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ThatStupidCat
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Void Warranty stickers illegal?

Wed Aug 03, 2016 8:11 am

First off all I wasn't sure where to stick this so I stuck it in General Hardware because I'm about to deal with a PSU.

So I've been wanting to open up and clean out one of my PSU. Canned air blow and vacuum. There's a lot of fuzz bunnies stuck between the cooling fins and I think this is the reason for many PSUs going up in flames. My opinion. It's like lint in the dryer. They tell you remove the lint or else it may catch fire. If nothing else, it is less efficient.

Every PSU has this sticker that says "Warranty Void if Removed" and this has stopped me many times from doing what I'm planning to do. Open it up and vacuum it out. I can also see there's a HUGE safety issue with those capacitors. These things can kill you. So there's a lot of reasons not to mess with it.

Now back on the sticker topic. I looked it up and came across something interesting - that these may actually be illegal since 1975. What do you think the stickers and/or opening a PSU to clean it?
http://motherboard.vice.com/read/warranty-void-if-removed-stickers-are-illegal
https://www.reddit.com/r/pcmasterrace/comments/4qbpho/warranty_void_if_removed_stickers_have_been/
Last edited by ThatStupidCat on Wed Aug 03, 2016 1:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Arvald
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Re: Void Warranty sticks illegal?

Wed Aug 03, 2016 8:39 am

It does depend on your Country.
In many cases they also get you to agree in EULAs as well which in the USA are more binding than Canada.

In Canada most of it falls under User Serviceable. As I understand it if you can demonstrate you have the skills to work on it you are good.
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Re: Void Warranty sticks illegal?

Wed Aug 03, 2016 9:09 am

It also depends on the terms of the warranty. For some warranties the warranty is longer than the law requires.

If the law where you live stipulates 1 year and the manufacturer offers a 5 year warranty, the clauses in their warranty become valid again. For the first year you may be able to send it back under warranty regardless of you violating a clause in the manufacturer's terms and conditions because the law overrides their contract. The law becomes irrelevant after that first year and you have voided the manufacturers entirely optional warranty at that point with no legal remit to fall back on.

Please note, the 1 year I used here is an example. Here in the EU it depends on the product type and to some extent what country it is being used in.
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Re: Void Warranty sticks illegal?

Wed Aug 03, 2016 9:33 am

ThatStupidCat wrote:
Now back on the sticker topic. I looked it up and came across something interesting - that these may actually be illegal since 1975.


Not exactly, it literally comes down to two words ( I AM DEFINITELY NOT A LAWYER ):

15 U.S. Code § 2304(c) wrote:
The performance of the duties under subsection (a) shall not be required of the warrantor if he can show that the defect, malfunction, or failure of any warranted consumer product to conform with a written warranty, was caused by damage (not resulting from defect or malfunction) while in the possession of the consumer, or unreasonable use (including failure to provide reasonable and necessary maintenance).


So, is opening a PSU to clean it unreasonable?

Well, I would argue yes. I've been building computers for like ~15 years and I've never once seen fit to open up a PSU. As you even acknowledge, it is potentially dangerous to do that.

So, where does this idea come from? Well, it's because Magnuson-Moss is intended to prevent abuses of the "warranty sticker" concept, like a theoretical situation in which a car manufacturer slaps one on an entire car and then forces you to pay $1000 for an oil change because you can only get that done at their "certified repair" centers or your warranty is worthless. This law is intended to supercede that kind of gambit entirely, because it doesn't matter what people signed or what the manufacturer provided as a warranty, you just can't do that and then rely on inviolable legal principles about "contracts must be kept" or "buyer beware explicitly stated warranties" etc...

Because, quite obviously, oil changes are "reasonable and necessary maintenance" as the statute literally says, to the point where if you (the consumer) DON'T have them performed, well, you've also voided the warranty through gross neglect on the other side. It's like the mirror opposite scenario, in fact.

Also, the act is remedy-oriented: it works by preserving the consumer's right to file a lawsuit and obtain relief (i.e. GIVE MY DARN WARRANTY YOU SCHEMING HUCKSTERS), not by directly constraining the behavior of manufacturers. In other words, it's not that warranty void stickers are illegal, it's just that they aren't necessarily legally binding.

