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I have a case fan that can be quite noisy. I can take the fan out of the case, peel back the sticker on the center to expose access to the bearings, and lubricate the fan. Thus far, I've been using a few drops of WD-40, but after a few days the fan makes noise again.

Obviously, I could buy a new fan, but knowing how to lubricate a noisy fan seems somewhat useful, as not all hardware hardware has replaceable fan units.

Does anyone know why the WD-40 only works temporarily, and what I should be using instead?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

I'd try 3 in one oil. WD-40 is mostly a solvent, 3 in one should give you a longer term solution.

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Worked like a charm - thanks! – Greg Mattes Jan 26 '10 at 12:19

You should really replace the fan. The ball bearing has probably seized and adding lubrication will only help for a few days. As a temporary lubricant you could use about anything with low friction.

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Worse, most fans are sleeve bearing and don't last that long. Purchase a quality ball bearing fan. – Brian Knoblauch Dec 16 '09 at 16:09
+1: It's a cheap part, and one that shouldn't require maintenance during its design life. (Shouldn't use WD-40 anyway; 3-in-1 oil for bearings.) – Satanicpuppy Dec 16 '09 at 16:09
Disagree. I've seen many noisy fans "get better", and often last the life of the machine (4-5+ years total). – Boden Dec 16 '09 at 16:40
+1: The amount of labor you spend relubricating the fan will almost certainly eclipse the cost of replacing the fan. – rob Dec 16 '09 at 18:04
I've oiled fans and had them run for years afterwards. 3-in-1 or sewing machine oil. Useful for high quality but old fans. Not so useful for fans that were cheap to start with. – Grant Aug 23 '12 at 19:56

WD-40 is not a durable lubricant, it is a water displacement product. If the fan is metal, you can probably use a light weight petroleum lubricant. I've used graphite powered lubricants on plastic video card fans with success.

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Clean it out and use a vegetable based oil with a pin hole oil lubricator. It looks like a pen. You can get them at a hardware store. Or just replace the fan you cheapo.

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Aerosol Teflon is another option.

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I do what you're suggesting quite frequently. I put a few drops of WD40 down into the bearing, and then I use a high pressure air hose to spin the fan real fast. I then take a paper towel and wipe out the gunk. I might repeat the process one more time. Then I put a drop or two of 3 in 1 oil in there and give it another good spin.

After having done this dozens of times with fans of various size and make, I would say that it restores fan life for a considerable period. Sometimes the fan will start chattering again after a year or so and I'll repeat the process. In only a few situations have I ever had to buy a new fan. It's not that I'm cheap, it's that finding a replacement fan can be an irritating process..especially if it's some goofy chipset fan with a unique mount. This process only takes ten minutes, and so far I've found it less time consuming than trying to find a replacement.

One exception I make is for power supply fans. I don't open those things up anymore. I typically just buy a new supply.

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You clearly have a lot of free time. – Satanicpuppy Dec 16 '09 at 17:17
Yep, ten whole minutes every now and then. – Boden Dec 16 '09 at 18:53

I notice that amazon is offering one heck of a deal on 55 gallon drums of lube - almost two thirds off! I'm not sure how well this type of lube would work on a fan, and the fact that it's water-based would make me a little wary of using it on an electronic component, but seeing as how your fan should probably be replaced anyway, it seems like a perfect opportunity to try something a little bit "out there."

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