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, based on numerous complaints online, it’s apparent that it is prone to water leak/water damage. GoPro has stated that is caused by doors not being sealed properly. For a time whenever we would read Facebook posts from users reporting this issue, we believed that this is simply due to carelessness, until we experienced it first-hand.
- Here’s what happened
- What to do in case of GoPro water leakage
- How to get a replacement unit
- What this taught us
- Update 1 (October 2018)
- Update 2 (October 2019)
Here’s what happened
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 in 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
One of the first things we did is to search online to make sure we’d dry the GoPro properly.
As advised by the GoPro community and people who have been there, here’s what to do if your GoPro gets wet.
- Do not turn it on. Take out the battery and microSD first.
- If it had gotten wet from salt water, immerse in fresh water for 30 seconds. This will help prevent corrosion.
- 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 simply dry it out in the sun.
In many cases, the GoPro unit is salvageable after drying.
In our case, we let the GoPro dried in a bag full of rice, but after 2 days 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). We also had limited internet in Thailand 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.
So 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 4PM to 1AM (Philippine time). Make sure you enable pop-ups, as their chat support will open on a small window.
If you’re not able to contact them during these hours, try at other times of the day. In our case there were only specific hours we were able to get in touch via chat — once at 7AM and then at 4PM.
2. Explain your issue succinctly.
Keep it simple and be polite. No need to go overdetailed or dramatic as others would suggest.
After assessment of your issue, the agent will then ask you to provide the serial number and receipt of your GoPro. If you have lost the official receipt, you can do any of these:
- Go to the store where you purchased the GoPro and ask for the copy of the OR
- If your unit was purchased with a credit card, show your billing statement
This info is required so the company can check if your purchase is still subject to warranty.
Hali has explained to a chat agent that he took our unit for snorkeling, not going beyond the suggested depth limit of 10m. 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.
- 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).
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 each of the RMA, UPS returns label and the attached PDF of commercial invoice.
Note: If you encounter the error “Missing or invalid ship from StateProvinceCode”, keep the “Province” field blank.
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.
Note: If UPS is unavailable in your area, contact UPS directly and ask them what their partner company is in your location.
5. Wait for your new unit to arrive.
This can take anywhere from 2-3 days to a month.
Our 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 is a huge flaw.
It’s clear that GoPro Hero 5 has a faulty design. Even if the doors indeed seal properly, there should be a mechanism in place to prevent leak due to small mistakes by the user. We’ve read that a strand of hair or speck of dirt can compromise the seal. This should’ve been foreseen and remedied before release.
The UPS guy who picked up Hali’s camera asked why there are so many returns for GoPro — we find this funny and sad at the same time.
That saying, we are happy with GoPro’s customer service support and if there’s one thing that keeps our trust in this brand, it’s this. 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 careful. It might be better to switch brands or, as other suggest, go newer versions such as GoPro Hero 6 or the recently released GoPro Hero 8 which seems to have better waterproofing feature. If you want to keep using your GoPro Hero 5, at the very least make sure you protect it with a water case for underwater use.
Update 1 (October 2018)
We’ve received numerous inquiries about contacting GoPro support. Please note that each case is handled differently. We don’t know exactly why some are given returns while others are not, regardless of the warranty.
Recently, we’d read that users are offered only 20-40% discount for a new unit instead of a free replacement. Again, we’re not familiar with how GoPro handles the cases. We wrote our experience to guide those with the same plight, and hopefully this’ll give you the right info on what to do.
Update 2 (October 2019)
Hi, so I actually delayed posting another update here. We wrote this post for Hali’s camera, and I actually bought one of my own a few months back. Again, the same thing happened and my GoPro got water damage (cue song: di na natuto). I got an approval for a replacement and sent the old unit to the HQ in Singapore. For some reason, it was sent back to me and the chat support had no idea why. The case was forwarded to the Claims Department. So far, nothing. I never got a replacement.
At this point, I’m no longer hopeful about getting a new unit and feel that GoPro’s support took a dive down along with the quality of their items. So for me, if you’re offered a discount for an upgrade, better think twice because it’s difficult to buy from a brand with difficult customer support. Anyway, there are other brands now that offer alternative for more or less the same price.
If you’d been given a replacement, congrats! Yes the steps in this guide still works.
Has this happened to you? What is your experience?
Katherine Cortes is a long-time backpacker and a freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).