Mix of tools for diy works

Triumphing Over Watercooling Woes With DIY Solutions

Personal By Feb 15, 2024 No Comments

Sometimes, days just don’t go as they’re planned.

Short Version

What did you get up to on the weekend Ryan?

“Oh, I repaired a waterblock in my desktop PC”

Long Version

I have a few hobbies, mostly extensions of things I was interested in when I was younger, but with a little more disposable income, sometimes the money spent on hobbies goes a little silly. Take my computer for example. Some of the most powerful parts you could get in ~2020, and I crammed it all into a small form factor case with a custom hard-line water loop and two radiators.

For those out there who are possibly still gob-smacked that anyone would put water inside a computer, a hard-line water loop uses rigid tubing to connect the various water-cooling components within the computer to each other. In my system, the tubing is PETG. The PETG tubing comes in 500mm straight lengths, and the tubing is cut to length and bent into shape with a heat gun and a mandrel to create the desired shape.

System Specs (click to expand)

For anyone interested, the current incarnation of my system is:

  • Ryzen 5950x
  • Aorus X570Si
  • Aorus Radeon 6900xt Waterforce
  • 64gb G.Skill Trident Neo Z
  • ROG 1000w SFX-L PSU
  • Corsair 280mm top radiator with Be Quiet Silent Wings Pro 4 fans
  • Aliexpress 240mm super thin (17mm) side radiator with Noctua A12x15 fans
  • Liquid Extasy X570i motherboard block modified to fit the X570Si
  • Alphacool Eisstation 40 DC-LT and DC-LT 2600 pump
  • Lian Li Q58 case

I’m sure you’re thinking what almost everyone always tells me. Water and electricity don’t mix. I know. I’ve already killed one motherboard after a misstep in my build. A very expensive lesson learned.

So when I was writing up some code early Saturday morning, the pump in my computer all of a sudden started to make a horrible noise. I quickly checked and there was no water in there. Odd. I grabbed my water filler and topped it up. Then I topped it up more. Still More.

The initial panic set in when, while adding more and more water to the loop, I was unaware of the potentially disastrous leak sprouting from the other side of the case. That’s when I realised there was water all over my desk. There was a leak.

Luckily things were still running and I was able to shut the system down without any damage, which was incredibly lucky, finding a suitable small form factor replacement for would have been painfully expensive, given nearly 4-year-old high end parts, particularly small form factor, can be hard to find – something I was keen to avoid.

After quick investigation, I realised it was the motherboard block. A part from a boutique water cooling supplier in Germany, which had an 8-month wait time from the initial order. This isn’t something I was going to be able to replace easily.

What I suspect has happened, is that water has seeped between the layers of the plexiglass, and over time the pressure of expanding liquid between the layers has placed excessive pressure on the top layer which has caused it to crack.

Why I think this is the case, when I pulled the block apart, the top panel with the logo on it had a loose screw. This is probably my fault as I accidentally dropped some swarf when I was preparing the piping into the inlet of the block which I couldn’t coax out. So I removed the top cover, grabbed the swarf and put everything back together.

At first I considered repairing with a combination of glue and plastic welding, but as the cracks run to the inlet port, it would be practically impossible to get a good seal around that area. The solution? Make a new top cover.

I originally started drawing a template up in AutoCAD, however I decided in the end it was smarter to use the broken top plate as a template directly on the new plexiglass.

I started by drilling the holes with my drill press for the screws that secure the top plate and sandwich the two layers of plexi to the copper block. I then moved onto the four larger holes which the screws pass through to fix the copper block to the backing plate. Finally, I added the inlet and outlet port, drilling first to 11mm and then creating a 1/4 BSP thread using a tapping tool.

The hardware didn’t have the correct thickness in stock, so I picked up 8mm (instead of 5mm) thick plexi which required a slight change in approach when it came to fixing the plates together. I opted for a longer M3 x 20mm button head screw and washer instead of the 15mm countersunk screws originally used. I had to cut down 3 screws back to 18mm that protruded into recesses for components, which was a simple job with a vice and angle grinder.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing though, with a few failures as a result of trying different ideas and methods to get to the final product. After a lot of trial and error, it was third time lucky. The end result. No leaks!

But what does this have to do with the workplace? Well, nothing directly, but if there is anything to take from this, it’s be prepared for plans to change. Don’t panic. You can solve anything with the right tools, good planning, and some patience. The skills and mindset developed through hobbies and personal projects can be invaluable professionally, allowing you to develop flexibility, resourcefulness and perseverance to face any challenge.

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