The Ultimate Troubleshooting Guide for Ceiling Fans

Congratulations! You’ve just purchased a ceiling fan. You’re about to experience the many benefits that this fairly simple technology can provide for your home. It is going to look fantastic…

…But first you need to make sure it is properly installed.

…Then you need to maintain it properly.

…Except you will need to troubleshoot problems that come up.

…When you know how to clean the fan properly so you don’t break the thing.

You can save a lot of time and a surprising amount of money knowing how to install, maintain, and repair your ceiling fans. To do so, you’ll need to know how to respond to a variety of potential problems. You’ll want to know what symptoms to watch for so you can diagnose a maintenance issue right away.

You will also want to know how to ensure your new ceiling fan won’t drop on your head after you install it.

That is what the ultimate troubleshooting guide for ceiling fans is intended to provide. Let’s get you to work installing that new ceiling fan and then figuring out how to repair it if necessary.

Installing or Replacing a Ceiling Fan

A ceiling fan is a wonderful way to make sure every room in your home can be comfortable all year long. Here are the steps that you’ll want to take to ensure that you assemble and then install or replace a ceiling fan properly.

1. Turn off your power. You will need to turn the power off to the circuit where your fan will be installed. Unless you turn off the mains, you’ll also want to use a circuit tester to ensure you’re not dealing with a hot circuit. Make sure any wall switches are in their off position.

2. Label your wires. This is especially important if you’re dealing with a dual-switch (one for the fan and one for the light kit). Some ceiling fans require a pre-set multiple speed switch, so make sure you’ve purchased the correct switch for your fan. The green or bare wire is always your ground.

3. Disconnect the existing fixture. Follow this step if you are replacing a ceiling fan or a light fixture.

4. Find the weight rating for the electrical box. Once you’ve removed the existing fixture, look inside the electrical box that has been installed. It should have a weight rating stamped on it. Match the weight rating to the weight of the ceiling fan. Install a new box if necessary. Ensure the electrical box is securely attached to the structure of the home as well.

5. Install the mounting bracket or ceiling plate. Remove the screws from the fan motor and any shipping blocks and save them. Secure the mounting bracket or ceiling place to the electrical box following the instructions of the manufacturer. Then feed the electrical wires through the bracket or plate. If you need a down rod or angled mounting kit, have them installed at this time.

6. Install your ceiling fan. Thread your wires through the trim ring of the canopy if necessary and the down rod. Flush-mount ceiling fans have the wires threaded through to the top housing. Ensure that your down rod and housing are attached firmly. Cut the wires to size if necessary and then hang the fan on the bracket or plate hook if one is present. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on connecting the wiring from the electrical box to the ceiling fan. Secure the ceiling fan to the box as instructed.

7. Attach the ceiling fan blades. Mount each blade bracket using the hardware provided. Make sure each blade is positioned in the correct direction if they are reversible.

8. Install your light kit. Attach the light fixture to the ceiling fan using the manufacturer’s instructions. Ensure the wires you’ve run through the electrical box can reach the assembly if necessary. Install bulbs that are specified by the manufacturer for best results. Attach light shades before installing the bulbs if necessary and then install the globe or bowl if it came with the kit.

9. Complete your installation. Now is the time to attach your pendants or pull chains. Make sure the fan is balanced. Then turn on the power and test the lights and the fan.

How to Balance a Ceiling Fan

If your ceiling fan installation went smoothly, you’re ready to make sure the fan is balanced. Over time, an existing ceiling fan can become unbalanced for a variety of reasons. The fan may have been bumped while cleaning it. A random ball thrown upward could have hit the blades. It may have even been installed unbalanced and never corrected.

Whatever the case may be, you can still balance the ceiling fan, whether it is new or an existing model. Here are the steps you will want to follow.

1. Look at the manufacturer’s instructions for balancing first. Most ceiling fan manufacturers provide a step-by-step guide in the owner’s manual to balance their ceiling fan. Look online for a PDF of the owner’s manual if you cannot find one at home.

2. Tighten everything up. The main reason for an unbalanced ceiling fan is connection looseness. Make sure the screws that secure the blades to the brackets are nice and tight. Then check the connection of the blade brackets to the ceiling fan motor. While you’re at it, check for tightness at the canopy, mounting bracket, and electrical box as well. You may even need to check if the box is securely mounted to a joist or hanger bar.

3. Check the blade formation. If one blade has been reversed accidentally, the ceiling fan may wobble. Make sure each blade is installed properly and is mounted at the same height in relation to the floor. You may need to measure your blades and adjust them at the bracket.

