Fix your trackpad button suddenly being light to the touch

TrackpadIconXThe multi-touch trackpad’s on your MacBook should have a substantial click sound to it, and require a notable press to activate. Granted many people will have differing touches, but in general you should be able to swipe around on your trackpad without activating the button on it. If this is not the case and your trackpad’s button does click inadvertently and quite frequently, then there may be some quick fixes you can try.

First of all, ensure you do not have tap-to-click enabled unless you specifically want it. While this is convenient for some people, it can turn the slightest graze of your trackpad into a click that activates some function of some program or system service you did not intend. Unless you have tap-to-click enabled, then this is likely a physical issue with your Mac, as opposed to a software bug. Therefore, restarting your Mac, or using Safe Mode, or even reinstalling your Mac should not affect it, and the methods for fixing it may require you go hands-on with your Mac:

Click rapidly

While the trackpad has only a fraction of a millimeter between it and the surrounding case of your MacBook, this can be enough to lodge fine hairs and other debris. If this collects, it can interfere with the movement of your trackpad. Therefore, try clearing it out by using canned air in combination with rapidly clicking your trackpad. This is no guarantee to fix the block, but in some cases it can help wriggle out recently collected debris that could be causing the issue. The trackpad hinges around the top, so when doing this, concentrate your efforts toward the bottom edge of the trackpad.

Slightly pressure-bend the chassis

Apple’s MacBook systems are engineered with fine tolerances between components, and in this case your trackpad might be resting slightly lower in its housing, or be otherwise slightly occluded from the bottom. To provide a little more relief, with your MacBook open, grab the left and right sides of your Mac’s palm rests, and place your thumbs on either side of the trackpad. Then press with your thumbs and pull up with your fingers to gently bend the system very slightly. This will not warp your system at all, but will help re-seat components like the trackpad and battery which may be pushing against each other.

Check your battery

One possible reason for trackpad occlusion is if your battery is damaged and is swelling, which may have it pressing against your trackpad and warping the system slightly in the opposite direction of the pressure-bend steps above. This will cause the button to be pushed up into the trackpad, and require far less of a click (if any) to activate. You can usually see this by opening the bottom of your system and seeing if any of your battery packs show protrusions or bulges. For guides on how to open your system, check out iFixIt’s Mac Laptop Repair section.

Service, if necessary

Finally, if you cannot seem to fix the problem, or see that it is from a battery fault, then take your Mac in for servicing.

5 thoughts on “Fix your trackpad button suddenly being light to the touch

  1. Zhora VandenBout

    I’ve had to repair my trackpad’s feet so many times and have worked everything out in a way that I never have problems anymore. It sounds pretty brainless but it’s worked well for me: I finally installed the feet on the outside of the trackpad over the holes that were made for them to expose them and, in order to get them to stay on (after trying to tape and glue carefully around the edges, which never lasted) I finally put pieces of electrical tape right over them, covering them completely (but not so tight as to keep them depressed). They still function exactly as they should (actually better since they now take a bit more force to get a click thus eliminating accidental clicks) and they haven’t come detached in a few years. The tape is on the bottom so the trackpad looks just like it did.

    Also, if you decide to remove the trackpad’s back to work on the feet or for some other reason, find a good guide for opening it up that is very specific about being careful not to break of 1 to all of the 3 plastic tabs that hold the back at the lower end. (At one point I used a guide that detailed the steps the author used to open his trackpad and ended up breaking off all three tabs by starting at the wrong place. The author it turns out also broke off all the tabs on his trackpad using, I imagine, the same steps he provided in his description, but didn’t bother to say anythingig about the problem until the end of his article where he suggested a better way to open the trackpad that wouldn’t damage the tags. That’s the difference between a writer who can edit well as Topher’s does (right? or perhaps just gets it right to begin with) and someone who may not even know how to cut and paste text (and they do exist, such as my neighbor and landlady, a writer who’s owned a couple Macs over the last decade, but for whom I’ve given up trying to explain such complex tasks as these to! Now I just roll my eyes and leave quickly.)

    BTW, if your trackpad is still under warranty (as mine was once) my local authorized repair shop told me that if I called Apple that the first level support would not be able to approve a warranty repair (which I found to be true) and that I should ask to speak to Level 2 (or the next level support person) to get it approved (which worked great)! The Level 1 person said that the problem was definitely caused by operator misuse (yes, I admit that I had moved the trackpad around on my desk at times!); the second level support person listened to my problem and immediately arranged to have a new trackpad shipped out. (The feet continued to fall out at times until I made the fix I mentioned above.)

    1. B. Jefferson Le Blanc

      @ Zorah: I think you’re talking about a Magic Trackpad, which is a different item altogether from the trackpad on a MacBook Air or Pro. The distinction is important, for clarity’s sake. It wasn’t till I reached the end of your comment that I realized you weren’t talking about the trackpad on a portable Mac.

  2. paul krupa

    The battery is pushing on the track pad. The battery swells and can be pushed back into original volume by pushing on the track pad. I don’t know if this is harmful to the trackpad but it does provide a temporary fix and demonstrates that battery swelling is the causal factor. Even though my battery registers low charge cycles, it seems to encroach on the track pad due to swelling (a sign of battery defect or age).

    I have a macbook pro late 2013 with 512 GB ssd and 8GB ram. I sent the unit to Apple for screen repair and hoped they would notice the battery/trackpad problem. Nope. Screen looks great though.

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