Introduction: Reviving a Squeaky or Jammed Fan

About: Felipe La Rotta, Industrial Designer

Either inside a computer, a stereo amplifier or a LED lamp, fans are critical for the refrigeration of modern electronic devices. It's always a good practice to keep them clean with a blower or a compressed air can.

However, in some unfortunate cases these cleaning measures are insufficient. After weeks or months exposed to dust and heat, some fans begin to make strange noises, reduce speed or even seize altogether, putting your device in overheating risk.

When a spare part is not desirable or available, you can try this method to bring the fan back to life. This procedure is applicable to various types of brush-less fans.

Warning, please note: This guide MAY require some electronics knowledge. Not because we are touching something electrical on the fan itself, but in order to reach the fan you must take apart your device. If the device is mains powered, taking it apart can expose you to lethal voltages. Only proceed if you have proper training, or ask a friend who does.

Step 1: Required Materials

For this repair we will be using:

  • The device with the problematic fan inside (for this Instructable I'll repair my motorcycle LED headlight)
  • Brake cleaner spray (or your preferred cleaning solvent)
  • WD-40 spray oil or similar
  • Your favorite glue
  • Various sizes of screwdrivers

Tip: Always keep a magnet in your toolbox, it comes handy to magnetise the tip of your screwdrivers and to avoid loosing the screws.

Step 2: Getting to the Problematic Fan

The fan cleaning and lubricating is laughably easy, but accessing to the fan itself may not. You must take your device apart to have full access to the squeaky or seized fan.


Step 3: Note Regarding the Disassembly of Other Devices

I' m sorry for not putting the detailed dismantling procedure for your specific device. Naturally the steps vary from a device to another, and the guide length would be unreadable. But keep reading, I'm sure you'll get the idea!

Step 4: Know Your Enemy!

In the example of the LED light the very small (and somewhat cute) fan is encased inside an aluminium heat sink. It required some work to fully expose it.

Other fans like the ones on desktop computers are in plain view and held in place by screws or just pressure, so there's no special procedure to reach them.

Step 5: Peel the Label Off

Once you have access to both faces of the fan, look for an adhesive label and carefully remove it. This will leave the fan bearing exposed.

If you don't see the bearing, some fans will have a rubber cap. Carefully remove it with a small flat screwdriver.

Save the label (and the rubber cap, if present), we will be using it later.

Step 6: Here Comes the Cleaning

Using the attached straw, apply your cleaning solvent on the gap at the side, between the stator and the blades. Put a plastic plate or a cloth behind the fan, to avoid spilling solvent everywhere.

Step 7: Watch the Dirt Go Away!

It's incredible to actually see the dirt coming out and the blades getting easier to turn by hand

Step 8: Some Oil

Wait for the solvent to evaporate, and apply the oil with the straw as shown.

Step 9: Clean the Oil Excess

Make sure that the face is clean before attempting to stick the label again.

Step 10: Reinstall the Label

Put the rubber cap back on (if your fan includes it) and stick the label again.

If necessary you can add some glue to the label to make sure it doesn't peel away during operation.

Step 11: And It Works!

I got the picture of the fan spinning just for this Instructable. But please don't test the fan without being properly installed, playing with other fans left me nasty cuts from the blades. The blade is also very prone to break off after hitting your finger, and the fan will be totalled.

Step 12: Final Remarks

I hope you enjoyed this guide, see you next time!