zero2dash's EZ guide to DIY fan sleeving (with pics)

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zero2dash's picture
Joined: 07/17/2007
Posts: 4073

Tools needed:

  • needlenose pliers (you may need them)
  • good (sharp) pair of scissors
  • thin pointed object (very small flathead screwdriver or some sort of pinhead/pointy tool)
  • average run-of-the-mill-hairdryer (borrow your mom's or sister's if you need to) :KICK ASS
  • patience (maybe a beer :beer)
  • philips head screwdriver (sort of helpful, see step #7)

I found a site that sells the cheapest sleeving (off the [H] forum sticky).
I also bought the heatshrink there as well.
(Very cheap shipping rates as well FTW)

This site just kills every other site I looked at in terms of pricing. (P-PC's, Coolerguys, FrozenCPU)

Specifically I ordered 20' of 1/8" PET Black sleeving and 3' of 1/8" 2:1 Black heatshrink. (2:1 heatshrink is the cheapest)

A long time ago I bought a sleeving kit that came with 10' of 1/8" sleeving and it lasted (roughly) for like 8 fans (I believe) so I wanted to order some extra this time to have left over.

I've done 9 S-Flex SFF21E's plus a couple feet of front panel connectors and I probably still have 3-4 feet left, so 10' is a good estimate for doing a single case with several fans + your front panel wiring. (I will not cover how to do front panel wiring in this guide specifically, but the same general 'how-to' rules apply.)

On size of sleeving: 1/8" is perfect for fans and front panel connectors. 1/4" sleeving works too but it's obviously double the size; it's not too large, but it's definitely larger. Doing fans, I would recommend the 1/8".

With the heatshrink, I bought 1/8" and thought it was too small, but you can actually stretch it larger in diameter with a pair of needle nose pliers (by sticking the pliers in and spreading them out to spread the tubing out). If you do buy 1/8" heatshrink, you really do have to stretch it out. You could buy 1/4" instead and fit it right over without having to stretch it out if you wanted to. They do have 3:1 and 4:1 heatshrink but I went for the cheap 2:1 stuff. :) (3:1 and 4:1 can shrink to a greater percentage from the original size to the shrunk size, therefore they cost more.)

Here's a link to an article on sleeving I generally looked over (but not necessarily followed). The hair dryer I used to make the heatshrink warm so it would shrink (instead of using a heat gun which I don't have). Or a lighter. o.O I didn't want to use a lighter. (That guide uses a lighter.)

I cut the sleeving slightly longer than the fan cable itself, and then I believe the heatshrink I cut in 3/4" pieces (1/2" would probably not cover enough).

That long verbage out of the way, I'll let the pictures do the talking.

1. Get your supplies together

(I have a wire cutter in this picture, but you don't need it)

2. Here is the pointy sort of tool I used (although again you can use a small flathead screwdriver just the same).

3. Take your fan connector

(notice the little metal pins through the little "windows" [for lack of a better term])

4. You need to use your small tool to bend down the pins on the metal connectors so you can remove the wiring from the connector itself.

It helps if you are ambidexterous enough to use one hand to push the pin down while using your other hand to gently tug on the wire to get it out (or have a 2nd person help if you need to).
Be sure to keep in mind the color order of the wiring (especially if yours is different than the S-Flex here)

5. Once you've pried down the pins and (gently) yanked out your cables, this is what you have

6. Take your sleeving and measure out a piece. What I did is held the sleeving up to the fan wiring, giving about an extra 1" or so on each end for slack. Use your regular (hopefully sharp) scissors and cut your piece. You should end up with a nice clean cut end like this

7. A good idea is to get something small to sort of pry open the end of the sleeving a bit (to help with feeding the fan wiring through). Here I've used the philips bit of a screwdriver to do this.

8. Once the sleeving gets spread apart, it will fray like so. Don't worry about this, the heatshrink will cover it anyway. (Some people use a lighter to singe the ends to keep it from fraying, although when I tried that, it didn't work well for me. The guide I linked above mentioned using a hot knife to cut the sleeving to prevent the fraying; again, I didn't use one because I didn't have one (nor do I even know what one is anyway).

