The convenience of a laptop computer can often be mitigated by its delicacy. If a computer survives past the end of its warranty without the hard drive, keyboard or monitor requiring replacement, the next likely problem will be with its hinges. The hinges see more wear than almost any other part of the computer, and may begin to cause problems as the computer ages.
Laptop hinges are generally made of low-cost metal alloys, or "pot metal." Pot metal is not particularly durable, and over the course of a laptop's life cycle, repeated opening and closing of the computer's lid can cause wear that prevents the lid from staying in an open position. Hinges can also wear to the point that they break at the point of attachment, either on the lid or the computer's body.
Hinges are usually attached to the computer's frame via machine screws. In order to get the most life out of your computer's hinges, it is not a bad idea to perform a yearly inspection. Remove the hinge covers and check that the machine screws that secure the hinges are tightened fully. If screws are missing, contact the computer's manufacturer to order replacement screws; hinges missing screws are subjected to additional stress and can wear out faster if steps are not taken to replace the screw. Lubrication of the hinge is possible, but not recommended; if the wrong type of lubricant is used, it could damage the computer's case or seep into the electrical components and further damage the computer. Consult a professional technician if you feel that your hinges require lubrication.
Hinges can also be damaged when the computer is picked up by its lid, dropped from various heights or opened beyond the angle at which it should stop. In these situations, damage to the hinges may be of secondary concern, as component damage and data loss might have occurred. Depending on the amount of damage and warranty status, the computer may require complete replacement.
Laptop hinges are not indestructible, but their coverings and trim may show wear long before the hinges are actually in any danger of failure. Most laptops on the market include plastic hinge covers. The hinge covers can develop stress fractures from repeated wear; most of the time, this is not indicative of a hinge problem. Some laptop hinges are housed within the bezel or trim of the computer's monitor or body. This, too, is generally made of plastic, and might develop stress cracks after a few years of use. Hinge covers and bezels are usually modular, and replacements are generally easy to find at low to moderate costs.
Hinge problems can be mitigated with adjustments to the hinge's tension or additional hardware installation by the user. Brackets can be installed on the outer case to allow for hinge-like performance, or the screen can be mounted in a fixed position. If the screen is left permanently open, care should be taken to prevent damage to the screen and to prevent dust accumulation in the keyboard. The lid and screen assembly can also be replaced, if the correct parts can be found. Replacement of the lid and screen can be cost-prohibitive, with parts and labor sometimes exceeding the cost of the computer.