Steps to Maintain a Water-Cool System

You can now buy all the parts you need for water cooling off the shelf, and with a little research on the various fittings and tubing sizes, it’s easy to get your system up and running. However, there are some tricks to avoid the pitfalls that aren’t mentioned in manuals, such as preventing foreign objects from getting stuck in your waterblocks. It’s also good to clean your loop periodically to remove built-up grime.

Follow these steps and you’ll end up with a perfectly prepped and tuned cooling system, and avoid the nightmare of coolant leaks too.

1 Cut your tubing properly! don’t use a knife or scissors to cut your tubing, as the edges will probably be uneven, meaning there’s an increased risk of leaks, especially if it’s under sideways stress. A tube cutter will make cutting your tubing far easier, as well as more precise. They cost around RM15 but will make your life considerably easier
2 Flush Your Radiator/ Many radiators use water-soluble flux in their construction. This can gradually dissolve, and make your coolant and tubing turn cloudy as it spreads. To remove this, run a hot tap and flush the radiator for ten minutes with hot water. You may even see the water turn cloudy.
3 Rinse with deionized water. As tap water contains nasty impurities that can lurk in your system, you need to flush your radiator immediately after step one. You can buy deionized water from Hardware retails/store cheaply, rather than using expensive pre-mixed coolant. For the best results, connect the radiator to a pump and pass the coolant through it at high pressure.
4 Check waterblock for obstructions. Waterblock contain a maze of copper fins and small path through which your coolant will flow. Anything that blocks these could limit your block’s ability to cool your CPU. Dismantle it to check nothing has found its way inside during its construction. Start by removing any securing screws and taking the block apart.
5 Assemble waterblock. Remove any small pieces of seal or other detritus stuck in the waterblock with water or tweezers. If your block uses a removable rubber seal, make sure this is correctly placed in its groove. You can then screw the block back together and fill it full of coolant – this will show if the rubber seal has come loose.
6 Filtration. By adding a small section of sponge to your reservoir, you can prevent small fragments from radiators or waterblocks from becoming lodged in your pump or waterblock. Start by cutting a section of sponge to the right size for your reservoir. Rinse this thoroughly to remove any loose fragments and then insert it.
7 Add A Filter. Make sure the filter isn’t located directly over an inlet or outlet, although the coolant should flow through it before it exits. The filter will help to trap particles that could otherwise get lodged in the pump or waterblock. Alternatively, in-line filters are available that connect two sections of tubing, although these cost around RM30 each.
8 Filling. People often have trouble with trapped aor pr filling new water-cooled builds, particularly in small PCs where gravity can’t ensure the water reaches the pump from the reservoir. You can let gravity fo its work by tilting your case. This may result in a long process of filling, tilting and powering on the pump, but it works
9 Bleeding. Once your loops has enough water, the pump will engage and water will blast around the system. However, air can still trapped in radiators. As air rises in water, it will most likely be trapped at the top, so it’s time for some more tilting to release the air. While you do this, fill the reservoir so that more air isn’t introduced into the system.
10 Top Up. There still may some residual air in the form of tiny air bubbles. These can make the pump quite noisy, but they eventually dissipate. For this reason, check your reservoir level regularly for this first day or two. If air bubbles are stuck in the tubing, a gentle shake can break them free so they find their way to the reservoir
11 LEAK-TEST. By far the most important job before you poweron your water-cooled system to leak-test it. This can only be achieve once you’ve installed all you components into the case with the pump running. Start by disconnecting all the power connectors, except your pump, so your components won’t be damage if there is a leak.
12 Insert ATX JUMPER. An ATX jumper costs just couple of quid, but it handily jumps your PSU’s power and ground pins, facing it to power on without a PC connection. This allows you to just switch on the pump to identify leaks under normal conditions, but without powering on the rest of the PC. Switch off your PSU and insert the connector.
13 Add tissues and dye. While some leaks are obvious, slow leaks can appear after several hours. To spot them, wrap tissues around each fitting, and beneath your CPU block and pump, using tape if necessary. Add deionised water and a few drops of dye to your reservoir or fill-port, then power on the system. If there are any leaks, the tissues will soak up the dye.
14 Leave for 24 Hours. Leak-test for 24 hours, and leave the tissues on once you power up the rest of your system. Slow leaks can still manifest themselve once the system warms up, but the tissues will help to identify them, while helping to prevent the coolant from reaching unintended places. Leave the tissues on for a few days, checking them every day.
15 Persistent leaks. Some barbs and waterblocks just don’t fit together, but you can use mole grips on metal fittings (not plastic) to tighten them with only a small amount of pressure. Alternatively, you can wrap PTFE tape round the thread, or even use Loctite. Don’t use Loctite on plastic reservoirs, though, as it expands and can crack the casing.
16 Cleaning. Over time, coolant can break down and small amounts of material from waterblocks, reservoirs and tubing can get in, building up in bottlenecks or settling in tubing. Thankfully, you can clean your loop without taking it apart. Start by draining your system and opening up two ends at easily accessible points for draining and filling.
17 Flush the loop. Now flush the loop once with deionised water, which will clear out any remaining gunge. If your pump has multiple inlets, keep one open but attach a funnel to fill it, and attach the previous tubing as a drainer. As the coolant is likely to be dirty, empty it into a bucket, rather than onto your patio.
18 Mix your cleaner. We’re using Alphacool Sysclean, which needs to be mixed with ten parts water (one part Sysclean), or five parts if your system hasn’t beem cleaned for years. It’s safe to use with rubber seals, plastic and other metals, but it can attack the coating of nickelplated waterblokcs. For these, use white vinegar mixed with two parts water instead.
19 Add the cleaner to the system. Reconnect the drain hose to your pump and add the cleaner, cleaning up any spills quickly. FIll your system and bleed it, topping up with more water of necessary. The water may turn cloudy, due to oxidation, limescale, additive and other settlements being dissolved. Leave this in your system for 30minutes with the pump on.
20 Drain and Flush the system. You now need to flush deionised water through your system, so get your funnel and find a way to leave the drain house in the bucket while you fill it. Engage the pump and allow 4-5 litres to be flushed through, then add corrosion inhibitor, if your coolant doesn’t contain it already, which prevents any residual cleaner from causing issues.
21 Manual Tube-Cleaning. Sometimes you might need to get physical to deal with blockages or large grime build-ups. Some tubing goes cloudy over time and, while it’s fairly cheap to replace it’s worth trying to clean it first. You can do this with bathroom cleaner, white vinegar or Alphacool Sysclean, and the run a cloth or tube brush through the tube.
22 Cleaning waterblocks and radiators. There may be clumps of matter stuck in your waterblocks’ contact plate fins, which can be removed with a toothbrush, air duster and Alphacool Sysclean. Meanwhile, you can clean radiators by leaving them filled with a more concentrated solution of Sysclean, or white vinegar and hot water, then flushing this through a few times.

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