GoPro Hero 5 water leak: What to do and how to get a replacement unit

When GoPro Hero 5 came out, we took it a chance to replace Hali’s GoPro Hero3 Black. His previous action camera was okay but the quality was not just up to par compared to its contemporary equivalents. It also had a frequent issue with moist, so we ended up with a lot of unusable photos.

GoPro Hero 5 is one of the latest action cameras released in 2016. It has 4k resolution, 30fps video, a touchscreen display and water resistance feature up to 10 meters deep in the water. GoPro Hero 5 has great reviews due to its seamless performance… but it has its issues.

Specifically, it is prone to water leak/water damage. GoPro has stated that this is due to doors not being sealed properly, and for a time whenever we would read Facebook posts from users reporting this issue, we believed that this is simply due to carelessness.

Until it happened to us.

We purchased our GoPro Hero 5 a year ago in Glorietta, Makati. We had used it only occasionally, particularly for beach trips. Last December, we went on a short trip to Koh Lipe (Thailand) and as usual Hali took it for snorkeling. It was recording for half a minute under the water before it stopped working. Later when we checked, all the inside was wet. It was impossible to tell which part did the leakage come from.

What to do in case of GoPro water leakage

As advised by the GoPro community and people who have been there, here’s what to do if your GoPro gets wet.

  1. Do not turn it on. Take out the battery and microSD first.
  2. If it had gotten wet from salt water, immerse in fresh water for 30 seconds. This will help prevent corrosion.
  3. Dry the GoPro. One way to do this is to put the camera in a sealed bag with a cup or two of rice for 3-5 days. Others just dry it out in the sun.

After our GoPro had dried, it still wouldn’t work. The red light at the bottom would blink but the display remained blank and no sign whatsoever that it had been turned on.

If, like us, you have followed the steps and it still isn’t working, it’s time to contact GoPro support and ask for a new unit.

How to get a replacement unit

When the incident happened, our unit was already past its 1-year warranty period (by a few days), not to mention that we were in Thailand then so it took several days for us to contact support. Thankfully, the GoPro’s customer service is excellent and our complaint was handled despite this.

Drawing from our experience, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get a replacement unit from GoPro.

1. Contact GoPro support.

Call and chat support can be found here. GoPro used to offer email support but not anymore.

Chat support is available, Monday to Fridays, from 5AM to 3PM (Philippine time). Make sure you enable pop-ups, as their chat support will open on a small window. In our case there were only specific hours we were able to get in touch via chat — once at 7AM and then at 4PM (oddly).

2. Explain your issue succinctly.

No need to go overdetailed. Be polite.

Hali has explained to a chat agent that he took our unit for snorkeling, not going beyond the suggested depth limit. He has made sure the doors were sealed properly beforehand. After discovering the leak, he dried the GoPro in rice for 2 days and it still would not turn on. The agent approved of a one-time replacement.

We’ve read from others’ experiences that if you are initially denied a replacement unit, try again and talk to different agent. Don’t lose hope!

3. Fill up the required forms.

Once you’d been given the go signal for a replacement unit, you will be sent 3 emails.

You will receive 3 emails.
  • 1 e-mail containing RMA number
  • 1 e-mail containing instructions and where to get the shipping label (“a return has been set up to you”). Essentially, you will need to go to https://gopro.upsrow.com/ where you will input shipping information. Take note that you have to fill in the ‘Company’ field, otherwise you won’t be able to proceed. Hali only typed in “Thank You.”
  • 1 e-mail for sending instructions (send unit only, do not include the SD card and battery).
Email with a link for UPS.

 

Print the following forms.

After filling up the shipping form, you will receive an email notification that a UPS shipper has sent you an electronic UPS Returns Label. Make sure to print 3 copies of the RMA, UPS returns label and the attached PDF of commercial invoice.

4. Go to a UPS office to send the GoPro camera or have it picked up at your house.

Shipping is free and shouldered by GoPro. We’ve read that others didn’t have to pay anything, but in our case we were asked by UPS for P297 as export declaration fee (accordingly for items shipped costing above $100).

Make sure to bubblewrap your unit and place it in a small box, along with a printed copy of your RMA. Outside the box, tape in the shipping label. Give the papers you printed (RMA, returns label and commercial invoice) to the UPS person.

You can track the progress of shipping using the tracking number GoPro will provide.

5. Wait for your new unit to arrive.

We got the new unit!

This can take anywhere from 2-3 days to a month. The damaged unit was sent to Singapore, and then a new one was delivered back to us. Ours was delivered after 1.5 weeks.

What this taught us

We love the output quality of GoPro Hero 5 but this seriously puts a question mark to the reliability of their recent releases. When we spend money on purchases like this, we expect it to last for years.

(You can see some samples of our underwater shots using GoPro Hero 5 in Bulalacao and Apo Island.)

It’s clear that GoPro Hero 5 has a faulty design. Even if the doors indeed seal properly, a small slip by the user shouldn’t do irreparable water damage. We’ve also read that a strand of hair or speck of dirt can compromise the seal. This should’ve been foreseen and there should’ve preventive mechanisms for scenarios like this. (We find it funny that the UPS guy who picked up Hali’s camera asked why there are so many returns for GoPro.)

That saying, we are happy with GoPro’s customer service support. I was initially doubtful we’d be able to have it replaced, especially after we’d contacted iFix first (the one handling support in the Philippines) and was given a template reply — the unit should be within warranty period and service does not include water damage, thank you. If this happened to you too, we suggest contacting GoPro directly. GoPro’s customer support was able to help and accommodate us easily.

Considering all these, we remain cautious about GoPro cameras. It might be better to switch brands or at the very least purchase a water case along with your GoPro camera.

Has this happened to you? What is your experience?

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