since i'm not comfortable taking the video card apart what would you recommend as a replacement?
think of it in this way: as it is the card is no use to you, so it can't get any worse even if you mess it up some more
And it's a rather small task, just unscrew some little screws, take the heatsink off, wipe the bottom of the heatsink and top of the gpu chip clean with some non-flint paper or coffee filters, use some isopropanol if necessary (also make sure there's no dust in the fins), spread some new TIM on the gpu (or use 'the line' method across the gpu) and screw it back together. And if you dont get it right (and good temps) the first time, try it again. And dont forget to plug the fan wire back in.