Submit Hint Search The Forums LinksStatsPollsHeadlinesRSS
14,000 hints and counting!

Repair MacBook Pro cooling fan rattling Laptop Macs
The little cooling fans inside of Mac notebooks run upwards of 6000 RPM, and they can eventually wear out. People report symptoms of rattling and even loud grinding. Well, the fan MAY need replacement. Or perhaps it just needs to be relubricated.

When my 2007 MacBook Pro's left cooling fan started rattling really loudly last night, I thought I was in for a time-consuming repair. Every place I called had a 2 or 3 day lead time on the part and a 2-day turn-around for the repair once the part was in. The fan itself costs at least $40, and the labor charges were at least $60. I was irritated at the prospect of spending at least $100 on a 4-year-old notebook that I plan to replace in like two months when the new model comes out.

One of the places I called suggested that blowing the dust out might help. Dust can accumulate on the blades and throw it out of balance. I opened up the computer (according to an article like this) and aimed my can of 1,1,1,2-Tetrafluoroethane at it. That didn't work for me, unfortunately.

After some research and tinkering, I learned that some of these brushless fan motors can lose their lubrication over time, and moreover, they can be RE-lubricated.

This is what the fan looks like when removed from the computer. I wish I had taken a photo of the fan disassembled. You can unscrew the two tiny phillips head screws on the fan and lift the top plate and motor from the housing below. Then you can gently pry the black plastic circular hub (with the blades) away from the motor, and it'll pop off. What's left on the top plate looks vaguely like this. The circular hub contains a magnetic ring and a spindle pin that kinds looks like what's on the right side of this image.

I dipped a swab in some motor oil (sewing machine oil would probably be better, and soybean or canola oil might be adequate) and put a light coat on the metal spindle pin. I popped it back together and tested it. Now it's silent again, almost like new!

This may only be a temporary fix. The pin looked a little worn, probably because it had been rattling not too badly for months now. Was it noisy because the lubricant had migrated way? Or had it worn out? I don't know, but this isn't a brand new fan, so it's probably not going to last another 4 years before it needs to be lubed again or replaced entirely (assuming this notebook is in use for any purpose at that time). But it saved me $100, and I can now use my old MBP peacefully until I'm ready to get a new one.

[crarko adds: Obviously if you still have a warranty or AppleCare in place you should bring this to an Apple Authorized repair center to get it fixed. But, once out of warranty any repairs to the hardware can get quite expensive, so it's nice to have do-it-yourself options available.]
    •    
  • Currently 3.88 / 5
  You rated: 4 / 5 (8 votes cast)
 
[57,462 views]  

Repair MacBook Pro cooling fan rattling | 17 comments | Create New Account
Click here to return to the 'Repair MacBook Pro cooling fan rattling' hint
The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Repair MacBook Pro cooling fan rattling
Authored by: SuperCrisp on Feb 14, '11 08:16:45AM

As a one time gunsmith, I can tell you that sewing machine oil or vegetable oil would be very horrible choices. Sewing machine oil will dry out, leaving a gummy residue. The same is true of vegetable oils, but they're even worse in that they often contain acids. I've had to clean up a lot of messes left by both. Motor oil might work, but it's probably too viscous. A better cheap solution is RemOil, a gun oil found in the gun section of Wal-Mart or at a real gunshop. It's light, long-lasting, and leaves no residue. (It says its Teflon impregnated, but I doubt that's in any significant amount.) An even better solution might be an oil or evaporating medium impregnated with molybdenum disulfide. You can find that in gunshops, machine shops, and in large quantities at motorcycle shops, often sold under the brand name DrySlide. I'll say that my experience with relubricating these little fans is that the fix is extremely temporary and that the effort to open up the machine is better matched by installing a new fan that you can get for $5-10 from Mouser or somewhere like that. In short, I don't advise oiling at all, especially given the risk of the lubricant being slung around the internals, but if you really want to go this route, at least use a good lubricant. I'm positive someone else can chime in with a better recommendation on how to lubricate these fans.



[ Reply to This | # ]
Repair MacBook Pro cooling fan rattling
Authored by: theosib on Feb 14, '11 02:30:54PM

Unfortunately, an Apple-specific fan can't be had that cheaply. And I didn't want to wait a long time to get a replacement. In any case, it's good to know about this gun oil!

My solution is a bandaid that may only a appropriate for someone like me and for a very short time. YMMV.



[ Reply to This | # ]
Repair MacBook Pro cooling fan rattling
Authored by: BMarsh on Feb 14, '11 09:51:09AM

yeah, re-lubricating failing fans is usually only a temporary fix.
In some cases a few days, in some cases a few months before it has to be done again.

