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“Cheap” really doesn’t describe how far I’ll stoop to avoid shelling out money.  So when my laptop fan started sounding like a small Allison aircraft engine about a year back, I was not spending the $110 to get a new fan assembly — even the $25 for a new fan wasn’t happening.  Instead I decided to treat it like any other machine in the shop:  When it squeaks, I start with giving it some oil.

I wouldn’t try this on a computer with anything close to a warranty left on it — however, my trusty old plug of a laptop has no such high-dollar roadblock.  So two times a year I pull the fan assembly out and very carefully work a little 3-in-1 oil into the bearing and put it back in the computer.

The good news:  It takes care of the squeaking. The bad news:  Whatever room it’s in stinks like 3-in-1 for about a day.  All things considered, I’ll go with the smell for a day rather than the squeak for months, but attempt at your own risk.

3-in-1 Oil [Website]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]


11 Responses to Tales From The Cheap Zone

  1. Fred says:

    Well, some people like the smell of 3-in-1. I use Break Free.

  2. Toolaremia says:

    I had (and still have) a Mamod steam engine when I kid. I’d run it all the time on the kitchen table with paper towels in the right hand to sop up the watery and oil mess, and a bottle of 3-in-1 in the other. Made the whole house smell like 3-in-1. The smell still brings back warm memories and I still fire it up every year or so for fun. I’m 41…

    So break out the 3-in-1 and fix those fans! I’ve done a dozen computer fans with it. Desktop fans don’t sound like an Allison — that would be cool. When the sleave bearings get dry and loose, they sound like sick cows. “Moo. Mooooooooooooo. Moo-moo-moooooooo.”

  3. Killbox says:

    most computer fans can be lubed, but the trick is getting the oil where it needs to be, usually under the label there is a small cavity with the shaft ad a bushing/barring peel back the label apply 2 drops of oil and reafix label or replace label with electricaltape if the glue is bad.

  4. ShopMonger says:

    Nice post,

    My Cheap bastardism is flowing good today

  5. Wesley says:

    I do the same thing with my desktop computer. Every 6 months or so one of the small fans on the motherboard starts squealing. A few drops of oil under the sticker and it’s good for another 6 months.

  6. asbestos says:

    Not to take anything away from the fine folks at 3 in 1 but a pinpoint oiler is the way to go for small stuff. Or if you’re really cheap a toothpick dipped in the 3 in 1



  7. David Moisan says:

    I use teflon oil from Radio Shack. Doesn’t smell and the applicator is designed for small spaces–you’re not oiling an engine!

  8. I just turn my speakers up louder!

  9. jeff says:

    Someone should turn that 3-in-1 smell into a perfume for women. All toolmongers would be unable to resist.

  10. Steve says:

    It sounds like the fan bearing is worn. Computer fans are only rated with a MTBF of 50,000 to 150,000 hours, depending on the type of bearing used.

    The noise is caused by wear in the bearing or fan shaft. In a sleave bearing (the cheapest type used), the hole gets elongated through wear and as the fan shaft spins, it wobbles from side to side. …This effect is more often noticeable when the fan is cold – as it warms up the bearing expands and the noise may go away.

    If the oil works for that fine, then good for you. However, I would suggest using a silicone based oil, as it won’t attract dust and has the added benefit of almost no odor.

  11. ~eriC says:


    check out this stuff: http://tinyurl.com/62txph

    Electronic lubricants are silicone rather than oil based, heat won’t break it down (less stank and it will work longer) Oil based lubricants can also break down plastics.


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