A sticky fan needs a new lube
December 5, 2018 7:51 AM   Subscribe

My wood fireplace insert uses two cylindrical fans to circulate hot air. For a while now, one of them has been running slower and slower, with some temporary improvement with application of a spray lubricant. However, it has reached the point where the spray I have been using no longer frees the fan. What product can I use that will dissolve the accumulated gunk and bring the fan back to life?

We are currently using the fireplace without the blower because I don't want to burn out the buzzing, slow-moving fan, but it is far less efficient this way and doesn't keep the house as warm. I plan to fully remove the fan unit from the insert and completely disassemble and clean the fan assembly, but that will not be an easy process (the fans are way in the back and hard to access) and I am way over-subscribed with other projects and an upcoming trip. The big restoration will need to wait a bit.

So, I need to find a product, ideally applied via straw, that will, at least temporarily, dissolve all the old gunky lube and allow the fan freedom to spin. Any other advice would be welcome as well!

(I can't remember the name of the product I have been using, other than it is NOT WD-40!)
posted by Don_K to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In this situation WD-40 may actually be appropriate as it will disolve and flush out the old oil/grease. You will need to re-oil after though.
posted by jclarkin at 7:56 AM on December 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

jclarkin has it, this is the correct use of wd-40. It dissolves gunk. You will need to re-oil.
posted by jbenben at 8:32 AM on December 5, 2018

when a fire was NOT going I would blast it out with non-chlorinated brake cleaner while spinning the fan with my finger. Some paper towels to catch the drips would be good. after it's had a chance to dry out ise some sewing machine lube on the shaft.
posted by Dr. Twist at 8:50 AM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think you should wait til you can take it apart.

Because say you do succeed in dissolving and flushing the gunk out. There's a good chance the gunk and flushing agent will end up depositing themselves on a surface which will heat up at some point, and you and your family will end up breathing the fumes.

I would also wonder why that fan had problems in the first place. Is there a chance a leak from the firebox or chimney is depositing less volatile byproducts of the fire into the motor? If so, you need to know that sooner rather than later.
posted by jamjam at 9:34 AM on December 5, 2018

there are some powerful degreasers that will remove gunk. Finish Line Speed Bike Degreaser will probably do the trick: it is, quite frankly, a miracle cleanser/degreaser. it's pretty flammable, though, so use with caution around your fireplace.

i remember using some foaming kitchen cleanser that came in a purple squirt bottle and made it possible to wipe away some really stubborn gunk in an old house. that might help too.

if you flush/dissolve stuff out, you're gonna have to relube it somehow.
posted by entropone at 10:21 AM on December 5, 2018

Also be aware that if the bearing surfaces are worn that nothing save replacing the bearing (most likely the whole fan) will work
posted by Dmenet at 11:04 AM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the answers and ideas! I attempted a repair yesterday morning. I believe I did a good job degunking the slow fan, but apparently did not do so good at re-lubing, as it now has a noise. It is a difficult reach to try to get anything back there, but I will try again this weekend.

If anyone is still reading this far, please suggest a lube I can use that will be easy to apply in a tight space.

posted by Don_K at 12:58 PM on December 7, 2018

I really like sewing machine oil or Tri-Flow
posted by Dr. Twist at 3:35 PM on December 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding Tri-Flow , plus it smells like Circus Peanuts(which smell a lot better than they taste.)
posted by nenequesadilla at 9:41 PM on December 10, 2018

which smell a lot better than they taste.

also like Tri-Flow
posted by Dr. Twist at 9:08 AM on December 12, 2018

« Older Do we move to a better school district? If so...   |   Using fashion for dating old photos? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments