Ceiling fans always break down when we need them most: on the hottest day in summer. Rooms without a working fan on a warm day quickly become an unbearable heat trap. You want to get the fan up and running as soon as possible, but repairer and electricians usually have busy schedules. So, why not take matters into your own hands? You can accomplish a lot of DIY ceiling fan repair with just a little tinkering. Besides, the repairer or electrician will always be there for you if you fail. This article discusses the most common ceiling fan repair and problem and how you can fix it.

The Different Parts of a Ceiling Fan

an antique looks and design of a ceiling fan with abstract design in the center

Image: CC0 Creative Commons, JamesDeMers, via Pixabay

Before we look at the common ceiling fan repair problems, we should probably know a little bit more about the device we are inspecting. Ceiling fans may seem like just blades, lights, and a motor, but there is actually a lot going on underneath the hood. Here is a list of the different parts of a ceiling fan and their various roles.

  • Blades — the long, slender pieces of wood or plastic that rotate around a ceiling fan.
  • Pull string or chain — Usually found near the light fixture on ceiling fans, most models usually come with two pull strings. One is used to control light, the other fan speed.
  • Mounting bracket — The mounting bracket is the piece keeping the ceiling fan secured firmly to the wall. It is installed during installation, and stay in the entire time.
  • Capacitors — Ceiling fan capacitors keep a consistent speed and pace amongst the other moving parts of a fan. They also store the electric charge provided by the fan motor.
  • Fan motor —The source of power from which the ceiling fan derives all of its energy.
  • Canopy — the curved, bowl-like base of a ceiling fan that separates the wiring from the room.
  • Canopy ball or hanging ball — a small plastic piece in the cradle of the mounting bracket. The ball always the ceiling fan to twist and stick into different angles.
  • Light system — the glass, light fixture and light bulbs that make up the exterior portion of the ceiling fan. Some fan models may not have these.
  • Down rod — the adjustable rod that holds your ceiling fan from the canopy. The down rod is usually adjustable.
  • Outlet box — found around the mounting bracket, the outlet box is an octagon shaped device that houses the fan’s wiring system.
  • Ball bearings — parts used to rotate the fan blades.

1) The Ceiling Fan Will Not Start: How the Ceiling Fan Repair

remote use to turn off ceiling fan before repair

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First, make sure the problem is not your power supply. Turn your breaker off and then on and make sure there are not any blown fuses. If there is a damaged fuse, replace it. Also, if your ceiling fan uses a remote, make sure the batteries have not gone bad.

If the power supply is not the issue, then turn off your breaker so you can inspect the fan itself. See if the blades spin properly and pull the chain. Also, make sure the fan reverse switch did not accidentally slip into neutral position. Untwirl the fan base until it becomes dislodged from its holding position. Check and see if all the wires and connections are properly in place (all color coded should align adequately). If you see a cable that is loose in the source plug, adjust it or replace it.

Another issue may be the environment. If your fan is outdoors on a porch, or in a similar — potentially wet — environment, check what type of fan it is. Outdoor fans require unique moisture-resistant systems. If you installed an indoor fan outside it will need to be replaced. It's nothing else works, the issue may be in your switch wiring. If you have experience with wiring electronics, you can take a look, but we recommend you call an electrician in this circumstance.

2) The Ceiling Fan Does Not Distribute Airflow Properly

If your fan is blowing over stacks of paper, or barely heating your room, it is probably not doing its job correctly. A ceiling fan should be approximately seven to eight feet off the ground. Anything lower is too close to the floor, and anything higher is too close to the ceiling. Adjust the height of your ceiling fan by getting a longer or shorter down rod at your hardware store. You can also check the motor and see if it is hot after using the fan. Poor air circulation is sometimes a symptom of a faulty motor unit.

3) The Ceiling Fan Randomly Turns On and Off

a sample breaker with yellow and white color for ceiling fan repair

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This problem happens to a lot of people. If you find your ceiling fan turns on and off at random intervals, it is likely a power source or wiring problem. First, check the breaker and make sure it did not trip or malfunction in any way. If your switch is fine, unscrew the canopy from your fan and test the wiring system. Make sure no wires came loose or damaged during use.

Another, slightly humorous, the problem is your neighbors could be accidentally controlling your ceiling fan. If they have installed a new fan with factory settings, there is a chance that their remote picked up on your fan’s frequency.

4) The Ceiling Fan Wobbles Too Much When It Is On

Before tinkering with the support structure, check and see if there is any dust or blockage around the ceiling fan blades. Make sure the mounting bracket supports the hanging ball. Tighten the screws supporting the blades, mounting bracket, the down rod, and any motor components. Make sure the outlet box you or someone else installed can hold the weight of the fan unit. Make sure the outlet box fixes itself tightly to the ceiling.

5) The Lights In the Ceiling Fan Are Not Working

The first and most apparent move when the lights are not working should be to check the light bulb in the light system’s socket. Make sure it is not loose or burnout. If the light bulb burned out, replace it. If you find scorched marks around the light fixture, this probably means that a wire short-circuited. Unscrew your canopy, and make sure the wiring is safe and intact. Most of the time the blue wire controls the lighting function on fans. Also, make sure the light bulbs you use will provide the same wattage as your ceiling fan.

6) The Ceiling Fan Will Not Reverse for the Winter

Reversing your ceiling fan is a significant way to prepare for the winter months. Often the problem is merely a faulty switch. First, make sure the reverse switch is not caught in the neutral position or damaged by overuse. A damaged reverse switch will need replacing. If the issue is not the reverse switch, check on your remote control and make sure you tuned in to the same frequency as the ceiling fan.

7) The Ceiling Fan is Too Noisy: How the Ceiling Fan Repair

A loud, annoying ceiling fan is a common problem on some new ceiling fans and needs your ceiling fan repair, so before trying anything, wait twenty-four hours and see if the problem is still there. The first thing you should do if the problem persists check if any of the blades are cracked or damaged. If they are, they will need replacing. Next, make sure the canopy is not directly touching the ceiling, or this will make a bumping noise.

Next, tighten the screws and light bulbs around the light system of the fan. Also tighten the screws supporting the blades, the down rod, any motor components and the light switch console.

8) The Ceiling Fan Will Not Change Speeds

If a ceiling fan is not changing speeds correctly you must check and needs your ceiling fan repair, the problem either lies with the ball bearings in the motor or the capacitor. First, lubricate the ball bearings by applying oil to them. If this does not work, you will need to either replace the capacitor or the motor unit. If you want to make sure, you can leave your fan running for several minutes. Then, feel the motor. The motor unit and capacitor should not be hot to the touch. Most of the time you can order a replacement motor by contacting the manufacturer.

As you can see, the problem you were likely experiencing with your ceiling fan is all too common in many households. Luckily, many of the issues can be solved by yourself with a few necessary tools. Nobody wants to spend a bunch of money on an electrician, only to have them tighten a few screws. Save yourself money and the electrician's time by troubleshooting the problem yourself first. And if a particular part does need replacing, try calling the fan manufacturer. Most fans come with a lifetime guarantee.