For someone like the original poster that is expecting to replace the entire unit in a couple of months, even if it has to be done more than once would likely hold out until they can get a new model.



[ Reply to This | # ]
Repair MacBook Pro cooling fan rattling
Authored by: theosib on Feb 14, '11 11:12:53AM

A friend of mine mentioned that a vegetable oil would not be a good idea. It's biodegradable. You really need to use a mineral oil. IIRC, sewing machine oil will be the best since it's the most clingy (don't quote me on this). I used a fully synthetic motor oil, which should be good, but a more viscous oil would be even better. Take this comment as a suggestion to do some research on what kind of oil to use before doing something like this.



[ Reply to This | # ]
Repair MacBook Pro cooling fan rattling
Authored by: pgym on Feb 14, '11 01:11:14PM

You can buy new MBP fans for < $10 buy-it-now on ebay.



[ Reply to This | # ]
Repair MacBook Pro cooling fan rattling
Authored by: e_whizz on Feb 16, '11 05:09:30AM

I'd like to know where you saw fans for <$10. The cheapest I have found is about $25 shipped.



[ Reply to This | # ]
Repair MacBook Pro cooling fan rattling
Authored by: bupkis on Feb 14, '11 03:00:32PM

I replaced the fan in my 2007 MacBook Pro. Got a fan on ebay for $24 shipped, not $40. Frankly, given what a hassle it is to open the case and get to the fan to lube it, I'd rather just spend the $24 to replace it. The replacement fan has worked great.



[ Reply to This | # ]
Repair MacBook Pro cooling fan rattling
Authored by: Frederico on Feb 14, '11 03:18:22PM

In a previous life I was a machinist and electric motor and engine remanufacturing plant owner. Learned an awful lot about lubricants.

Depending on the quality of the fan, it may either have 'oilite' (oil impregnated bronze bushings) or a pair of quality micro-roller bearings.

If the former, good ol' 3in1 electric motor oil (not household oil!) will work for many, many, many months (read: years) if they are henceforth kept reasonably free of dust buildup and are not overworked or under-specced for their environment. The 3in1 oil will be easily absorbed into the porous bronze, and, as long as you let it sit for an hour or so, and wipe off any excess, you will have no sling-off worries that would just be a dirt magnet. Please note this will not cure any vibration due to seriously worn bushings, but it will allow for otherwise acceptably worn bushings to spin fee, quiet, smooth and cool.

You can usually apply this kind of oil without removing the fan itself, unless it is a recessed motor-type.

One would think that a specialized electric motor lubricant would be best, and if you want to spend the 10x cost, you can absolutely get a can of such from any automotive store; these are generally specialized for use in alternators and starter motors, and very often come with an extremely useful micro-needle tip to get it into the bearing itself; but most are just designed to spray-saturate and then evaporate the excess or be washed away with water. Very messy for such a tiny application.

If the bearings are micro-roller type, I have been extremely successful with this product:

(http://www.bgprod.com/products/special.html) BG Pre-Lube Part No. 825 6 oz. (177 mL) tube

I have been using this product for two decades on electric motors and numerous other roller-bearing applications. It is honey-thick, but does not evaporate and leave any residue. I use it most on Apple Mac Pro front end fans )they seem to go the fastest) and most especially on ATi and nVidia video card GPU cooling fans. In 2006-2009, ATi seemed to have put the most obnoxiously cheap and hard to replace fans with no adequate heat sink protection between the fan motor and the GPU itself.

In addition to carefully prying loose the uber-tiny bearing seals and using a hypodermic needle to inject the BGPL, I also install .030 fiber-paper gaskets (a loose-weave cloth material) between the actual fan housing and heat sink to keep the fan from getting baked.

If you can even find these fans they run well over $50 each, and won't last any longer than the originals.

Anyway, be sure to work on these fans over a large, clean surface, and be prepared for the tiny (usually teflon or PVC) bearing seals/covers to want to pop off like a spring and hide better than any contact lens ever made in carpets and dark floors. Without replacing these covers, you are dooming the fan to imminent death as they will be unable to retain the applied lubricant. Best to use a dental pick with a flat edge, and work it from the outside first, then to the inside so when it pops off, the ring will be captured by the pick; ot at least aim the fan so the seal will pop off into an area that can capture the seal (e.g., inside a large box pointed down).



[ Reply to This | # ]
Repair MacBook Pro cooling fan rattling
Authored by: MMeldrum on Feb 14, '11 03:22:26PM

I had the exact same problem with my right (GPU) fan on my MacBookPro4,1.

