Skip to content

All You Need To Know About Liquid Cooling Maintenance

Liquid cooling, or water cooling, is as cool and as functional as it looks. It’s probably the most efficient, albeit expensive, way to keep your system cool while gaming or doing heavy-duty rendering.

The aesthetics of a liquid cooling system is also too hard not to notice, which is probably why first-time PC builders or buyers are drawn to choosing this option over using traditional cooling systems.

But what first-time builders and liquid cooling users don’t know is that behind the lights and dazzle is the amount of regular maintenance that needs to be done.

And in this article, we’ll talk more about how water cooling systems work and how they’re regularly maintained.

How Does Liquid Cooling or Water Cooling Work?

Liquid Cooled PC Liquid Cooling Maintenance

Liquid cooling is exactly what it implies. Liquid cooling systems use water, which is often the most preferred type of liquid, to help keep certain hardware like CPUs and GPUs cool. Water is primarily used because of its high heat capacity and its non-toxic properties.

Water is circulated throughout the systems it is installed in (i.e. CPU and/or GPU). Excess heat is transferred as the water passes through these parts, which is expelled through the radiators.

What Are The Different Types of Liquid Cooling Solutions?

All In One (AIO) Liquid Cooling

All In One (AIO) Liquid Cooling Liquid Cooling Maintenance

AIO or All In One systems are commercially available and are considered plug-and-play versions of liquid cooling systems. An AIO liquid cooler comes with everything you need without the hassle, from the tubes to the fans to the aesthetics.

It’s also relatively easier to install AIO coolers than air coolers, according to many builders. The downside to using an AIO system is that you can’t upgrade it. If you’re running a custom-built PC, chances are an AIO might not work for you.

Custom Water Coolers (Also Known as Custom Loop or Custom Cooling Loop)

Custom Water Coolers Liquid Cooling Maintenance

Unlike AIO coolers, custom liquid cooling is built from the ground up. Much like your custom PC, custom cooling systems have handpicked parts according to what you need.

One added advantage to using custom liquid cooling is that you can easily upgrade individual parts without changing any hardware in your PC. But the downside is that this system is really expensive and requires more maintenance than AIO cooling.

An Overview of the Different Parts of a Liquid Cooling System

Both AIO and custom water cooling systems aren’t exactly zero maintenance. If it’s your first time to use either, then you need to know what the different parts are and how they work.

  1. Water Pump: This is responsible for pumping distilled water or coolant inside the system.
  2. Radiator: The radiator expels heat coming from the circulating water into the air, keeping the water cool as it cycles back through the CPU/GPU.
  3. Fan: Fans are responsible for maintaining airflow inside the system by bringing in fresh air.
  4. Pipes/Tubes: Pretty self-explanatory. Pipes or tubes carry the coolant or water throughout the PC and flow constantly during PC usage.
  5. Reservoir: The reservoir stores extra water or coolant in a container. This ensures that there’s always water coming through the pipes, so you don’t have to worry about running out.

The basic premise of any liquid cooling system is this:

  • Water is pumped through the pipes.
  • Heat is transferred from the CPU or GPU into the running water.
  • The water that’s carrying the heat travels to the radiator.
  • The radiator takes away the heat and blows it out of the system.
  • The water, which is now cool, travels back to the CPU or GPU to transfer heat.
  • The fans help keep the insides of your system cool by bringing in fresh air.

And this goes on and on.

Does Liquid Cooling Require Maintenance?

Like air cooling systems, liquid cooling requires maintenance and attention because of the different moving parts. When one part malfunctions, it’s safe to say that the liquid cooling system is compromised.

Maintaining custom water cooling systems will have you checking and filling in the water reservoir, or it will stop working. You’ll also need to check for leaks as you do your maintenance because we all know that water, or any other liquid, is dangerous for your PC hardware.

Water cooling systems also have parts that are not readily available in hardware stores, so that’s something to consider as well.

But the bulk of maintaining custom water cooling is making sure that the coolant level or water level is sufficient. Avoid using tap water and instead, run distilled water as the latter is free from sediments and minerals that could compromise the integrity of the cooling system.

Do AIO Coolers Need Maintenance?

On the other hand, AIO cooling systems are easier to maintain than custom cooling systems. But the biggest downside is that if there’s a part that needs to be replaced, you need to replace the entire system.

For AIO coolers, you just need to make sure that the fans and radiators are as clean as possible. Over time, dust will accumulate on both of these parts. The weight of the dust accumulation will eventually be heavy enough to slow down the fans and radiator’s speed, so they’re no longer as efficient.

Will AIO Coolers Leak?

AIOs, much like any other cooling system, will eventually fail as the years go by. They’re not meant to run longer than they should, and time will come when you’ll eventually have to replace the unit.

With that being said, AIO coolers won’t have issues with leaks but they will have issues with their pumps, which is the biggest cause of failure.

If AIO leaked as often, you’d probably hear about it over the Internet and people would probably tell you to just get an air cooler.

But in case your AIO system does leak, you’ll need to report it to the manufacturer and the warranty will take care of everything.

What Do You Need For Maintaining Your Liquid Cooling System?

On the off chance that you are running custom water cooling, then you’ll actually do some heavy lifting when it comes to maintaining the entire system.

For custom solutions, the idea of something going terribly wrong at any given time persistently haunts them. One day you’re doing some video editing or gaming, and the next thing you know, coolant sprays all over your motherboard and your PC dies. You’re now left with the daunting task of buying a new PC.

Do A Coolant Flush

To properly maintain your liquid cooling system, you’ll need to do what’s called a system flush or a coolant flush. Coolant refers to the liquid that’s running through the tubes that’s keeping your PC cool while running heavy loads.

Every year, you’ll need to drain the entire reservoir and pump and replace it with a fresh batch. The reason being is that heavy usage of the liquid cooling system will lead to the production of air bubbles as a result of evaporation. This results in coolant pollution and negatively affects your system’s performance and overall efficiency.

Ideally, you want to run distilled water to prevent or minimize corrosion to the different PC parts and parts of the cooling systems. But you’ll also find pre-mixed coolants that are commercially made and intended for liquid cooling your PC. These coolants come in different shades and hues, so customization is really high.

Once the coolant is replaced, you’ll then need to check the integrity of the other components like tubing, the O ring, and the clamps to make sure that there are no issues once the system starts running.

The Wrap Up

Whether you’re using a liquid cooling loop (AIO cooler) or a custom liquid cooled system, you now know what it takes to keep both of these systems properly maintained. Liquid cooling maintenance is a daunting task by itself, but there’s no reason not to do it.

If you feel like you don’t trust yourself enough to maintain a water cooled system, then you can always hire a professional to do it for you.

James Stephenson

james stephenson profile picJames is a gaming and tech enthusiast. He has been playing computer games since the Commodore 64 days in the 80s. He has worked as a Broadcast Engineer with BBC News and knows a thing or two about building, fixing, and playing with PCs.