Is Your AIO Leaking? Here’s What To Do

AIO liquid coolers are fantastic options if you want optimal cooling efficiency without having to invest in custom loops. But many users are worried that the liquid in the AIO will leak and damage the computers.

However, leaks are very rare, and you can easily prevent them as long as you set up your AIO properly. I have tested dozens of AIO coolers over the years and have seen such leaks on two units only.

I detected them quickly and had them repaired without any issues since the warranty was still valid.

Risk of AIO Leaking

Is it possible for AIO coolers to leak their liquid? Well yes. But are they common? Absolutely not. If anything, AIOs mainly suffer from other issues, like failed pumps, instead and even those rarely occur fresh out of the box.

Unlike custom water loops, AIOs come as fully manufactured units. So if an AIO cooler starts leaking, it’s far more likely to be because of mishandling or improper installation than a flaw in the device.

For instance, if you bend the tube too much or over-tighten the screws on the radiator, there’s a small chance for leaks to occur.

Like all other PC components, AIOs have a certain lifespan. So if its joints or gaskets become soft or wear down, leaks can occur. But that’s something that may happen years after installation. Most people would upgrade their hardware long before that.

Don’t get fooled by all the forum threads you see dealing with AIO leaks. People only talk about what went wrong. Something working right is the norm and nothing worth talking about. Such threads only represent extremely rare instances and not the overall situation.

How to Check for AIO Leaks?

If you see any water or liquid inside your PC case or PC components, it doesn’t automatically indicate an AIO leak. You should look out for some of the following signs to see if you really have a leaking AIO unit.

  • Dried liquid spots or discolorations on GPU, the lower portion of the case or the AIO joints. The drips from the AIO usually show a spray pattern.
  • Any signs of damage or gaps on the AIO pump joints and tubes.
  • Bent channels on the radiator.

If you see spots of plain water, it might be condensation of dew inside instead of leaks. Such issues happen over a long period of time and usually in cold locations. It is still dangerous so make sure to clean it well

Sometimes a lot of water can condense as these spots and may start dripping or trailing downwards. So it’s best to look for damage or feel the joints on the AIO for liquid as the trails or spots can be misleading.

What to Do if AIO Leaks?

If you find that you have a leaking AIO cooler, you need to address it as soon as you can. Before you do anything else, shut down your PC  and then soak up the liquid from the drip area using a paper towel.

If there’s wet liquid has dripped anywhere else, like the GPU, soak it up there as well to prevent more damage. 

Then, you need to send the AIO along with other damaged devices like the GPU and motherboard, for repair. Don’t try repairing them yourself unless you have prior experience and training.

The warranty for most AIOs cover both the AIO and any devices that get damaged due to its liquid. So if the warranty is still valid, you can have the AIO manufacturer’s support center look at all of them for free.

If not, you will still need to seek help from your local hardware or computer repair shops. If they can’t repair any device, you need to get a replacement.

You can switch to an air cooler if you want. But such issues should not happen with any other AIO. Just make sure to install it properly.

How to Prevent AIO Leaks?

AIO coolers are generally very safe and there’s a risk of leak only when you don’t mount them properly. So I recommend following certain practices to make sure that there won’t be any such issues in the future.

  • Avoid bending the tube too much while installing the AIO.
  • Don’t tighten the fan screws on the radiator so much that it bends the radiator channel. Also, avoid any other sorts of damage to the radiator.
  • Don’t try loosening its components yourself. If the AIO suffers from any issues, like the pump not working, you need to take it to the service center or a hardware professional.
  • You can also test the AIO without fully connecting it to check for any leaks before installing it.
  • While it is not to prevent leaks, you also need to have the pump lower than the radiator. This way, if there are any air bubbles in the AIO, it will go to the radiator instead of remaining in the pump. Such bubbles hamper the cooling process and may cause CPU overheating.

Are AIO Leaks Dangerous?

If you notice the AIO leak and clean it as soon as it starts occurring, there may not be much damage. However, if the liquid has been dripping for a while such that you see dried spots on the GPU or the motherboard, it can harm those components.

It may corrode the exposed circuit parts. Also, while AIOs usually have non-conductive liquid, these liquids can become conductive over time due to contact with metal or dust particles.

Even if the GPU or motherboard don’t suffer from permanent harm, the leak may impact their lifespan. But I’ve also known many users whose devices continued working without any issues after cleaning the dried liquid.

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