4. Purchase a balancing kit if necessary. Many ceiling fans come with a balancing kit to stop unnecessary wobble and you’ll find it in the box with your purchase. You may need to purchase one, however, if you inherited the ceiling fan or you’ve purchased an entry-level model. Follow the instructions on the balancing kit for best results.

How to Fix a Ceiling Fan That is Dead

You’ve flipped the switch to turn on your ceiling fan and it doesn’t work. It’s dead. Here is what you’ll want to do.

1. Turn off the power. Even though the ceiling fan isn’t working, there might still be power supplied to it. Turn off power to the circuit.

2. Check the switch. You’ll need to remove the cover plate of your ceiling fan switch from the wall. Then take out the screws that mount the switch to the electrical box. Use a voltage tester on the screw terminals to determine if they are charged. Pull the switch out of the box once verified.

3. Check the wiring. With the switch out, remove the wire connections and check the quality of each one. Straighten the ends and clean if necessary. Twist the bare ends together again and attach with a wire nut. Set it aside and turn on the power. If the fan turns on, replace the switch. If it does not, then you know you have a wiring problem or a fixture problem. Turn the power off again and replace the switch if necessary. If the fixture is a problem, check for a warranty repair.

How to Fix a Ceiling Fan That Hums

You love your ceiling fan, but you hate turning it on. Every time it has some power to it, the fixture hums. If the ceiling fan has a light kit, you might be able to turn on the light without it humming, but not the fan itself. To fix the hum, an improvement at the box may be all that is necessary.

1. Turn off the power. Do so at the circuit breaker. Then check the fan’s switch to make sure it has been turned off. Make sure that you use a voltage tester on the wires that are connected to the fan switch to make sure you don’t receive an unintended jolt.

2. Disconnect the wires from the switch. Carefully pull them out of the switch. You may need to loosen screws to do this.

3. Straighten the ends of the wires. You’ll want to take pliers and straighten the wires from the electrical box. Then twist them together with the new anti-humming fan control that you’re installing.

4. Finish the job. Add wire nuts to the twisted wires. Screw the control to the electrical box. Attach the faceplate once again. Restore power to the ceiling fan and test to make sure your connections are proper.

Note 1: Some ceiling fans may have already had an anti-hum control installed. If the ceiling fan is humming with an anti-hum control, you’ll need to replace the entire switch. Remove the old switch by untwisting the wire nuts. Then straighten the wires out. Add the new switch, twist the wires again, and replace the wire nuts with new ones to ensure a good connection. Then install the new switch.

Note 2: If you’ve added or replaced an anti-hum control and the ceiling fan is still humming, then the fan motor has gone bad. Check to see if your ceiling fan is covered by warranty. If not, then it’s time to purchase a new ceiling fan for the bedroom, outdoors, living room, or garage.

How to Replace a Ceiling Fan Flywheel

If you’ve turned on your ceiling fan and there is a noticeable vibration that you can see which is not related to a balancing issue, then there is a good chance the flywheel has gone bad. The flywheel is the rubber disc that attaches the shaft of the motor to the blades of the fan. Over time, the constant vibration adsorption can cause the rubber to break down or even crack.

When it becomes damaged, the fan may stop moving, but the motor will continue to hum. Instead of replacing the entire fan, you can follow these steps to replace the flywheel. Make sure to purchase the correct flywheel for your fan’s make and model before starting this project.

1. Turn the power off. Don’t turn the power off at the switch. Go to the circuit breaker at your fuse panel and turn off the power there. If you’re not sure what circuit goes to the fan, then turn off the mains. 

2. Remove the fan blades. You’ll need to remove all the fan blades to access the fan switch housing. Detach any controls or switches that you find, but take a note on how they were connected so you can reconnect them properly after the job is finished.

3. Disconnect any wires. There will be wires attached to the motor. Make sure you take a picture of how they are connected before disconnecting them so you can reassemble the fan properly. Remove the switch housing. You may need pliers, a wrench, or a screwdriver. You’ll see the flywheel at this point.

4. Take the broken flywheel out of the unit. Note the exact placement of the flywheel before removing it. Mark the spot if necessary. Your new flywheel must go in the exact same spot.

5. Slide the new flywheel into place. Make sure the wires are fed through the correct holes from the picture you took. Tighten screws and begin the reassembly process.

6. Connect your switches, controls, and blades. Once the flywheel is in place, you can assemble the ceiling fan based on the way you disassembled it to access the flywheel.

When you are able to troubleshoot these common issues with a ceiling fan, it becomes easier and cheaper to maintain your equipment. 

The cost of hiring an electrician can be several hundred dollars. Hiring a handyman that is certified for electrical work isn’t much cheaper. With a few tools and guides like this, you really can get the work done yourself.

Now go and enjoy all the benefits that come when you own a ceiling fan!

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