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What to do when the cooling fan starts to rattle?

Noisy fans are a problem that almost every PC user faces. Sooner or later, all fans begin to make different sounds – up to a real chirp.

As long as the fan is new, it does not create problems. Depending on the model and rotation speed, it runs quietly (or at least at a comfortable noise level). However, over time, extraneous noises and sounds will inevitably appear. Much depends on the quality of the model and operating conditions, but it is impossible to completely avoid the problem. The question arises: is it worth fixing it? Isn’t it easier to buy a new fan? We will deal with this in today’s article.

Where is the noise from?
Any fan in its design has such a part as a bearing. It is the wear or blockage of this part that becomes the source of extraneous sounds.

If your requirements for the fan are not too high and a budget model is enough for you, you don’t need to bother much. In case of serious problems, it is easier to immediately buy a new fan. For example, the Aerocool Motion 12 Plus model:

This model is based on a hydraulic bearing with a claimed life of 60,000 hours (6 years of continuous operation). It has anti-vibration inserts, removable blades for easy maintenance, 3 pin and Molex connectors for power connection. In general, the minimum required set.

What if we decide to save our hard-earned money and carry out independent maintenance of the fan? First, let’s look at the theory. Let’s figure out how a computer fan works in general.

Fan device based on plain bearing

Most often, the motor shaft and bearing sleeve are subject to wear – the main culprits of noise in the fans.

Determine the type of bearing
Bearing type
Description
Resource
Plain bearing The simplest bearing. It consists of a sleeve coated with anti-friction material, inside which the shaft rotates. Relatively low, highly dependent on operating temperature and vibration loads. Modern options claim a resource of up to 35 thousand hours. It can be achieved only under ideal conditions; in practice, such models serve two to three times less.
Plain bearing with screw thread Plain bearing with specific grooves on the bush and axle. Lubricant is recirculated through them. Significantly higher than that of the simplest plain bearings. Close to FDB-bearings.
Hydrodynamic bearing Improved plain bearing. In it, the shaft rotates in a layer of liquid that is constantly held inside the sleeve. Manufacturers claim figures up to 80 thousand hours. However, in real conditions, this figure should also be at least halved.
Friction bearing The coolers use deep groove ball bearings. They consist of two rings, rolling elements (balls) and a cage. The declared resource can be from 59 to 90 thousand hours. Under actual operating conditions, such bearings are significantly more durable than plain bearings.
Ceramic rolling bearing Rolling bearing using ceramic materials. One of the most durable bearings used in coolers. The declared resource can reach up to 160 thousand hours at sufficiently high operating temperatures.
Oil pressure bearing Advanced hydrodynamic bearing. Differs in the increased layer of liquid (grease). To reduce wear, the shaft is centered by a permanent magnet installed in the base One of the most durable bearings used in coolers. The declared resource can reach up to 160 thousand hours at sufficiently high operating temperatures.
Self-lubricating plain bearing Improved plain bearing. It has IP6X dust protection and a special remanufactured oil slot. This increases the life of the fan. One of the most durable bearings used in coolers. The declared resource can reach up to 160 thousand hours at sufficiently high operating temperatures.
Polyoxymethylene bearing Improved plain bearing. To increase the service life, the shaft is coated with polyoxymethylene, which has a reduced coefficient of sliding friction. The declared resource can reach up to 160 thousand hours.
But how do you know the bearing type of your fan? All of them have a sticker on the back. On some fans, the manufacturer directly indicates the type of bearing.

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In this case, we have a ThermalRight TL-D14L fan, the bearing type used here is S-FDB. This is a hydrodynamic bearing developed by Sony.

The main advantages of the model are the hydrodynamic profile of the inner surface (V-shaped grooves) and the complete sealing of the bearing with a polymer shell. As a result, the lubricant is held securely inside the bushing and is actively recirculated.

There are models where the bearing type is not indicated:

In this case, we have a be.Quiet Silent Wings 3 SW3 fan. To find out the type of bearing, you will have to turn to the Internet. It is enough to drive the fan model into the search box. For a more precise search, add a specific query at the end: “be.Quiet Silent Wings 3 bearing type”. Voila! It quickly becomes clear that this fan uses a Fluid Dynamic Bearing (FDB) type.

It should be noted that not all fans are suitable for self-service. You should not independently engage in maintenance in two cases.

The fan has a valid manufacturer’s warranty. If extraneous sounds appear, the fan should be handed over to the warranty department.
The fan has a complex design (for example, the model has a magnetic centering).
What to grease?
To lubricate the fan yourself, you need to choose the right tool. Not all materials will fit. Thick lubricants, for example, grease or lithol, can be safely discarded due to their strong viscosity. Fan bearings are suitable for medium or low viscosity oils. These oils include: gun oil, sewing machine oil (household), motor or transmission oil. The first two are preferable: they have good penetrating ability, they do not load the mechanism very much.

We clean the fan: step by step instructions
To service the fan, we need:

sharp object (knife, blade, scalpel or something similar)
thin sharp object (needle, awl, etc.)
hair dryer or equivalent.
First, remove the sticker. To do this, it is desirable to heat it. Then, prying with tweezers, carefully peel off.

Under the sticker, as a rule, there is a rubber seal. Removed with a needle or awl.

We will see the retaining ring. It holds the impeller shaft. It is usually enough to drop a little lubricant of the material inside to improve the rotation of the impeller. This will almost certainly eliminate extraneous noise.

But today we will fully service the design of the fan. So boldly remove the retaining and oil rings, disconnect the impeller.

Here we see another oil ring, we also remove it. We completely dismantled our fan!

Now we need a rag. With it, we will remove excess dust and dirt that have accumulated during the operation of the fan. We carefully blow everything, wipe it. Oil rings must be lubricated and reassembled in reverse order.

IMPORTANT! Before installing the oil flinger, oil must be dripped into the shaft. Only after that we put on the retaining ring and the rubber plug.

After assembly, we put the fan in place and check the result of our work. If extraneous noises have stopped, then everything is done correctly – and the problem was the lack of lubrication. If the fan is still noisy, the bearing bush or rotor shaft may have worn out. In this case, it is necessary to replace the fan with a new one.

In this way, you can effortlessly try to eliminate extraneous noise when the fan is running. But it must be understood that the fan cannot be protected from wear due to high speeds during operation. Be prepared for the fact that regular cleaning and lubrication will one day stop helping. But, of course, it is in your power to delay this moment.

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