---

Generally, these sorts of things (consumer remedies) never boil down into simple statutes. Too much interplay, too many factors. The statutes just establish basic principles, not absolute decrees, and it's all case law from that point forward. ABUNDANT case law that is almost entirely derived from a mere handful of words. :wink:
 
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Re: Void Warranty sticks illegal?

Wed Aug 03, 2016 9:45 am

A few thoughts...

1. In general, you don't need to open it up to do a pretty good job of blowing out the dust bunnies. Just poke the long skinny nozzle of your canned air duster between the blades of the intake fan and direct it at the various heatsinks. Hold your vacuum cleaner nearby to collect most of the dust cloud, or do it outside.

2. If anything inside the PSU gets hot enough to ignite dust bunnies there's something seriously wrong (beyond reduced airflow), and the PSU is already toast.

3. Would you actually go to the trouble of an RMA if the PSU dies, or would you just replace it?

4. If you answered "I would RMA it" to question #3, do you want to argue with the vendor to get them to honor the warranty? Just because voiding the warranty due to a removed sticker may be of questionable legality doesn't mean they won't fight you on it. Are you willing to deal with the hassle, or even take them to small claims court just to make a point? If you answered "I would probably just replace it regardless" then the warranty is irrelevant!
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Re: Void Warranty sticks illegal?

Wed Aug 03, 2016 10:02 am

Glorious wrote:
So, is opening a PSU to clean it unreasonable?

Well, I would argue yes. I've been building computers for like ~15 years and I've never once seen fit to open up a PSU. As you even acknowledge, it is potentially dangerous to do that.

I would tend to agree with you, and I've been building systems even longer than that. Although I've taken PSUs apart many times, it has almost always been out of curiosity ("Hmm... I wonder why this thing died?") or to harvest components ("Hey, I bet that fan is still good for something!"). Warranty considerations weren't even on the radar.

There were a couple of failed PSUs where I knew the problem was bad caps, and I threw them in my "I'll get around to repairing this sometime" pile. "Sometime" turned out to be "never". They sat in the pile for a few years, then were disposed of.

I replaced a bad fan on an out-of-warranty PSU once.

I've never opened one up just to blow the dust out. Ever.

Consumer protection laws are intended to protect the typical end user. Typical end users don't even open up their PCs, let alone the PSU. The very fact that you are on this forum in the first place means you're not typical.
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Re: Void Warranty sticks illegal?

Wed Aug 03, 2016 10:04 am

JBI wrote:
3. Would you actually go to the trouble of an RMA if the PSU dies, or would you just replace it?


This is actually a very important point. Consider:

You open it, clean it, put it back together. Sometime later it fails, and you attempt to RMA it. It is denied because sticker is broken. You cry foul, and attempt to sue under the provisions of Magnuson-Moss.

What happens? Well, your own lawyer will tell you that you have a generic duty to mitigate your own damages, that is, had you *not* cleaned it and it then failed the same exact way (that is, your cleaning did not contribute to the failure), the RMA would have been granted.

In other words, what did cleaning even accomplish? If the PSU failed, even for lack of cleaning, during the warranty period, the warranty would have to be honored. Because, if they didn't honor it, saying that your PSU was nasty, they just undermined their own argument about how the unit was not meant to be disassembled, didn't they? :wink:

So, if your damages are the result of your own unnecessary actions, you don't have much of a case.
 
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Re: Void Warranty sticks illegal?

Wed Aug 03, 2016 10:11 am

just brew it! wrote:
The very fact that you are on this forum in the first place means you're not typical.

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Re: Void Warranty sticks illegal?

Wed Aug 03, 2016 10:27 am

ThatStupidCat wrote:
First off all I wasn't sure where to stick this so I stuck it in General Hardware because I'm about to deal with a PSU.
So I've been wanting to open up and clean out one of my PSU. Canned air blow and vacuum.


I block the fan with a pencil or something so it doesn't spin, then adjust the regulator on my air compressor to 50 psi, and it cleans out PSU's really good.
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ludi
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Re: Void Warranty sticks illegal?

Wed Aug 03, 2016 10:44 am

Going to take a guess that if you ever see someone posting a description or video of how lint "caught their PSU on fire," what actually happened was that the dirt accumulation caused the PSU to fail from heat accumulation, some component sparked or flared briefly in the final failure, and the lint was then available to burn. Modern electrical components are usually designed to be self-extinguishing when the heat source is removed, but obviously there's no guarantees for whatever else has been sucked in there and stored for later.

