, e.g. a cracked back shell is commonplace for the SL510 hinge damage (a series defect), but it won’t just let go entirely. So when I noticed that the lid would not stay in position except when placed upright, I ordered a replacement part. Nobody in the TP forum had a spare this time, so I went on eBay. “Lenovo ThinkPad T400 R400 42X4861 Scharniere Left” (Scharniere = hinges, plural) didn’t sound too bad. Commercial seller, 100% positive reviews, new part.

Well, it looked like the right part to me, but it’s not like I’m exchanging hinges as a day job. When everything was removed as indicated on the HMM, except for the full detachment of the display, I pulled the faulty part. With other display screws loosened that is entirely possible although probably not recommended for newbies. And here’s the crucial part: Once that damaged hinge is taken out, it’s free to fall apart. And so it did.

When putting in the replacement, it wouldn’t fit right away, even after some wiggling around. The long mounting arm along the display just wouldn’t sit right when the hinge is correctly placed at the bottom, or vice versa. Took it out again and compared the two – easy, that key slot isn’t present in the mount, just file it off.

Great!

Except that, if one paid proper attention earlier, the inner part of the mount that seats three different screws is also somewhat different. It’s 11pm on a Sunday – cancel the replacement and have no working laptop for most of the week, or go ahead, modify that piece of shit until it will fit and make some noise? The part is already modified, so I can’t return it for money anyway.

Well of course I opted for the modification as I clearly underestimated how long it’ll take…
Don’t mind the blackened parts later, I used paint marker to see where it would rub against the display mount, as that is not entirely obvious in this 3D puzzle. Let me just tell you that this, at least for the T400 with the non-repairable hinge that is pressed instead of screwed down, is a bad idea and waiting for the proper part is certainly the better option – if one can tolerate downtime. Here’s where it was finally clear that the modified part can not stay in there permanently as it cannot be made to fit – there’s two more key pins that will not fit by half a millimeter or the hinge will sit slightly rotated in the base. I still do not know if this “MBL” branded/labelled part was just the wrong part of an third-party parts supplier or a very, very bad fake, but it certainly does not fit the T400 with about any level of modification you can do to that casting.

The laptop was functional after that but I kept a couple of screws rather loose to not stress the adjacent parts. I also kept the front bezel off and I never closed it until the proper part arrived a couple of days later – “Scharnier links hinge left IBM / Lenovo Thinkpad T400 Lenovo FRU P/N: 42X4861”, also via eBay.

I bet you can guess which was the original part that hasn’t been cleaned for this photo ;)

The damaged part is clearly visible – the entire hinge mechanism will lose most if not all friction once the pressed part of the rotor flakes apart. Again, it still does guide the entire thing, up to the point where the unit is disassembled far enough so it can literally fall apart. There’s also another tiny difference on the flat side, where the layered/stepped display arm mount is placed on. The fake/wrong part is just flat. Judging from the grinding marks of the two used parts this area takes a lot of force and the step probably helps in alignment, too.

No further surprises on the bottom side, except for the fact that all parts have different casting gates. I would have assumed that there’s an optimal geometry for these and even different manufacturing companies would use very similar molds, but apparently that’s not the case.

The exact replacement obviously fit perfectly well and was installed within ten minutes, not counting the time for taking the photos. So much hassle for a simple hinge replacement.

Now, about the eBay part of the title: Of course I did send the seller a friendly reminder that this isn’t a T400 hinge. I also sent a neutral review of the transaction, which I rarely do. Couldn’t justify a negative one since I likely could have returned it before modifying, and that’s not the seller’s fault. Sending the wrong part and wasting my time however is.
One week passed by with no reaction. Then one morning I received a phone call. Not entirely a call center on the other end, but noisy and the lady wasn’t all that fluent in German. She asked ‘tf was wrong, I (slightly bewildered where she got my number from) explained and made clear I can’t return the item, but had way over an hour of fun with making it fit, so I could not make a positive review in the first place. When I checked later that day my neutral review was gone. Had this experience before with justified negative ones, but a seller successfully asking eBay to delete a neutral review? Gimme a break, that’s BS. And now they are back at 2k+ only-positive votes. And, since I have already cast my review, I cannot make another one. BS again.

So eBay has now been downgraded to trash rating for me.
As a seller, 11% + 0.35€ per item including 11% on fucking shipping cost that is just passed on 1:1 is intolerably greedy. An item with the cheapest tracked DHL shipping at 4.99€ that sells for the 1.00€ starting price now yields MINUS ONE CENT for the seller. Fuck you, I’m not your slave.

As a buyer, anything that isn’t bulletproof won’t be bought there anymore. When push comes to shove, neither eBay support nor the nowadays required PayPal will help you out and any indication of shady sellers is eradicated on request of large sellers. I, however, as a small non-commercial seller, wasn’t successful in removing the only negative review on my 400+ transactions where a dude wasn’t able to fit a server fan to his bike charging controller (?). That mark will stay there forever because someone had a brain fart. Fuck you again.

Now selling on eBay classifieds (only partially owned by eBay through stocks in the Adevinta corporation). For 0% commission and the ability to deny sales to idiots, it’s been a blast so far including many local sales. The only shady transaction was clear from the beginning, so I paid with buyer protection and, surprise, surprise, got cancelled and received my money (and the fees) back. That was the only time they actually charged me for their services, and that was a worthwhile deal. 11% plus a fixed sum per item isn’t. So again – fuck you very much, dear eBay.


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