11 Reasons Why Your Liquid Cooler Makes Noise
Liquid PC coolers are often known to be more efficient and effective than traditional fans. While they’re usually much quieter, there are a few reasons your liquid cooling system might make more noise than usual. Finding the remedy ASAP is important to prevent the problem from worsening and potentially damaging your PC.
- 1. Incorrect Radiator Placement
- 2. Grinding Pump Bearings
- 3. Leaky Liquid Cooler
- 4. High-Speed Liquid Cooler Pumps
- 5. Rattling AIO Tubes
- 6. Worn-Out Cooling Pump
- 7. Incorrect Liquid Cooler Size
- 8. Manufacturer Defects
- 9. Clogged AIO Fans
- 10. Loose Liquid Cooler Parts
- 11. Trapped Air Bubbles
Your liquid cooler makes noise due to improper radiator placement, grinding pump bearings, and leaks. Additional causes include high-speed pumps, choosing the wrong AIO cooler for your PC, air bubbles trapped in the system, or even a malfunctioning fan.
In this post, I’ll explain why your liquid cooler makes noise and what you can do about it. I’ll also provide you with a handful of preventative maintenance suggestions for each issue.
1. Incorrect Radiator Placement
The vast majority of computers don’t come with AIO liquid coolers, meaning the owner must install them.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when installing these unique cooling systems is placing the pump at the top of the loop. When this happens, tons of air bubbles collect in the pump from the radiator below.
These air bubbles might make a gurgling sound. While it isn’t very loud, the sound can get annoying, especially if you hear it constantly.
How To Fix Incorrect Radiator Placement
There are two pump and radiator orientations you can try to prevent this issue:
- C4RE recommends installing the radiator at the highest point in the loop. This placement allows the air bubbles to always stay above the pump and radiator, which prevents them from gurgling. You’ll also notice that the tubes don’t move around as much because the air bubbles don’t clump.
- Place the radiator vertically inside the PC, then connect the tubes to the bottom. This placement allows the air bubbles to move down through the tubes, then immediately rise to the top of the radiator. It’s an excellent choice for those who don’t have a lot of room in their PC, especially if you want to put the pump a bit higher.
2. Grinding Pump Bearings
Most pumps have motors with bearings, including liquid coolers for PCs. These bearings help rotate around the motor shaft. If there’s too much humidity or liquid on the bearings, they’ll rust and corrode.
The liquid cooler will eventually scream and screech whenever you turn it on because the rust is scraping against metal.
How To Fix Grinding Pump Bearings
Here’s the process to fix the grinding pump bearings:
- Turn off the computer and disconnect the pump.
- Remove the retaining bolts that hold the front of the pump to the motor.
- Inspect and clean the impeller to remove excess debris (another cause of unwanted sounds).
- Remove the impeller (depending on the make and model, you’ll need a strap wrench or a screwdriver).
- Look for signs of rust, calcification, and corrosion.
If the bearings, cooling plate, or motor looks rusted, you’ll have to contact the manufacturer for exact part numbers.
Once you receive the parts, they’re as plug-and-play as it gets. For example, you can unscrew the old impeller and twist on a new one or slide the cooling plate away and place a new one where it was.
3. Leaky Liquid Cooler
Does it sound like your AIO cooler is dripping? If so, there’s a high chance of a leak somewhere in the circuit. Incorrect installation procedures, damaged components, and natural wear and tear are the most common causes of these leaks.
They can also occur from moving the PC too much, especially if you don’t protect the AIO tubes.
How To Fix A Leaky Liquid Cooler
Unfortunately, leaky parts always have to be replaced. I highly advise against using glue, epoxy, and other adhesives to seal your AIO liquid cooler.
Not only do most of them not dry when they’re wet (and they’ll always be wet), but you could worsen the problem by getting glue and other chemicals in the AIO tubes.
On the bright side, replacing leaky tubes is as easy as removing the old ones and connecting new ones in their place. If you have a sealed circuit, you might have to contact the company for model-specific instructions.
4. High-Speed Liquid Cooler Pumps
AIO cooler pumps come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them go much faster than others. If you set your AIO fan to its highest setting, the pump will roar much louder than usual.
This usually isn’t much of an issue, but it can get much louder if there’s not enough room for circulation and slight vibrations from the motor.
How To Fix High-Speed Liquid Cooler Pump Noise
So, what can you do if your pump sounds loud at its highest setting?
- Reduce the speed to find the sweet spot between efficient cooling and reduced noise output.
- Only use the highest speed setting during times recommended by the manufacturer (high CPU or GPU usage, system updates, etc.).
5. Rattling AIO Tubes
Most AIO tubes are secured with zip ties, while others have nothing holding them down. If you use staples, screws, and other items to secure the tubes, you’re bound to hear unwanted noises.
Furthermore, the tubes shouldn’t press against your computer’s pump, fan, processor, or anything else.
How To Fix Rattling AIO Tubes
Here’s what you should know about rattling AIO tubes:
- You should only secure them with zip ties or materials provided by the company.
- Never drill, staple, or nail the tubes to anything in your PC.
- Do your best to find a setup that doesn’t require zip ties and other items to contain the AIO tubes.
- Ensure they’re not touching anything other than the liquid cooler’s pump and radiator.
- During long-term storage before installation, avoid setting the tubes on their side (it can trap air bubbles in them).
Note: If the tubes are coiled and touching everything in your PC, they’re likely too big for your setup.
6. Worn-Out Cooling Pump
These pumps can last a long time but eventually need to be replaced. Most AIO pumps are sealed, so you must either return them to the manufacturer for repairs or replace them with a new one.
Common signs of a worn AIO cooling pump include:
- Constant overheating.