But yeah, disassembly is rarely needed. Although if the unit came from a smoker's house or was used near another source of soot (wood-burning fireplace, oil heater...), the nastiness accumulates on the heatsinks and then holds a thin layer of fuzz that can only be removed with a mild solvent (typically butane or alcohol) and a bit of wiping or scrubbing.
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Re: Void Warranty sticks illegal?

Wed Aug 03, 2016 11:02 am

If you've got a PSU full of gunk that has been cemented in place by cigarette smoke, you're probably best off just replacing the PSU.
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ThatStupidCat
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Re: Void Warranty stickers illegal?

Wed Aug 03, 2016 1:21 pm

The PSU is working just fine and I'd like to keep it that way. There's just a lot of fuzz bunnies stuck in the cooling fins but the fan keeps getting in the way when I try to use canned air or try to vacuum. Since it is already out of warranty I thought it would be a prime candidate to be opened up. This will be a weekend project mainly because I want to make sure the thing is fully discharged before I do anything to it.

The question about the stickers just happened to dovetail into this but I really wanted to know more about it hence the title.
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Re: Void Warranty stickers illegal?

Wed Aug 03, 2016 2:03 pm

Turn off PS via its switch/unplug from wall.

Wait a few secs, and then try to turn on computer once or twice to help remove any juice left in PS. My new PS always has some juice for several minutes unless i do this.

Dont let the fan spin freely while cleaning. Don't know facts behind this, if its just certain motors/designs... but might as well play safe.

Use your eyes, compressor air and compressed air from can cause condensation and or just deposit minor amounts of water. Wait a bit if you saw condensation.

As for OT, house vacuum's are generally the wrong tool for cleaning out computers. That's why you are considering voiding your warranty. Use compressed air. Corollary to that really good explanation of law above, if you have to void a warranty, you are likely doing it wrong. Or common sense, everybody else isnt wrong, it's you. I forget when that lesson got beaten in to my head. Something in my first job. :D
 
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Re: Void Warranty stickers illegal?

Wed Aug 03, 2016 2:25 pm

I'd like to run counter against most people saying "no need to open a PSU." I've had my 520HX start going wonky due to overheating. Turns out it there was A Lot of Crap in it. Blowing it out fixed it just fine. It's now 8-9 years old, and has lived through, IIRC, four different systems :)

A couple friends also dealt with these kind of situations. It all comes to the environment the PC is in, and how the case ventilation is set up (if any). Since I have HDDs in front of the PSU (all at the bottom of the case), the lack of ventilation in that spot has the potential to be troublesome. Also, cat hair and computers generally don't mix.
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sluggo
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Re: Void Warranty stickers illegal?

Wed Aug 03, 2016 3:20 pm

ThatStupidCat wrote:
The PSU is working just fine and I'd like to keep it that way. There's just a lot of fuzz bunnies stuck in the cooling fins but the fan keeps getting in the way when I try to use canned air or try to vacuum. Since it is already out of warranty I thought it would be a prime candidate to be opened up. This will be a weekend project mainly because I want to make sure the thing is fully discharged before I do anything to it.

The question about the stickers just happened to dovetail into this but I really wanted to know more about it hence the title.

Recognizing I'm late to the discussion, I'll try to keep this brief.

The only thing in the PC that can burn your house down is the power supply. Insurance companies usually know something about what they choose to insure, but very often they'll accept your money regardless. To protect themselves in those areas where they have no expertise, they employ the services of people like Underwriter's Laboratories, also known as UL. UL informs the underwriters as to the safety of listed devices, and permits the manufacturer of devices that have passed UL's testing to apply the UL mark. Manufacturers are desirous of having a UL mark because most of their customers also desire it.

Now, if UL had their way, the PSU would be welded shut after final test. That way they know it would not be modified after it was sold. Manufacturers are reluctant to go this far, but they have used warning stickers like "NO USED SERVICEABLE PARTS INSIDE" in order to mollify UL. It's a negotiation. The "Warranty Void If Removed" is another sticker along these lines. It's a way to show good faith with the governmental and non-governmental agencies that the manufacturer does not encourage their customers to perform any modifications that could diminish the tested safety of the device.

I worked nearly 20 years in the mainframe and PC business and never heard of a warranty being denied because a sticker was damaged/removed. They can fall off for all sorts of reasons (/wink).

