Fixing A Ceiling Fan Motor That Hums But Won’t Turn

Fixing A Ceiling Fan Motor That Hums But Won't Turn

Is your ceiling fan stuck humming, but the blades aren’t turning? This is actually a common problem for ceiling fans and it can have a variety of causes. If your fan is sitting there just humming, you want to get it fixed as soon as possible.

A broken ceiling fan can cost you a ton of money on energy bills. Your ceiling fan is still one of the best ways to lower your energy costs when it comes to heating or cooling your home. So, what causes the motor to hum? 

The first step in fixing a ceiling fan that hums but won’t turn is to check your circuit breaker as well as the switch that controls the fan. After that, try manually rotating the blades and if they don’t spin, then you know you have a problem with the ball bearings. The last thing you can try is to open the fan’s housing and check to make sure nothing is burnt out or disconnected. 

Let’s take a look at what you’re going to need to do to fix your ceiling fan.

What You’ll Need to fix Your Ceiling Fan Motor

You’re going to be surprised at how few tools you needed it to repair a ceiling fan motor. In most repairs, all you’re really going to need is a screwdriver and replacement parts. Ceiling fans are deceptively simple to work on and repair.

The only tricky thing to keep in mind here is that it will be working with electricity. You should always err on the side of caution and cut power to your ceiling fan when you work on it. This can most easily be done by flipping the circuit on your circuit breaker that controls the room that the fan is in.

Here’s a general guide for the supplies you’ll need to do the repairs and our walkthrough. 

  1. Screwdriver Set
  2. Multimeter or a Non-contact Voltage Tester 
  3. Needle Nose Pliers
  4. Ball bearing puller
  5. Wire Cutters
  6. Replacement Parts as Needed

Step By Step Guide for Fixing A Ceiling Fan 

Let’s start by doing some troubleshooting to find out why the fan isn’t spinning properly.

Troubleshooting Your Fan’s Motor

Before we can fix a fan motor, we need to  find out what’s causing the problem. Let’s walk through a few troubleshooting techniques that can point you in the right direction.

  1. If your fan has a light built into it, try turning off the fan and leaving the light on. If the light turns on, then you know there is enough electricity going to the fan to power it. If the light doesn’t turn on, then you know you have an electrical problem. 
  2. Turn on your fan and manually spin the blades clockwise. If the blades either start spinning or start rotating counter clockwise, then you know you have a burnt out capacitor. 

Those are the two things you should always check first. They will point you in the right direction when it comes to fixing a stuck fan motor. 

Bad Switches

Here’s where that multimeter is going to come in handy. The problem might not be with the fan itself, but with the switch that controls your fan. We’re going to test the switch to make sure that it’s able to work.

You can use a multimeter or a non-contact voltage testing tool to make sure that electricity is running through with the switch that controls your fan. If it turns out that no electricity is running to this switch, you should consider replacing the switch and checking your circuit breaker. 

Here’s how you replace a switch.

  1. Shut off power to the room that the switch is in
  2. Unscrew the broken switch 
  3. Use your smartphone to take a picture of the wiring so you can rewire it correctly
  4. Detach the wires connected to the switch 
  5. Attach the new switch following the picture you took of the wiring 
  6. Screw the new switch’s housing back into the wall
  7. Turn the power back on

Now let’s head into the basement, or the garage, to check your circuit breaker. 

Check Your Circuit Breaker

A circuit breaker tripping might cause your fan to start malfunctioning. There’s a lot of different things that can cause your circuit breaker to trip. The most common is an overload. Your circuit breaker is designed to prevent too much power from running through the electrical wiring in your home. The circuit breaker trips when it detects too much voltage.

Your circuit breaker should be labeled so that you know which outlets are controlled by which switches on the circuit breaker. All you need to do is flip the switches for the room you’re looking to control and power should be restored to that room. If your circuit breaker isn’t labeled, you should take some time to flip switches and right new labels for what is controlled by which switch.

There is another switch that we’re going to look at, but this one’s on the fan itself. 

Check The Direction Switch on Your Fan

Finger pressing direction switch on ceiling fan
Verify that the switch of the fan is not stuck in the middle.

On almost every model of fan, there’s a small switch on the side of the fan itself. This switch changes the direction that the blades rotate in. One direction will cause the blades to rotate counter-clockwise and the other direction will cause the blades to rotate clockwise.

