If you’re a serious computer enthusiast, there is no question you have a computer with a liquid cooling system somewhere. Liquid cooling is a very efficient to remove the heat from your screaming processors while keeping noise levels down.
The majority of liquid cooling systems use a combination of aluminum of copper radiator and aluminum or copper waterblocks. Most people take care of their systems initially by using distilled water as a coolant, wetting agents and algae killing additives to prevent corrosion and mineral deposits. Another way to prevent these things from happening is to replace your coolant regularly, keeping the system clean and free of debris.
Though let’s face it, eventually you start to find nasty gross particles floating around in your blocks, or discoloration due to the natural way in which liquid stagnates and metal oxidizes. Unfortunately these factors can lead to restricted coolant flows, clogs and ultimately affect your waterblocks from providing peak performance. That is why it is a good idea to clean your waterblocks from time to time and keep them performing like new.
In this article we will be performing a routine cleaning on a set of Danger Den waterblocks: Z-Chip and GeForce4 Blocks. These blocks have been used for 12 months in a closed loop system. The radiator was a Black Ice Extreme Copper Radiator and the coolant was Distilled water with 1oz Water Wetter additive.
Before starting, I always like to take a strip of painter’s masking tape and cover over the lapped machined surfaces. This provides some protection from scratches while storing or handling your heatsinks.
These particular blocks use hex head screws. So with a gentle twist (Note: Be careful with Acrylic tops, Acrylic can be brittle and crack.), the screws are removed and the blocks can be fully disassembled. Unfortunately not all manufacturers of liquid cooling components provide for disassembly of their products. For me it is a main selling point when I go shopping for new water cooling components.
Here you can see some of the residues left on the acrylic tops from such a long period of use. Most likely under closer inspection, you could find a similar residue over the surface of the interior of your copper blocks. Just as dust hinders the performance of air cooled heatsinks, these residues or corrosion can hinder the performance of you blocks by adding another thermal interface material between the coolant and the surface of the copper.
(Note: The red color you see is from a UV dye that was added to the coolant. Over time it has stained the epoxy sealant used on the barbs of the block.)
Many traditional blocks use a similar design to these Danger den blocks, with a base and top mated with a rubber O-ring. You can leave the O-ring in for cleaning but I prefer to remove them. I have found the best way is to use a very small jewelers flathead screwdriver. Insert the screwdriver into a rounded corner where the O-ring slightly pulls away from the side of the block. Make sure not to stab or rip the O-rings, otherwise you may have leaks and find yourself buying new O-rings or new computer components.