Fan Repair

Fans abound in a home. Besides, ceiling and portable fans, they are in air conditioners, range hoods, computer power supplies and other electronics, and bathroom vents. This Fix-It Guide on fan repair tells how a fan works, what often goes wrong, how to identify the fan problem, and what parts and tools you will need to fix it. It gives instructions for how to service fan blades, how to balance fan blades, and how to service a fan’s gear assembly. This guide also refers to other Fix-It Guides for specific repairs. You can order replacement parts at

How Does a Fan Work?

A fan is a device that produces a current of air. There are many kinds of fans–freestanding, oscillating, box, ceiling, and more–but they all function in the same way. An electric fan uses a motor to rotate a blade assembly. The blades are angled and shaped to move and direct air currents. The fan will have one or more control switches to turn it on and off as well as to control its speed. The fan may also have a gear assembly to move the fan from side to side, or oscillate, for greater air movement.

What Can Go Wrong with a Fan?

Simple in operation, fans are easy to troubleshoot. The electrical cord may need replacing. Switches can be dirty or faulty. The motor may fail. The clutch knob and gear assembly may be faulty. Blades may be unbalanced, loose, or need lubricating.

Fix-It Tip

Multispeed fans can quit working on one or more speeds. If so, you either can repair it (see the Appliance Controls Fix-It Guide) or live with it, using the other speeds.

How Can I Identify the Fan Problem?

  • If the fan doesn’t work at all, make sure power is on at the outlet, then test the electrical cord.
  • Test the motor and replace it if it is faulty.
  • Clean and test the speed-control switch and service it if it is faulty (see the Appliance Controls Fix-It Guide).
  • If the fan works on only some speeds, clean and test the speed-control switch (see the Appliance Controls Fix-It Guide).
  • If an oscillating fan doesn’t move from side to side, check the clutch knob, then the gear assembly. If the gear assembly is faulty, you can service it (see below).
  • If the fan blades turn slowly, check the blades for a loose hub and tighten if needed.
  • If the fan shaft is noisy or dry, lubricate it.

What Do I Need for Fan Repair?

Replacement parts for fans can be purchased from the manufacturer or an aftermarket supplier. Some parts can be purchased through larger hardware stores and home centers. Here are the tools you’ll need to make most repairs:

  • Screwdrivers
  • Multimeter
  • Small washers
  • Electrical tape

What Are the Steps to Fan Repair?

An oscillating fan uses a set of gears, called a gear assembly, to move the fan head from side to side. When an oscillating fan doesn’t move, the cause is typically a loose or worn gear or clutch knob. If the oscillating gears are worn and you don’t want to replace them, simply reassemble the gear assembly and lock it in a stationary position.

Service fan blades:

 Fan Repair

Remove the grill to access the fan motor and controls.

  1. Unplug the fan.
  2. Remove the front blade guard or grille.
  3. Remove the spinner, nut, or cotter pin that attaches the blade assembly to the motor shaft, then remove the blade assembly.
  4. Remove the back blade guard to inspect and clean the motor housing and shaft.
  5. Inspect the blade assembly for wear and damage. A damaged blade can unbalance the fan and wear out the blade-assembly shaft. Tighten the setscrew if needed.
 Fan Repair

Remove the fan spinner to access the motor.

Balance fan blades:

Wobbling blades can be noisy and reduce the fan’s efficiency. You can purchase a balancing kit for some ceiling fan units or you can tape small washers on the blades to balance them.

  1. Unplug the fan.
  2. Remove the fan blades and inspect them for nicks, damage, and debris that would make them unbalanced. Replace the blades in other locations on the fan to see if that resolves the balance problem.
  3. Tape small washers to the top side of a blade and run the fan at various speeds to test it for balance. Once the best location is found, attach the washers with tape or glue.
 Fan Repair

Remove and test the Motor as needed.

Service a fan’s gear assembly:

  1. Remove the clutch knob from the motor housing.
  2. Remove the motor housing screws and housing to expose the gear assembly.
  3. Check the gear assembly for alignment and wear. Tighten or replace as needed.


Some fan motors have a built-in capacitor, a device that stores electricity. Think of it as a small, yet powerful battery–and stay away from it.