PS: Dust bunnies in the high-voltage section of the PSU are a primary source of failure. They need to be chased out with extreme prejudice.
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Re: Void Warranty stickers illegal?

Wed Aug 03, 2016 3:44 pm

sluggo wrote:
PS: Dust bunnies in the high-voltage section of the PSU are a primary source of failure. They need to be chased out with extreme prejudice.

This may very well be true, but I still claim you can do a decent job of cleaning them out without disassembling the PSU.
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Re: Void Warranty sticks illegal?

Wed Aug 03, 2016 4:11 pm

just brew it! wrote:
If you've got a PSU full of gunk that has been cemented in place by cigarette smoke, you're probably best off just replacing the PSU.

Yes, safety issues aside, it would be a PITA to clean anyway.

I have worked on computers that died from folks smoking around it. In fact in one of them the the PSU started smoking. Lucky the owner pulled the plug and saved the rest of the system.
 
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Re: Void Warranty stickers illegal?

Wed Aug 03, 2016 4:25 pm

I agree with JBI: just blow it out using canned / compressed air. That should be adequate. It doesn't have to be perfect. (I take mine to my workshop and use the air compressor. More pressure, more air volume).

For what it's worth, I tend to read those "Warranty Void if Removed" labels and security screws as a challenge. The little voices in my head tell me I need to know what's in there...

Seriously though, most devices failure rates follow a form of the bathtub curve. If they don't fail early, then they're likely to be OK for the design life of the component(s). Which is (almost) always longer than the warranty period. So, if you've had it long enough to collect dust bunnies, and it hasn't failed yet, it's probably not going to. Exception may be the fan; and, it's way too easy just to throw another fan into a power supply when compared to the pain of obtaining an RMA and being down while waiting for the replacement. So, if you really feel the need to open the supply to clean it. Just do it.

Edit: realized I was being contradictory. Damn the voices.
 
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Re: Void Warranty stickers illegal?

Wed Aug 03, 2016 4:47 pm

FWIW, the main reason to intentionally lock the fan blades when blowing out the unit, especially when using a high-pressure source such as an air compressor, is that the high flow rate and unequal distribution of pressure on the blade assembly can cause it to spin very fast at an angle with respect to the rotational axis...or IOW, wreck it. A month after you cleaned everything nice and shiny, and this happens.
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Re: Void Warranty stickers illegal?

Wed Aug 03, 2016 5:20 pm

just brew it! wrote:
sluggo wrote:
PS: Dust bunnies in the high-voltage section of the PSU are a primary source of failure. They need to be chased out with extreme prejudice.

This may very well be true, but I still claim you can do a decent job of cleaning them out without disassembling the PSU.

Yeppers, air compressors are a wonderful thing ;)
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Re: Void Warranty stickers illegal?

Wed Aug 03, 2016 7:38 pm

just brew it! wrote:
sluggo wrote:
PS: Dust bunnies in the high-voltage section of the PSU are a primary source of failure. They need to be chased out with extreme prejudice.

This may very well be true, but I still claim you can do a decent job of cleaning them out without disassembling the PSU.

No argument here. I don't take mine apart either. All my cleaning is courtesy of the blow end of the shop vac. Outside. While the neighbors are not watching.
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Re: Void Warranty stickers illegal?

Sat Aug 06, 2016 1:08 pm

I'd agree with Glorious and JBI that there isn't a need to open a PSU for proper cleaning, but only if you have the right tools. A can of air isn't strong enough on its own to clean out a PSU. I once used half a can of air on a PSU, then afterwards my datavac and still got two clouds of dust to poof out of the thing when I found the right angles.

Anything comparable to a Datavac aimed briefly into every exposed vent on a PSU will clear the entire thing out in seconds, just use something non-conductive to block the fan to prevent it from over-revving and damaging the bearing.
 
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Re: Void Warranty stickers illegal?

Sat Aug 06, 2016 1:56 pm

Kougar wrote:
Anything comparable to a Datavac aimed briefly into every exposed vent on a PSU will clear the entire thing out in seconds, just use something non-conductive to block the fan to prevent it from over-revving and damaging the bearing.

Even though using a Datavac cleans out the worst of the dust buildup in or on components I've found it doesn't get the dust that likes to adhere. Soft bristle brush, and vacuum however gets it squeaky clean assuming your vacuum isn't the type to cause electro static shock to the components.

I've also heard blocking the fan blades prevents the motor from acting as a generator.
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