Installing A Fan In An Arcade Cabinet

Installing A Fan In An Arcade Cabinet

With most current arcade games being powered by computers, arcade cabinets can get quite hot these days. Making sure that you have adequate cooling in your cabinet can help prevent your game from overheating. In this post, we’ll discuss how to install a fan in your arcade cabinet so you can increase the longevity of the components inside.

Installing A Fan In An Arcade Cabinet

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First, we must decide what size and type of fan that we want to use. We typically like to use a 4″ fan that uses either 5 or 12 VDC. Since DC voltage is commonly used in arcade games, it is usually easy to locate some power wires to tie the fan into. Also, we recommend getting a fan that has ball bearings if you are worried about the noise level of the fan in your cabinet. - Buy Now! Buy a 4″ Cooling Fan from now!

Let’s take a moment to discuss the concept of cooling. It is the job of a fan to move air through your cabinet. The idea is to draw cooler air in and exhaust warmer air. Most of us learned in high school that hot air is less dense than cold air which causes it to rise. So if you install a fan in the bottom of your cabinet, you probably want that fan to draw the cooler air in. Conversely, if you have a fan at the top of your cabinet, you probably want that fan to exhaust the warmer air out.

With the concept of cooling in mind, let’s pick a location for our fan. The most important thing is to make sure you pick a location where you can easily wire up power to the fan. A fan is no good unless you can get power to it. It’s also good to place your fan somewhere inconspicuous where it doesn’t interfere with other components in your cabinet. If you have small children, make sure that it is difficult for them to gain access to it. If the fan exhausts out, make note of what it might be blowing on. Some people don’t like hot air blowing on their legs.

Once we’ve picked a location, it’s time to trace the fan. With the fan in place, take a writing utensil and trace around the fan. Please note that we will not be cutting out this line. This is just to give you an idea of where to cut your ventilation hole. We typically use a 4″ hole saw with a corded drill to cut our ventilation hole out. Line up the hole saw in the middle of our traced outline of the fan and begin to drill till you have made it all the way through the material you are cutting. You have now successfully made a ventilation hole for your fan. - Buy Now! Buy a DEWALT 4-Inch Standard Hole Saw from now! - Buy Now! Buy a DEWALT 7/16-Inch Shank Quick Change Mandrel from now!

After we have cut our ventilation hole, we can now mount the fan into place. Place the fan inside the traced area we marked before we drilled our ventilation hole. If you have a fan cover, place it first before the fan. Take some screws and screw the fan down to the cabinet. Remember to get screws that are long enough to go through the screw holes on the fan and make contact with the cabinet. You have now successfully mounted the fan in your cabinet.

With the fan mounted, we must now wire power to the fan. Take the wires coming from the fan and strip them. If you are getting voltage directly from the power supply we suggest putting the fork type terminals on the ends. These easily slide under the screws of most switching power supplies. Once you have wired up your fan, you are ready to test. Plug the game in and see if you have a spinning fan. If your fan spins then you have successfully installed a fan in your arcade cabinet.

Before we finish our project, you might want to place either gutter mesh material or a perforated aluminum/steel sheet over your fan to keep people from putting objects in it. This also has the added bonus of making your fan installation job look more professional. You can get these items at most major hardware stores. It’s not a necessity that you do this but it does add a nice finishing touch to your project. - Buy Now! Buy an Aluminum/Steel Perforated Sheet from now!

Installing a fan in your arcade cabinet can increase the longevity of your arcade components. Keep your cabinet cool and it should help you enjoy your arcade game for years to come. If you have any questions or suggestions please post them in our comments section below.

  1. Avatar
    Mike Boss

    Love your site, love your tips.
    I begin projects with great confidence now.
    Can the fan be installed wrong (direction wise) ?
    The fans I have mount either way. Meaning screw holes are found on either side of the fan case. The blades are obviously closer to one side. I’m not sure which way I would mount the fan.

  2. Avatar
    Jonathan Leung


    We feel that there is not really a wrong way to install the fan. We recommend having the fan blow into the cabinet if it’s located near the bottom and out of the cabinet if it’s located near the top. We base our premise on the fact that heat rises and that you want to get all of the hot air out of your cabinet. That being said, however, any fan that you install in your cabinet should help with air flow. Another thing is that we try to put the side that does not spin to the outside of the cabinet that way the cabinet does not interfere with the fan.

    We have also featured your question on episode 13 of our Q&A podcast. Please listen to it for more of our thoughts on your question. Thank you for your question and good luck with your future repairs.

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