So I bought a Cooler Master Notepal U2 Notebook Cooler on Amazon.com ($20.99 with prime shipping) with two fans in the first week of January 2011. I ran really well almost constantly for about a year. In the last few months it has been making clanking/bumping noises and the fans clearly needed either greasing or replacing. It appears that replacement fans cost almost as much as the whole unit itself so I figured I’d give it a go myself before I went and bought an entirely new laptop cooler.
So I watched this video on Youtube about greasing ball bearing fans. As I was taking apart my fans I noticed that it was lacking a hole for inserting grease easily as found in ball bearing fans. So I read about ball bearing vs. sleeve fans here. Realizing that my fans were sleeve fans, I figured that I could pry the fan off of the underlying gears/electronics and hopefully grease up the cylindrical column that was underlubricated (and therefore causing the grinding and noise problem). In the process I also discovered that a few of my longer hairs were stuck in the assembly, probably not helping the fans sub-par performance. This process is detailed below:
Tl;dr: I fixed one and it worked very well, and then broke the other one.
So first, I took off the protective metal cover of the fan:
Then I removed the fan from the casing that allows it to snap into the metal stand:
This was the tricky part; I had to remove the plastic fan blade cover from the whole fan apparatus. This worked the first time, and didn’t the second time. The successful attempt is seen here:
Here is the inside of the fan, after I added a few drops of WD-40 (since I was lacking other mechanical lubricant at the time):
And here is the plastic fan cover with blades. You can see it looks pretty dry and then there were also stray threads of some kind of fabric. I made sure it wasn’t a strand of copper wire:
After greasing it up and reassembling the one fan, I tested it out. The one that I had re-greased worked really well and, of course, the fan I had yet to fix made the same noises and was in general pretty useless. The problem arose when I tried to pry off the second fan cover. The first one was pretty tricky but I managed to wiggle it off in the end. The second one snapped under pressure, unfortunately:
I guess the take home message is to be as careful as possible when taking off the plastic fan blades from the fan. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to find a laptop cooler with ball bearing fans but if I do, I’ll post here as an update. For reference, the part # for the fan was: a8010-20ra-2jn-f1. Good luck if you have the same problem!