I assumed that Apple would charge crazy amounts to do the repair, I bought a replacement fan from iFixit for $50. Including shipping (to the UK) and import taxes/fees the total was closer to $100.

I later discovered that Apple would've done the parts+repair for $28 (£17.50)...!! So don't assume it's cheaper to DIY - check with someone at the Genius Bar first!

Cheers
M



[ Reply to This | # ]
Repair MacBook Pro cooling fan rattling
Authored by: ascanio on Feb 14, '11 11:28:09PM

I had Apple answer that that noise was normal (!!!) and they didn't replace it while in warranty…

A.



[ Reply to This | # ]
Repair MacBook Pro cooling fan rattling
Authored by: FelixMendeldog on Feb 15, '11 04:34:20AM
I’m surprised that Apple may have charged so little. It’s not that the repair is difficult (I did mine last month) – and obviously Apple buys millions of little fans so their wholesale cost per fan is extremely low – but it does require one to remove many tiny screws; and it takes time to carefully clean the heat sink fins. The job took me 45 minutes; my fan cost $53.12, brand new, delivered to New York from iFixit. I could have paid less, but iFixit posts outstanding tear-down guides online – I support them.

That said, my closest Apple store is 20 minutes away; I might have paid Apple to do it had I known they charge less than $30. But I enjoyed making the repair myself; and since I meticulously cleaned the inside of my MacBook (the heat sink radiator fins were choked with dust) my fan-speeds now hover much lower than before. Had I cleaned this dust a few years ago, my fan may have lasted longer than four years – it certainly would have spun slower and made less noise when it was healthy!

[ Reply to This | # ]
Repair MacBook Pro cooling fan rattling
Authored by: MMeldrum on Feb 15, '11 03:27:02PM

I feel I kinda need to justify why I got Apple to do the repair for me.

I did the repair myself with the original iFixit fan, but it was still noisy..?! :( Rather than go through the whole expensive and time consuming process of getting a replacement fan re-shipped (yet more import duties) I returned the iFixit fan and went to the Apple store instead.

Opening up my MBP and cleaning it out was definitely an interesting/worthwhile experience - my heatsinks were equally clogged up! It just seemed silly for me to persevere when Apple were offering to do it so cheaply. Out of warranty too! The Genius guy must've been having a good day. :)



[ Reply to This | # ]
Repair MacBook Pro cooling fan rattling
Authored by: BigBadbenny on Feb 15, '11 05:43:37AM

I use a tiny blob of lithium grease on top of the spindle.
The worst buzzing seems to come from dust that's traveled through the vents - so I advise (my kids especially) to not leave the Mac on a dusty, soft surface such as a bed. Better to use an inexpensive laptop stand to keep the Mac out of the dust and well ventilated.



[ Reply to This | # ]
Repair MacBook Pro cooling fan rattling
Authored by: cybernanga on Feb 15, '11 03:31:29PM

About a year and a half ago, I had the same issue with the right-hand-side fan in my Santa Rosa MacBook Pro, I was miles from "civilisation" at the time, so I used what I had handy, which was Vaseline Petroleum Jelly. I didn't think it would last long, but the noise was driving me crazy, so I thought what the heck, I can always replace the fan when I get back home.

To my constant surprise, the MacBook has behaved normally ever since.



[ Reply to This | # ]
Repair MacBook Pro cooling fan rattling
Authored by: jbcohen on Mar 15, '11 01:16:07AM

Any suggestions where I might be able to get a replacement fan blade? I don't need the housing, assembly, or electronics. Just the cheap, plastic fan blade itself. Thanks!



[ Reply to This | # ]
Repair MacBook Pro cooling fan rattling
Authored by: unwound on Apr 03, '12 02:18:20AM

Thanks for the help. I had the same exact problem. I got in there and cleaned up all the dust that had accumulated and put it together. The problem persisted. I googled the problem and this post cam up. I happened to have some electrical lube (CRC 2-26) laying around and it work really well. Spray on a Q-Tip and dab the pertinent areas. I was afraid I was going to have to buy a new computer as the noise was unbearable. Like new!!



[ Reply to This | # ]
Repair MacBook Pro cooling fan rattling
Authored by: CharlyAndy on May 26, '12 03:20:21AM

I just followed your instructions except I didn't actually remove the fan, just took the top off. Lots of dust over the 5 years I've had it so I cleaned the vents as best I could. Used WD-40 sparingly instead of sewing machine oil. (WD-40 is good for cleaning around too.) Vacuum picked up the dust. Fans are silent now. Thanks for the tip!



[ Reply to This | # ]