Wii Shutting Off After a Few Minutes? Check the Fan.

Two years after the last time our Wii showed signs of death by thermal failure, the repaired Wii is once again succumbing from heat death.

Now, the Wii will play fine for about 5 to 10 minutes and then just turn off entirely — no lights, nothing.

Before trying to fix it myself, I checked Nintendo’s customer support sight. Gone is any sense of personal account and, instead, I was told that’d cost $75 + s/h + tax to repair the now-out-of-warranty Wii; about $95 or, in other words, just about 1/2 the cost of a new Wii.

To be absolutely fair, Nintendo’s customer service has been absolutely top notch. $75 (+shipping & taxes for CA residents — $95) for a fix-any-problem service with a solid turnaround time of about 10 days (though it generally takes less) is actually very good.

A replacement optical drive — another component that oft goes flaky due to dust, dirt, or abuse — cost about $50 to $60 and are quite time consuming to replace. Thus, for some fixes, $75 is beyond fair.

Of course, there is no [non-hacky] way of moving all data and purchased content from an “old” Wii to a “new” Wii, thus replacing the unit with a new — hopefully better built — Wii isn’t viable. Not that letting Nintendo fix a Wii is that much better; they have a tendency to screw up your data in the process.

Fine. $95 and no options. Let me do some basic triage…

As it turns out, the Wii’s fan was jammed. Probably with pet hair or, hell, with one of my über-long bits of hair from my long haired days. And it was dusty, too. That could certainly be a problem!

After the fix described below was applied, the unit played quite stably for more than an hour, something that was impossible before.

So, if you are suffering from the same symptoms — spontaneous power down during play — you might want to give this a try before paying the vigNintendo to fix what is, otherwise, about $1.50 in parts (assuming they don’t do the same as below!).

  • Disconnect everything from the Wii and take it to a decent bright light (a flashlight will do).
  • Take a micro-screwdriver, toothpick, or something similar and very gently try and move the fan blades visible inside the vent on the rear of the unit. If there is any resistance, you have a stuck fan!
  • Spin the blade a few times with your poky-stick thing. If you can’t, you have an über-stuck fan and your choices are to replace it yourself or pay Nintendo ~$90 to do it for you.
  • Grab a vacuum cleaner that has a hose attachment.
  • Turn on the vacuum and place the end of the hose over the vent for a few seconds. You’ll likely hear that spinny-whistly-noise of a fan spinning up in a fast rush of air. Hopefully.
  • Put the Wii back and reconnect everything.
  • Fire up a game, turn down the audio volume, and listen for the whir of the Wii’s fan. Or have a look.

The end result might be a working Wii. If not, nothing lost as none of this procedure leaves any kind of a mark (if done right — you go sticking a metal bar into the fan and breaking off a blade is your own damned fault).

Looking more closely at the Wii, it appears that there are one of numerous design flaws in play here.

First, given the number of thermal problems reported by various folk, it is quite clear that Nintendo shoved too much crap into too small of a box without properly accounting for the thermal envelope required.

Secondly, the old-school GameCube memory card slots create quite a vent that leads directly to the fan below and behind the slots. Feeling the airflow when applying The Suck, it feels like those slots will quite happily draw anything in and dump it right on the fan! It makes me wonder if there is a correlation between fan breakage and folks that enjoy GameCube games and, more pertinently GameCube saves on GameCube memory cards?

In any case, our Wii is working again. Even if it is only makes it through the next week or so, it is going to make Christmas morning considerably happier (as it would suck to be all like “Here, son, awesome new game… you can only play it for ten minutes at a time and you’ll lose your saves. Have fun!”.

7 Responses to “Wii Shutting Off After a Few Minutes? Check the Fan.”

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  3. uberVU - social comments says:

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by bbum: @katzenfreund Full story here — http://tinyurl.com/ybwetj8 (with links to previous bouts of stupid). For the moment, I have fixed our Wii….

  4. Matt Long says:

    Only thing this post is missing is pictures. 😉 I recently sent my Wii in paying the Nintendo post-warranty fee you describe but that was because the optical drive was making a clicking sound when it would try to read a disk. Might have been a simple fix, but the $75 bux plus shipping sounded cheap in my case. 😉

  5. bbum says:

    For the optical drive, I doubt that would have been a simple fix. You likely could have done it yourself, but a replacement optical drive is $50-$60 to start with and would likely have been needed (though there is the off chance that a hair or something got wrapped around the mechanics and, with much disassembly, you could have fixed it).

    I’ll try to take some pictures. There isn’t much to see because I didn’t actually disassemble the unit. My goal was to try something simple/stupid in hopes that it worked and otherwise bend over and pay Nintendo if not.

  6. Amie Gillingham says:

    I’m not entirely sure how I feel about having read this mere days before Santa delivers our very first Wii, lol. What is the likelihood that the design flaws you’ve described have been fixed in the brand new unit we just purchased? (guess it’s a good thing I also just got my husband a brand new kit of teeny tiny screwdrivers, eh?)

  7. bbum says:

    I’d bet the newer ones are better than the older and, to be fair, Nintendo’s customer support is actually top notch. Just irks me to pay $95 to fix what is ultimately a $5 part that often can be fixed with no disassembly at all…

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