My wife’s 3 year old Thinkpad Z60t stopped working after showing “Fan Error”. Such a failure always happens when the warranty becomes expired (ended last May). Did it show any sign before it happened? Yes, the fan became running more often and louder, and everything starts to run slower and slower. Did I ever clean the fan? Yes, multiple times with my Dyson vacuum, one of the greatest engineering products.
I had three options: 1) Buy a new laptop since this is old Pentium-M, which will costs $$$; 2) Buy a replacement fan part from Ebay, which will costs $$; and, finally, 3) Try to fix a fan, which costs nothing, but may cost a big waste of my precious time. Well, I define myself as an engineer, so why not trying to fixing it? The results was very successful. It was much simpler than I thought. Here I show some photos and step-by-step guideline for the guys who may end up with the same three questions I had.
You will need small philips driver set, lubricant (WD-40 works great for me), cleaning alcohol, and CPU thermal compound.
Thinkpad is well designed physiologically, though probably not esthetically, which makes us easy to replace its parts. As usual disassembly begins with removing many screws. Remember there are some hidden screws you need to figure out. Two screws are hidden with rubber caps (see arrow below at bottom). Plug out rubber caps, then you will see screw heads. Secondly, there are two screws with that are used for external monitor port.
Remove battery and drives, and remove all remaining screws to take out the bottom cover. You may want to draw which one comes from where, since they are many.
The picture below shows the system with bottom cover detached. See the fan enclosed inside the gray cage? We can’t take out that fan from this side.
Flip over the system. You will notice the palm rest is already loose. See the black square thing next to the yellow thing, which is the connection between the system and the trackpad. Pull it upward, it will come out very easily.
The next is the keyboard. Same thing. Keyboard is already loose, so flip over. If you see one connector, disconnect it.
Now it’s time to take out the remaining cover which is blocking the fan. Unscrew the screws holding the black frame to the system, and take the cover off.
Finally, you will see tiny speakers (L & R). These speakers are pretty bad with very low volume, which is one of my complaints with Thinkpad laptops. Now we’re almost there.
Remove two screws which fix the left side speaker assembly. Then remove four screws which fix the heatsink to the motherboard. See two silver rods lying parallel on top of copper heatsink? Two screws are there at the end of each rod. The fan and heatsink comes with one part. Three pictures below show the system and the fan after they are detached.
As soon as you take the heatsink assembly out from the system, you will see the thermal compound spread on the CPU and the heatsink bottom face. I strongly recommend to clean these surfaces and put fresh compound for best heat dissipation. Now, see the very small screws on the fan cover? Remove them and you will see the fan blade under it (See the last picture).
Now detach the plastic fan case (black) by removing screws.
The image below shows the heatsink after removing the fan case, with the exhaust segments zoomed in. Actually, I cleaned with vacuum and brush before removing it. Nevertheless, the heat dissipating segments look still dirty with oily dust. The oily surface and residual dust would attract more dusts and become clogged easily. The easiest way will be submerge the heasink into the soap water, and clean with sonicator. Unfortunately I have no sonicator. Instead I cleaned it with alcohol and brush.
The picture below shows the heatsink after cleaning. Okay, I am satisfied.
Now it’s time to solve the major problem: “fan error”. If you take the blade off from the fan hub (by just pulling out), you will see the motor assembly. The source of the noise should come from the hub and the axis; either by wear or by poor lubrication. For this small part, even if there is wear, it would be small and can be overcome by enough lubricant. So, I applied small amount of WD-40 on its hub, put the blade back, and spin it by hand. Guess what? I felt it became much smoother, and that was it! I half assembled the fan, plugged the power cord, and try to hear the noise but could not. It sounds like when I first bought the laptop.
Re-assembly all parts in reverse order. My laptop is not completely usable without noise, though it cannot compete with Intel’s current Core 2 Duo products.