Electric fans are a great appliance and can serve as a great home improvement. They help move hot air, keep you cool (or warm, depending on fan type), promote air circulation, and they use way less electricity than air conditioners: electric fans are both budget and environmentally friendly. But as with any appliance, fans can malfunction. Here’s how to repair an electric fan that is not rotating.
Components of Electric Fans
Before we start talking about how to repair electric fans when they malfunction, it’s important to point out and understand the key components of electric fans. Let’s start with the most basic aspect: the fan blades, which create air flow when spinning, via the angle of the blades. Depending on the type of fan, you may be able to change and control the direction and/ or temperature of the airflow via a switch; this feature is seen on some ceiling fans. If you’re considering home improvements, install a ceiling fan: you’ll save on your electricity bill while having some form of temperature control.
Next, let’s point out the center hub, or the circular piece in the middle of the blades. The center hub connects the fan’s blades to the motor, allowing the fan blades to rotate in the first place. Behind the center hub you’ll find the fan’s housing, which contains the motor and powers the fan. As for the location of the power switch, which turns on the fan, this will vary unit to unit. However, some fans may not have a power switch, and just simply plug in.
In the case of free standing or transportable fans, there’s the protective guard, or the barrier that encloses the blades. You’ll note that most ceiling fans do not usually have a protective guard, as they are anchored high above out of reach. Now that you know about the components of electric fans and where they are located, let’s look at common electric fan problems.
Electric Fan Not Rotating
Is your electric fan not rotating? Do you plug in or turn on your fan and find that nothing happens? There can be several reasons for this failure. Let’s first examine the simplest problems and their basic fixes.
1. Check that the Fan is Plugged In
The most basic fix: check that the fan is plugged in. This sounds incredibly simple, but the vibrations from older fans, especially, can dislodge a power cord from the socket.
2. Is the Fan Dirty?
Examine the blades: do you notice dust and grime on them and at the intersections where the blades meet the center hub? If so, it’s possible that the grit is inhibiting the blades from turning. To be safe, make sure the fan is unplugged and switched to “Off.” Remove the protective guard if there is one; this can be done with a screwdriver. Use either an air compressor (found in industrial type shops/ workplaces), or the crevice cleaning tool on your vacuum. Be sure to not only thoroughly clean the fan blades and exterior of the center hub, but any other exterior parts where dirt is visible. Once clean, replace the protective guard, and switch on the fan to test to see if the blades start rotating.
3. Replace the Cord
Check the cord: it’s possible that a pet chewed it, the cord is simply old and frayed, the prongs are bent, etc. You can purchase a matching cord, and replace the old on your fan. For future reference, snap a pic of how the cord is attached.
4. Fan Still Not Working? Time for Mechanical and Electric Repairs
If you tried all of the above solutions, it’s time for mechanical and electric repairs: it’s possible that the problem is with the motor or the fan’s wiring.
Does Your Fan Not Spin, But Hum?
Gears within the motor are what make the fan blades spin. If the fan’s blades fail to turn, but you hear a humming sound, then it’s most likely a motor problem, but stuck gears. Once again, be sure the fan is unplugged or switched off, depending on the type of fan. Snap a pic to help you remember the fan’s assembly, and then unscrew the motor housing. Apply
WD-40 to the gears and the clutch knob – the piece where blades attach. As you apply the WD-40, spin the blades with your hand; this will help spread the lubricant evenly. If the problem was just grinding gears, then this solution is usually all that needs to be done to get the fan up and running.
If you have tried this step with no success, it’s possible that water or moisture has infiltrated the fan’s motor, leading to corroded internal bearings. This will cause the fan to seize and stop functioning. At this point, it’s best to just replace your electric fan with a new one.
It’s also possible that the wiring of a non-rotating fan is at fault. Examining and repairing faulty wires is best left to the professionals: they will not only know what to look for, but will also repair the problem in an efficient manner.
Does Your Ceiling Fan Wobble?
Does your ceiling fan wobble whenever it rotates? A slight wobble is normal for ceiling fans as they spin, but any excessive movement is dangerous. Addressing this is a critical home improvement, as a wobbly fan can work its way loose from a standard ceiling electrical box---and come crashing down, resulting in injury. Often, the cause of significant wobble is that the fan is attached to a standard ceiling electrical box, instead of one that is rated specifically for fans.
Making sure the fan is turned off completely, you can check to see what kind of electrical box the fan is attached to, by unscrewing and lowering the bracket housing at the ceiling. The electrical box should have a label that says it is fan-rated. If it is, give the support bracket a wiggle. If it’s loose, simply tighten all bolts and screws, then turn on the fan to check the amount of wobble. If you find that the ceiling box is not fan-rated, then you will want to have a fan-rated one installed, which is best done by professionals.