9. Use a sort of "inchworm" method to feed the sleeving over the fan wiring. Kind of hard to explain, but when you actually do this - you'll figure it out. Anyway leave a little bit of extra sleeving sticking out so you can feed the heatshrink over everything. (next few steps)

10. Feeding the heatshrink over the fan wires + sleeving, goes about like this (be sure to feed both pieces, one for each end).

If you buy 1/4" heatshrink, the inner diameter should be large enough that you can skip steps 11 + 12 below.

11. In my case I had to stretch out the sleeving to get it to fit over the "lump" in the sleeving where the metal fan terminals were. This is where the needlenose pliers come in.

Simply put the needlenose (closed/together) in the heatshrink and then spread it apart. Do it again. Repeatedly, going a little wider every time. Push the needlenose deeper in the heatshrink also, to spread more of it apart. (I even turned the heatshrink around a few times on the tip of the needlenose pliers.) Do the same for the other end of the piece of heatshrink.

12. Now, slide your 'opened up' (if you need to) heatshrink over the sleeving.

13. Taking a break from sleeving - you want to make sure now that your fan connector terminals have the little notch 'popped' back up so that the wire stays in the connector 'brick'. It's this little notch here.

Use your small flat tool if you need to in order to pop it back out so when you insert the wire back into the connector 'brick', it doesn't slide back out.

14. Finish sliding the sleeving, and then slide the heatshrink over both ends. You should end up with something like these

15. Go use your hairdryer, put it on a hot setting (ours has a warm and hot, and 2 fan speeds)...I put it on hot, high fan speed and it only took a few seconds to heat up the shrink enough.

Your finished cables!

Rinse and repeat for all your other fans.

Front panel connectors, you may be able to slide the sleeving over them without having to remove the individual wires from the connector, but in the case of front panel stuff and the small black brick connector - you use a small tool to pry outward the little black plastic tabs on the outside (just don't bend them too far or you'll break them).

Hope this guide helps you. Cheers :Beer
-Nick (aka zero2dash)

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Dreamer-Boy's picture
Joined: 10/21/2008
Posts: 928

Nice guide, I am going to try it out soon.

But, where can I buy the sleevings (the 2 grey plastics and the "black net") ?


robodude666's picture
Joined: 09/16/2006
Posts: 103

Here's a tip of ya want to sleeve a 4pin molex cable, that some fans come with. Get a good ol' classic Bic (other brand work to...) pen:

Pop the pen tube out of the casing. Using an exacto knife, make a small 1cm slit down the middle of the end of the pen tube.

Finally, slide the pen tube over each of the four pins on the molex conneector. Push in, and then tug on the wire until it comes out. Tada! The same technique can be used on the 4/8 CPU connector, and 20/24 Mobo connector :).

... I discovered that after spending $15 on a "professional" tool that did nearly the same exact thing.

Dreamer-Boy;722665 wrote:
Nice guide, I am going to try it out soon.

But, where can I buy the sleevings (the 2 grey plastics and the "black net") ?

the "grey plastics" is called Shrink tube, and the "black net" is called Sleeve ;). You can get it at any modding store, or any electronics store just about.

EDIT: Fantastic links there zero2dash! It's like a candy story for OCD cable management people :P.

zero2dash's picture
Joined: 07/17/2007
Posts: 4073

robodude666;722669 wrote:
EDIT: Fantastic links there zero2dash! It's like a candy story for OCD cable management people :P.

Yeah they have all sorts of crazy stuff on their site. :lmao

modder man
Joined: 07/08/2008
Posts: 318

does anyone know where to get any sleeving with a much tighter mesh....i dont like that you can see through it

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MakubexGB's picture
Joined: 10/09/2004
Posts: 3613

Nice guide Zero.

Joined: 03/28/2009
Posts: 179

nice guide, thanks

Dreamer-Boy's picture
Joined: 10/21/2008
Posts: 928

Nice guide, Nick.

Actually, what good will it do other than making the cables tidy?

I will do this for sure after I bought a 90mm case fan. By the way, what's the best 90mm case fan with super fast speed and quietness?

Joined: 03/13/2010
Posts: 37

wow nick thanks for this guide you have helped many people out by taking the time and making this guide for one it helped me cuz i didnt really have a clue and now i can sue this guide to help me sleeve my internal wires. great job and thank you!