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Situation: I have an 80mm case fan that is clogged with dust in/around the motor. The fan has become much harder to rotate manually and sometimes stops altogether when powered.

Question: Can a case fan be disassembled and cleaned/refurbished?

Facts: It is not a power problem and it is not an issue that can be solved with compressed air. Obviously I could throw it away and just buy a new one, but what would be the fun in that?

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I would just replace it. It'll be quieter and more efficient, well worth less than 10$ for, IMO. You could use compressed air to blow it out as best you can, but if that failed then you just doubled the price of a new fan.. – nerdwaller Apr 24 '13 at 16:49
Motors/fans should last almost forever as they are just magnets. The dust is like dirt on a windshield - sometimes it just needs a good cleaning. – Enigma Apr 24 '13 at 17:06
Since you seem to know already, then why are you asking for input...? – nerdwaller Apr 24 '13 at 17:38
I wasn't asking for help with the obvious, but rather what was not obvious - is it possible to take the fan apart? - is it possible to refurbish it? Anyone can throw something away and spend more money but not everyone can take the time and effort to refurbish something that is still of good quality. – Enigma Apr 24 '13 at 18:43
@Enigma - +1 - I applaud your effort to salvage, so a pat on your back. I hate to see anything dumpped that could be saved. That being said, I believe that anything can be taken appart and cleaned, there is no absolute that says it will go back together and work.It could break while disassembely. If I were you, I would just explore the process & give it a try. If it fails, it is at least one of the cheapest parts to replace should the rebuild fail to give posative results. – Carl B Apr 24 '13 at 20:21
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Both are basically the same describing how to take the fan apart, clean it, and re-lubricate it.

Compressed air works if the dust isn't inside the motor area, which will likely mean you need to re-lubricate it also.

I haven't tried the suggestions yet but the trickiest part seems to be in getting the fan-blade piece off of the motor assembly.

I was able to take the fan apart as per link #1, clean it with water, and re-lubricate it. I also sprayed off some excess dust. After about 10-15 minutes, I saved $9 and have a near mint highly operational fan again. So I made $36/hour for a quarter of an hour.

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You may have to get a replacement. Replacement fans are cheap and easy to replace. You can get one from your local computer accessory store.

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First off, I find it hard to believe that a member with over 800 rep points would be a asking a question as simple as 'My case fan is dusty, what can I do?'

It's a case fan, use compressed air and move on. If it's still overly dirty afterwards just remove it and run the blades under the faucet for a couple sec, then finish it off with a wet wipe or something. And No, water will not hurt that fan. The motor and wiring are well protected. Just make sure the blades are 100% dry before you plug it in and have it fling water all over your other components (the ones that water will hurt). Don't worry about greasing the ball bearings in those things as you're more likely to damage the damper pulling it apart than performing anything useful.

If after all this you find that the fan is still spinning slow/stopping, then it's a power distribution issue. Either you have too many things plugged in tapping your PSU, or a loose connection in the molex daisy-chain (if you're set up that way).

In the end- it's a 5 dollar fan.

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It's not just that the fan is dusty - that is a simple fix. The dust/problem is internal and not solvable with compressed air. If one can avoid having to throw out a perfectly good fan with a better cleaning job than compressed air alone can do, that seems logically desirable. I asked this because I wasn't sure if it was possible to take the fan apart at all, which is why I wasn't sure if there was anything that could be done. Any human at all should understand that waste can almost always be avoided regardless of how many rep points he/she has. – Enigma Apr 24 '13 at 18:39
"The dust/problem is internal and not solvable with compressed air..." Which is why I said, "run the blades under the faucet for a couple sec & detail with a wipe & Q-tips.." Whether it's a magnetic fan or using ball bearing makes no difference, the water won't hurt it none. Just don't dunk it in the sink and scrub it with Dawn, obviously. I have done this for severely gunked up case fans for years and not one has ever failed. If another IT person tells you this is an ignorant solution, just smile, tell them they need more real-world experience, and drive on. – Josh Campbell Apr 24 '13 at 19:42
So you are essentially saying what the linked guides are saying: Disassemble, clean, and put back together. This question does sound stupid when simplified to that but I honestly couldn't get the fan apart at all getting awfully close to breaking it altogether. – Enigma Apr 24 '13 at 20:00
No, I am not saying to take anything apart, I am saying that water/ wipes and Q-tips are the next step after compressed air fails. If there is something in the center of the fan that is keeping it from spinning freely (which I have not seen in my 11 years of IT), then it's time for a new $5 dollar fan. These fans are like mechanical pens- would you disassemble and refurbish a mechanical pen, or would you just buy a new one? The answer to this is really on what you want to do. If you want to take two hours ripping one apart... have it. Just remember, these are not meant to come apart ; ) – Josh Campbell Apr 24 '13 at 22:18
I was able to take the fan apart as per link #1, clean it with water, and re-lubricate it. I also sprayed off some excess dust. After about 10-15 minutes, I saved $9 and have a near mint highly operational fan again. So I made $36/hour for a quarter of an hour. Pens are around $1 or less - and many would argue that if the pen has any value, you should get ink refills and not just chuck it. The fans are meant to come apart and it is only logical that they do for this reason. – Enigma Apr 25 '13 at 4:18

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