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Thread: Fans on my modern PC keep acting up (making a horrible noise)

  1. #1
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    Default Fans on my modern PC keep acting up (making a horrible noise)

    Here's a story: my main desktop PC has several fans:

    1) CPU heatsink fan
    2) Dual GPU heatsink fans
    3) PSU fan
    4) 3x 80mm case fans

    The case fans have been lubricated recently and they are making a horrible racket again. Should I replace the darn things with new ones or lube the bearings again?
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  2. #2
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    How much dust is on the blades? High pressure compressed air works wonders on fans and they will be clean in seconds (resist the urge to use it to spin them up).
    If they are already clean, maybe they are very slightly out of balance. You could number the blades with a pencil and place a small piece of electrical or duct tape very lightly on #1 blade, test, lift and move to next or opposite blade in a trial and error fashion and see if it is any quieter. If possible disconnect the other case fans whilst testing.

  3. #3
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    What type of lube did you use? Was it appropriate? I can't speak to fans specifically, but there are instances where too lite a lubricant can cause increased wear. Particularly where speeds are high. Try a thicker lube maybe. And hopefully something that won't attract a lot of dust. Maybe silicone?

  4. #4
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    I use lithium grease on mine. Seems to work. But examine them carefully and make sure that nothing is rubbing.

    Worst case, just replace them. Chinese fans are pretty cheap.

  5. #5
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    There are several types of bearings in computer fans these days. Most of the cheap fans still use sleeve bearings (or plain bearings), but more expensive fans can use ball bearings or more exotic types like fluid dynamic/hydro dynamic bearings.

    It's easy to check for a bad sleeve bearing. Grab the frame of the fan in one hand and the central hub in the other and gently try to rock it in a side to side motion. If the bearing is good, you should have little or no play, if it is bad, it will rock side to side. When a sleeve bearing fan goes bad, it usually makes a grinding sound usually accompanied by vibration from the shaft riding around the sides of the sleeve rather than staying on a single axis. And unless previously re-lubricated, the bearing will usually be stiff and not spin freely.

    Ball bearings are a bit more difficult, they usually make a whine when failing due to the balls crashing into pits/galling in the bearing race. If you rotate the fan fast enough by hand, you should hear a low tone whine and the hub will feel like its turning through grit.

    Fluid Dynamic/hydro dynamic bearings are a variant of a sleeve bearing with rifling ground into the walls of the sleeve and are more prone to damage. If it exhibits any of the same symptoms as a sleeve bearing, it's also bad.

    Re-lubricating sleeve or fluid dynamic bearings isn't really going to help the fan if the damage has already been done. Whatever metal has separated gets ground into fine particles and basically acts like liquid sandpaper and does constant damage to the bearing while running. If you add more lube on top of what already exists, it's just going to make a mess. You can clean out the bearing and remove all of the burned grease and metal particles, but the damage will still be there and continue to happen.

    Ball bearing fans are really the only type you can fix because they're usually sealed bearings that can be pushed out of the bore and replaced. Relubing these is impossible because the bearings are usually sealed.

  6. #6

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    Not impossible, but impractical.

    The seals can be removed though and the bearings packed with grease. However, by the time that's necessary, a new sealed bearing isn't that expensive. And unless you can shield the grease from dirt in the air, you're going to have more problems than if you left it with the seals on and broken-down grease inside.

  7. #7
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    I use this on all kind of PC fans and it works great:zoom spout turbine oil.jpg

    Quite a few oils will dry out and some lithium grease I used that came in an aerosol can just didn't last long.

    You do need to clean off the old dirty lube.
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  8. #8
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    I have round stick-on labels that go over the fan end to seal the grease in.

    Probably a thicker grease might also work, such as that used on auto suspensions--I haven't tried any, though.

    The biggest problem is that bearings in cheap Chinese fans are garbage. I've got 50 year old Rotron muffin fans that have yet to see their first regreasing.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck(G) View Post
    Probably a thicker grease might also work, such as that used on auto suspensions--I haven't tried any, though.
    I've tried thicker grease used for ball joints and moly grease used for wheel bearings, it's too thick and causes the motor to overheat.

  10. #10
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    That's why I use the turbine oil, won't overheat or dry out.
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