Jacob & Lo Fix It: A Teardown, Cleaning, And Reassembly Of The Vornado

Our trusty fan/heater for our bedroom stopped working. When we turned on the heater it smelled like burning hair and set off the fire alarm. When we turned on the fan the blade wouldn’t turn. Were we going to throw it out and get a new one? No way! That’s not the Berg Potter thing to do. We were raised by families that believed in repairing objects instead of replacing them for many reasons:

  • It’s more fun
  • It gives us something to do
  • It saves money
  • You can modify objects to your specifications
  • It keeps the item out of a landfill
  • Should we decide to replace the item anyway we can now donate it to a charity shop instead of throwing it out, therefore still keeping it out of a landfill.

So that’s what we are going to do.

Besides, Jacob prefers the white noise from this fan over my Dohm white noise maker. I can play-pretend either of them into music in my head while falling asleep, so it does not matter to me.

This is our subject today. The Vornado small room tower heater is an inexpensive fan a former roommate left behind.

Before opening the fan up Jacob suspected that hair had wrapped around and was clogging the axle similar to the hair tangling disasters involving the Roomba.

I suspected that the problem was dust, grime, and general filth. My suspicion was driven by the burning smell and smoke each time we turned the heater on.

There were 4 screws holding the two sides together – 2 weren’t necessarily hidden so much as they were not recognizable immediately. The screws are of different lengths and threads depending on their location, so be sure to keep track of where the screws go.

As you can see upon opening up the fan it was, in fact, filthy. But was this really the issue?

We needed to detach the fan and heater from the tower in order to start taking it apart and hopefully get it clean and see what the problem was.

We did try to turn the blades by hand once the tower was opened and noticed that there was a fair amount of resistance.

Look how gross that is

We were able to detach the fan and heater from the tower. This allowed us to take a closer look at the connection between the fan and the motor. For this we needed fine point tweezers, Jacob used electronics tweezers.

Upon examination we did see a small amount of hair wrapped around the axle, but nothing that would explain the resistance we noticed while turning the blades. Either way, we removed the hair.

We decided it made the most sense at this point to detach the fan motor from the heater. This is when things got a little scary and gross. We found the hidden civilization of dust bunnies and discovered that every time we turned on the heater we were likely sending a death ray to kill them all. This may explain the fire alarm issue.

So we relocated them to the belly of the vacuum.

Removing the fan blade proved a bit challenging. We brought in the WD-40.

This is when we remind readers that it is important to always work WD-40 in to an area because it is a solvent. The principle components of WD-40 are kerosene and mineral oil according to boffins that like to do analytics on proprietary substances because we’re curious. You can do this simply by spinning the fan blade. This was enough to get the fan blade unstuck.

And there you have an exposed motor! A very dirty exposed motor.

After much cleaning (remember to remove the Q-tips once you’re done and try not to leave any cotton fibers stuck in the motor), we examined the construction of the Vornado and discovered it was assembled with the intent that it would not be disassembled and repaired (in our opinion).

We think this because many of the connections inside were permanently riveted instead of being removable and the wires to those connections were short, bundled, and zip-tied in place making it difficult to repair.

Next, we approach the heating element that still has quite the lost civilization of dust bunnies. As part of our dust bunny refugee relocation program, we did use our high speed Dyson relocation machine (aka vacuum).

Hopefully there will be significantly less smoke with future use from now on.

This detail is important for those that are interested in replicating our repair. Remember how in the beginning both Jacob and I had different ideas about what was wrong with the fan? We both were incorrect. What the fan and motor needed most was new lubricant.

WD-40 helped by acting as a solvent during the cleaning process and will provide lubrication in the short term. However, kerosene (one of the primary ingredients in WD-40) evaporates quickly and it will not provide long lasting lubrication. Due to this issue, we needed to provide a better, longer lasting lubricant.

We went with a spray White Lithium Grease lubricant – this can be purchased in either a paste or spray and works great in situations where you have metal rubbing against metal. The spray is better for fine moving parts, so we recommend going with the spray. If you need an alternative to White Lithium Grease an easy solution is with bicycle lubricant.

All we ended up using was a screw driver for the screws, WD-40, some isopropyl, Q-tips, tweezers, the White Lithium Grease, and a vacuum.

While the lubricant soaked in I verified that the vents were cleared and we worked on preparing for reassembly.

Success! The lubricant was the major issue. An inexpensive fan/heater is now running again with basic tools and supplies we already had at the house.

In retrospect we may have preferred using bicycle lubricant for lower viscosity, but we’ll see how this lubricant ages.

Did you enjoy this post? If you did like this post and/or let us know in the comments. My husband and I would love to write up more of our tear down and repair projects.

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