You change the direction that your fan’s blades rotate in with the seasons. In the summer, set your ceiling fans to rotate counter-clockwise which creates a cooling down draft. In the winter, set your fan blades to rotate clockwise which helps to move hot air through your home.

If that switch is stuck in the middle, it could cause your fan to hum while the blades don’t rotate. Certain models of fan have switches that can get stuck in the middle which sends mixed signals to the fans motor. You should check the directional switch on your fan in order to avoid burning out the motor.

Now let’s take a look at how dimmer switches can control a ceiling fan motor. 

Does Your Fan Have a Dimmer Switch?

It’s pretty rare to find a dimmer switch on your wall that can control your fan’s motor. In fact, dimmer switches on walls are designed almost exclusively for lighting and do not have enough power to control fan motors. However, some dimmer switches are wired into fan motors which can lead to problems controlling your fan.

If you have a dimmer switch connected to a ceiling fan, try cranking the dimmer switch to its maximum setting. This should deliver enough electricity for the fan’s motor to kick in and stop humming. However, this is only a temporary solution.

You should follow the instructions in our second tip to replace this dimmer switch with a proper switch for controlling your fan. There are specialty dimmer switches out there that are designed to control fan motors, but you need to make sure that you have one of these installed rather than a general light dimmer switch. 

Not assembled ceiling fan
If all steps above didn’t work, you may need to disassemble the top motor housing and follow the next tips.

Replacing a Dead Capacitor 

Dead capacitor is a common cause for a fan motor that hums but doesn’t spin.  You can tell if a capacitor is burnt out because it will often be visibly charred or cracked open. Here’s how you can quickly get your capacitor replaced.

  1. Cut power to your ceiling fan by flipping the corresponding switch in your circuit breaker
  2. Unscrew your fan from the ceiling mounting and slowly lower it
  3. Disconnect any wire harnesses that keep it connected to the ceiling 
  4. With your fan safely on the ground, disassemble the top motor housing 
  5.  Use wire cutters to cut the red and white wires that connect to the capacitor 
  6. Unscrew the old capacitor 
  7. Screw the new capacitor in
  8. Strip the red and white wires using the wire cutter 
  9. Attach the wires red to red and white to white and wind them together 
  10. Use a wire nut and electrical tape to safely attach the wires together 
  11. Reassemble your fan’s motor housing 
  12. Safely reinstall your fan
  13. Turn the power back on and enjoy the fresh air   

Ball Bearing Problems

Remember how we suggested attempting to manually spend your fan to see if there was a problem with the ball bearings? Well, if your fan resists spinning or makes a grinding noise when you manually move the blades around, then you’ve probably got some worn-out ball bearings.

Fixing your ball bearings is one of the most challenging repairs you can do on your fan. In fact, most people would recommend simply buying a new ceiling fan if the ball bearings are worn out. Certain models of ceiling fans have very difficult to repair ball bearings that might not be worth the struggle.

Here’s a general guide for replacing worn out ball bearings on a ceiling fan. 

  1. Cut power to the ceiling fan by flipping the corresponding switch on your circuit breaker 
  2. Unscrew the ceiling fan from its mounting
  3. Slowly lower the ceiling fan and support its weight
  4. Disconnect the wire harness so that you can set your ceiling fan down on a table
  5. Disassemble your ceiling fan motor. This will vary based on manufacturers, but there should be a series of screws you can unscrew to reach the ball bearings 
  6. Use a ball bearing puller to remove the old bearings 
  7. Install the new bearings 
  8. Reassemble your fan motor 
  9. Reconnect the wire harness
  10. Securely reinstall your ceiling fan back into its housing in your ceiling 
  11. Restore power and enjoy a refreshing breeze 

Wrapping Up This DIY Ceiling Fan Repair 

Just go through these eight quick steps and your fan’s motor will be back up and running in no time. There’s a good chance that your fan was just having some simple electrical problems or just needed a replacement capacitor.

Let us know which of these solutions worked for you and check out our other DIY repair articles below. 

Hi there! I’m Craig, and I’m the founder of Appliance Analysts. When it comes to appliances and anything electrical, I’ve always loved opening things up, figuring out how they work, and fixing them. This website is where I share free advice from myself and our experts to help our readers solve their appliance/HVAC problems and save money. Read more