- Loud motor noises.
- Reduced cooling efficiency.
- Inability to reach maximum RPMs.
How To Fix A Worn-Out Cooling Pump
Follow this process to replace the cooling pump:
- Turn off your PC, disconnect the pump and radiator, then drain the liquid.
- Remove the retaining screws from the backplate, then remove the pump.
- Mount the new pump in its place with the retaining screws, then feed the pump wire through the housing.
- Place the backplate on the pump housing and connect the screws from the second step.
- Connect the AIO tubes to the pump housing and fill the pump with the manufacturer’s recommended liquid.
For more details, watch this helpful video from AlphaCool International:
7. Incorrect Liquid Cooler Size
If you choose an AIO cooler that’s too small, it’ll overheat the whole PC because there’s insufficient cooling power. On the other hand, choosing an oversized liquid cooler will crowd the PC, causing the motor to echo.
Knowing the correct AIO liquid cooler size for your PC is essential before installing it (a replacement is often the only solution).
How To Correct A Liquid Cooler Size
Most AIO liquid cooler manufacturers have specific requirements for each of their sizes. There aren’t any universal sizes, so it’s important to ask the company which one you need.
You’ll have to get a different size if you have the wrong size. Consider asking about the return policy or warranty agreement if your setup is not working.
8. Manufacturer Defects
While they’re rare, there’s a chance you might’ve gotten an AIO cooler lemon. In other words, the manufacturer messed something up in the production process.
The most common manufacturer defect is leaving too much air in the system. You can usually remedy this by making a few positional adjustments, but sometimes you must contact the company.
How To Get Around Manufacturer Defects
Like the previous issue, your best bet is to contact the manufacturer regarding the warranty period. Almost all manufacturer defects will show themselves within the warranty period. If anything happens after the agreement ends, it’s likely due to user error.
Here’s what you could do:
- Ensure enough liquid is in the cooling system (air bubbles indicate an issue).
- Tighten all of the screws and retaining brackets throughout the PC.
- Check if the impeller is loose under the pump housing (if so, tighten it with a screwdriver or a strap wrench).
- Inspect the thermal paste on the back of the cooling paste, then add more if it overheats or slips away from the CPU.
9. Clogged AIO Fans
Cleaning a liquid cooler’s fans is just as important as cleaning traditional PC fans. If you don’t maintain them, they’ll overheat the computer.
Additionally, clogged fans can jam and slow down, which causes a lot of excess noise. The same can happen with all the fans throughout your PC, so check each.
How To Fix Clogged AIO Fans
Maintaining your AIO liquid cooler fans is an irreplaceable part of owning the setup. Here’s what you should do:
- Turn off the computer.
- Use compressed air to blow each fan, removing as much dust as possible.
- If there’s liquid gunk from spills or leaks, wipe it with rubbing alcohol.
- Thoroughly inspect each fan, brushing away deep debris with a pipe cleaner or Q-tip.
- Tighten each of the screws on every fan, then replace any of them if they’re stripped.
Never use all-purpose cleaners to clean your liquid cooler parts. They’ll leave residue all over the fans, slowing them down and overheating the computer. Furthermore, there’s a chance they could drip on other parts of your PC.
10. Loose Liquid Cooler Parts
While you’ve already inspected the AIO tubes, it’s time to check the mounting bolts and brackets for the rest of the liquid cooler.
Look for loose parts mounting the fans, pump, and radiator. This issue is especially common if you run your pump at its highest setting around the clock. Small vibrations can slowly loosen the parts.
Loose parts can make rattling noises as the parts bounce against each other. Rattling noises are naturally alarming concerning PC maintenance, so check if the liquid cooler parts have come loose.
How To Fix Loose Liquid Cooler Parts
I suggest an annual checkup of every bolt in your PC setup, including anything unrelated to the liquid cooler. Tightening everything will allow you to identify stripped screws, but it can also help you prevent or eliminate loud noises coming from your liquid cooler.
That said, it’s best to avoid Loc-Tite and other screw glues when working with your PC’s cooling system.
You need to be able to disconnect each part when necessary. Adding screw glue can lock the screws, preventing much-needed maintenance. You’ll have to get a new computer tower if the screws can’t come out.
11. Trapped Air Bubbles
A little bit of trapped air in a liquid cooling system is common. In fact, many AIO systems have a bit of air before you install them.
The air often disappears once you cycle the pump for an hour or so. However, as mentioned earlier, continuous air buildup can result from air leaks or putting the pump above the radiator.
The main sign of this problem is a persistent gurgling sound, especially when you move the PC.
How To Fix Trapped Air Bubbles
So, what can you do if there’s trapped air in your liquid cooler?
- Corsair recommends tilting the PC back and forth while it’s on, allowing the air bubbles to disperse.
- Turn your pump to its highest setting to clear the bubbles (this is especially effective if your liquid cooling pump is brand-new and hasn’t cleared out the excess air yet).
- Turn off the computer and add whichever liquid is recommended by the manufacturer.
If there’s a sudden loss of liquid in your AIO cooling system, there’s more than likely a leak. Look for wet spots throughout the computer, then replace the AIO tubes, pump, or radiator if necessary.
As you can see, noisy liquid cooling is caused by various reasons. Finding the exact component that is creating the noise of the cooling system is imperative.
Once you have isolated the specific component, determine if the noise is caused by wear and tear, improper placement, blockages or trapped air, or inferior product quality.
Sometimes a new component can be faulty with this type of equipment, and it’s a bad stroke of luck that you would end up with a defective component.
Just remember to maintain the cooling system, which will most likely reward you with a cool, running, and quiet computer.
Either way, I hope this article has helped you fix the noises in your liquid cooling system.