Maintenance - Computer Fan

Extending the life of an ailing fan in your computer

First of all, the disclaimer:

I don't recommend this as any type of preventative maintenance, or to make your computer quieter. This operation is only a 'last resort' type of solution if you have a fan that is getting noisy or hesitates. It should also only be performed by someone who is comfortable getting their hands dirty inside a computer case.

Following the description below is a picture tutorial.

The fan in question for this tutorial is located on the North Bridge heat sink on my motherboard. For more than a month it had been getting louder and would sound like it was hesitating. It wouldn't actually completely stop, but I could hear it slowing and then speeding back up. It also got progressively louder.

I verified that this particular fan was the cause of the noise by turning the computer off, then unplugging the fan, then starting the computer back up. I hit F8 during POST to enter the Safe Mode Boot screen, and then shut my computer back down. This prevented any significant heat buildup while I was checking the fans.

A call to the manufacturer of the motherboard gave me two options. Call the chipset manufacturer, or do a little maintenance myself. It was kind of funny. If I wanted to replace the fan myself (with an aftermarket fan), it would void the warranty. If I pulled the fan off the motherboard and worked on it and put it back, I was all right.

I obviously opted for the latter solution. My option to call the chipset manufacturer was on hold until I found out if I could fix the problem myself. So I followed the instructions given to me. I pulled the fan off of the motherboard and used a can of compressed air to blow out the dust around the motor. This didn't really change the way the fan felt as I turned the blades. It felt gummed up and sluggish. These fans are supposed to spin freely with a very slight pull when the magnets in the motor align. The next step was to use a q-tip to apply a little bit of alcohol to the bearing. This step had me a little worried, but I was following what the tech support guy told me to do, so I was OK as far as the warranty was concerned. I put just enough alcohol on the shaft (only the shaft) of the bearing to wet it and then turned the fan. Then I put a little more, then more. When I felt the fan spinning more freely, I stopped dabbing more alcohol onto the shaft. I used a clean q-tip to dab off any excess and then put the fan back.

The fan worked well for about a week, and then I could hear it again. This sound was different, though. It sounded more like the bearing was now dry, which makes sense. The alcohol cleaned the bearing out, including the old dirty lubricant. Then, it dried up. So I took matters into my own hands. It was a risk, but I figured that the chipset manufacturer could sell me a new fan if something happened. (I still plan on contacting them about a replacement if this doesn't last, but it has been almost a month now.) I took the fan back out and used a toothpick to dab a bit of household 3-in-1 oil onto the end of the shaft and then worked that in by turning the fan and then pushing the shaft down repeatedly (there is a little bit of spring action). After I put the fan back in and closed up, the fan is now quiet as it should be.

As I have said, this should be a last-ditch effort to save a fan that is hard to find or obsolete, or a stop-gap until you can get a new fan. It worked for me, but I make no guarantee as to your success. Good luck and thank you for reading my HubPages.

Update: This fix worked for about six weeks before the fan started making noise again. I repeated the process and I'm now contacting the chipset manufacturer to procure a replacement fan.

Update part two:  I have a new fan, but the old fan is still quiet and functioning well.  My motherboard itself went through an illness, though, and was down for a month.  This was due to failing capacitors.  I've replaced them and my computer is back up and running with my old NB fan still in service.


Inside the Case

Remove the side panel...  (obvious)
Remove the side panel... (obvious)

Fans

The noise seemed to be coming from the clear fan under the back of the video card...  The one located on the North Bridge heatsink.
The noise seemed to be coming from the clear fan under the back of the video card... The one located on the North Bridge heatsink.

Removing the Video Card

I had to remove the video card to get to the NB heatsink fan.  First I removed the screw securing the card to the back of the case.    [Yes that is an aftermarket 40mm fan stuck to the heatsink on the video card]
I had to remove the video card to get to the NB heatsink fan. First I removed the screw securing the card to the back of the case. [Yes that is an aftermarket 40mm fan stuck to the heatsink on the video card]

Unplug the Fan

Unplugging the fan from the motherboard.
Unplugging the fan from the motherboard.

Remove the Screws

Removing the screws that secure the fan to the North Bridge heatsink.
Removing the screws that secure the fan to the North Bridge heatsink.

Remove the Fan

With all the screws removed, the fan comes off of the heatsink.
With all the screws removed, the fan comes off of the heatsink.

Sticker Removal

With the fan out of the case, you must first remove the sticker covering the bearing dust cover (if any).  This will be on the "cage" side of the fan.
With the fan out of the case, you must first remove the sticker covering the bearing dust cover (if any). This will be on the "cage" side of the fan.

Bearing Dust Cover

The black piece of hard rubber under the sticker is the bearing dust cover.
The black piece of hard rubber under the sticker is the bearing dust cover.

Dust Cover Removal (part 1)

I was able to pop up an edge of the dust cover by dragging my fingernail across it.
I was able to pop up an edge of the dust cover by dragging my fingernail across it.

Dust Cover Removal (part 2)

I was then able to remove the dust cover.
I was then able to remove the dust cover.

Bearing Shaft

You can see the bearing shaft exposed where the dust cover had been.
You can see the bearing shaft exposed where the dust cover had been.

Blow and Dab

It was at this point that I used compressed air to blow all the dust out of the fan and then used a cotton swab to dab alcohol onto the bearing shaft. Do not use compressed air after using the alcohol. I would not recommend getting alcohol on the circuts... Use a clean facial tissue or cotton swab instead.

Oil Transfer Point

I used a small cup (don't worry, it's been thoroughly cleaned) to hold a few drops of oil before transferring it to the fan.
I used a small cup (don't worry, it's been thoroughly cleaned) to hold a few drops of oil before transferring it to the fan.

Use a Toothpick

I used a toothpick to transfer small amounts of the oil to the bearing shaft of the fan.
I used a toothpick to transfer small amounts of the oil to the bearing shaft of the fan.

Using the Toothpick

I dabbed the oil onto the end of the bearing shaft using the tip of the toothpick.  This would probably have worked better using a plastic toothpick...  Reapeat this step as necessary, making sure to work the oil in by rotating the fan manually.
I dabbed the oil onto the end of the bearing shaft using the tip of the toothpick. This would probably have worked better using a plastic toothpick... Reapeat this step as necessary, making sure to work the oil in by rotating the fan manually.

Replace the Dust Cover

Make sure you have the dust cover right-side-up before pressing it into its seat.
Make sure you have the dust cover right-side-up before pressing it into its seat.

Replace the Sticker

Make sure you clean the surface of the fan body before replacing the sticker.  The sticker will make sure the dust cover remains in place.
Make sure you clean the surface of the fan body before replacing the sticker. The sticker will make sure the dust cover remains in place.

Finished Fan

All right!  The cleaning and lubing is now complete...  Time to put it back into the computer.
All right! The cleaning and lubing is now complete... Time to put it back into the computer.

Place the Fan on the Heatsink

Place the fan back on the heatsink.  Make sure that it is oriented correctly and that the wires do not get pinched.
Place the fan back on the heatsink. Make sure that it is oriented correctly and that the wires do not get pinched.

Secure the Fan

Make sure that you secure the fan properly.  Do not over-tighten the screws as they may strip out easily or break, or warp the heatsink, or crack the fan...  Just be careful.
Make sure that you secure the fan properly. Do not over-tighten the screws as they may strip out easily or break, or warp the heatsink, or crack the fan... Just be careful.

Plug in the Fan

Make sure that you plug the fan into the correct header on the motherboard. (Another obvious step...)
Make sure that you plug the fan into the correct header on the motherboard. (Another obvious step...)

Replace Video Card

Once you've replaced your video card, you should once again make sure that everything is plugged in securely.  Sometimes bumping a wire is enough to dislodge it, especially with SATA connectors.
Once you've replaced your video card, you should once again make sure that everything is plugged in securely. Sometimes bumping a wire is enough to dislodge it, especially with SATA connectors.

You're Done!

 Well, after you put the cover back on and plug everything into the back of the computer, etc...  I hope this helps keep your computer quiet and cool until you can replace the fan.

Thank you for reading my HubPages!

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Comments 2 comments

yet_another_hindu_infidel 6 years ago

My old flex psu belonging to a HTPC blew up. Repairman couldn't find the replacement parts so i had to look for new one but couldn't find one. I took a normal psu, opened it up and sawed off the aluminum heat sinks and put it in the old flex case and it fit well. It's fan was making a lot of noise since it was not in use for several weeks. I applied oil like your article says and the noise was reduced by more than half. Thanks.


Doony 4 years ago

Hello, I have lubricated many many pc fans of various types over the years. I find that most oils such as 3-in-one, sewing machine oils, and other oils only last 2 or 3 months at best. I have read that certain high quality light greases work well, but I have never tried that. I have tried many oils over the years and all but one do not last very long. What I have found and I want to share with you, is that if you use a Marvel Mystery Oil it will last a lot longer than any other oil I've tried, years in some cases. If the Marvel Mystery Oil doesn't work, then it's time for a new fan.

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