Intro: Noisy Computer Fan Repair
My PC was making a terrible racket. I finally tracked the noise down to the fan on my video adapter card. First I thought it was the fan in my power supply because that fan is bigger, and the noise seemed to be more what it'd make, than the little fan on my video card. But I was wrong! So first off make real sure you know which fan is making your PC noise. Because if you don't you might be fixing something that isn't broken.
Now I have a spare PSU hanging around. But they're always handy I suppose. My point is fixing things other than what is actually causing your issue doesn't actually fix your problem, and is likely to cost you extra time, and effort too. Diagnosis is the larger part of any job. So don't skimp on this step. I finally determined which fan was really making my noise by touching each fan in turn gently with the eraser of a pencil, while the fan was running. Then when I found the bad fan I noticed a change in the sound of the noise itself. Touching the fan hub, or center, is your safest bet. Also angling the pencil in the direction of fan rotation is probably your best method of attack here too.
C'mon, you know how to stick a pencil in a fan. I shouldn't have to be telling anyone how to do this the "right" way. If you break your fan you obviously didn't do it right. Be more careful! But anyhow probing running fans is what I found to be the way to figure out really which fan was making my noise. My PC has 3 fans in it and honestly the last one I thought was making all the racket was in fact the culprit all along. Groundless assumptions are the leading cause of repair troubles. So try to avoid this pitfall by getting actionable data to work with.
Step 1: Remove Offending Item
Once I figured it out that it was the fan in my video adapter that was driving me insane I removed it from my PC. Now I could just replace the fan. If i had another good one on hand I'd have went that route too. But I didn't. I could have bought a new fan too. But that also would have taken me some time to do, and get etc.
I wanted the racket stopped yesterday, and my PC back up, and running ASAP too. So I figured the fan is already beyond shot, so what do I have to lose? First I started digging in the hub of the fan looking for a bearing. There isn't one there. So don't waste your time like I did. No, the bearing is in the bottom of the fan. We'll see it in the next step.
Step 2: The Problem Revealed
OK, so now we're at the heart of the problem. This is the meat of this article right here. Or how I managed to dig into my fan and not destroy it in the process. I knew at the outset that this was going to be some delicate surgery. So I took it real slow here. It still didn't take me too long. Maybe 5 minutes, or so and I had this hole dug into the bottom of my fan like you see here.
What I did was I used a tiny burr for a rotary tool, like a Dremel, to do the main bit of digging. Then when I got close I picked the rest of the plastic out with a hobby knife, like an X-Acto #11. That is exactly what I used. But any scalpel you're comfortable with should do the trick.
My goal here was to expose enough bearing here that I could get some lubricant into it, but I did not want the bearing falling out at the same time. Not damaging the metal was another thing I wanted to accomplish. I just wanted to remove some plastic so I could get to the bearing. You can see from the image that I got a bit less than 50% of the bearing exposed. This worked great for me.
I think you can see in this image that the exposed bearing is dry as dust. This is the problem. Metal on metal is noisy. We're going to fix that in the next step.
Step 3: Oil Packing the Bearing
This step is where I think I brought something extra to the table with my repair. I've taken apart a lot of motors and older motors had felt packing by their bearings to hold oil. They wanted stuff to last back in the old days I guess. Well, I want stuff to last for me today too. I didn't have any felt I could get to easily, but I did have a cotton shop rag sitting on my workbench.
With a pair of scissors I cut two tiny little triangles out of it. I'm going to use those as oil packing for my bearing.
A word about oil.
This is a teeny tiny little bearing. My favorite all purpose shop lube anymore is chain saw bar oil. But that is a pretty thick oil. I like it because bar lube sticks like glue to stuff. You put bar lube on something and it stays oiled for a long time. Which is something I want here. But at the same time I want that oil up where it is doing some good.
So first off I got a dollop of oil in my hole that I dug into the fan frame. But at the same time I was doubtful that oil was really penetrating. So I carefully put a micro-drop of some penetrating oil in it too. I accomplished this with the tiny brush you can see in some pictures. I had some penetrating oil in a metal can, that I dipped the brush into, then applied it that way.
OK so now I have this mess of oil sitting in a hole in my fan frame. I don't want that stuff running all over my clean video adapter board. It is time to drop those two tiny triangles of cotton cloth in there, to soak the oil up. That cotton packing will still allow the oil to get to the bearing. It is sort of an oil reservoir, to keep the bearing supplied with oil.
Step 4: Sealing the Job Off
I peeled off the sticker that was on the fan to do this job. It was a cheap affair that didn't inspire a whole lot of confidence with me as far as keeping things sealed up goes. I have a roll of Gorilla Tape in my workshop though, and Gorilla Tape I have more faith in. So I cut a circle out of it, and stuck it on.
All that remains is to install the fan back onto the board now.
So, how did it work? Well, I did this about two weeks ago here and my PC is still whisper quiet. If it didn't work I wouldn't have bothered posting this article here. I'd go as far now as to say that I've kind of made a homebrew fluid dynamic bearing sort of a deal with my heretofore lousy video adapter fan.
It is better than new! Would I do it again? You bet! This whole process is somewhat tricky, and there is a lot of margin for failure too. But if you have a junky fan in your PC that is making a terrible racket and you're good at fixing things then I say, give it a shot.
Many fans have rubber plugs hiding under the decal. You can pop them open and lube fans. This is for the fans that don't have the oil plug.
I could add more pictures of the tools I used. I might do that too if I see much interest in this article.