10 Common Problems of Ceiling Fans: How to Fix

When using the ceiling fans, we may encounter many issues such as the humming noise, downrod wobble, not working, and so on. This article introduces the most common problems with ceiling fan, and provides you with the troubleshooting guide so that we can fix the ceiling fan at an early stage.

1. Noise or humming ceiling fan

Nearly every ceiling fan will have some sort of noise issue, simply because it’s an electrical appliance with moving parts. If it’s an older fan model, it will no doubt need more oiling and maintenance. But what do you do about the humming and other noises that come from these fans moreover? The best advice is to troubleshoot the problem by checking all the moving and non-moving parts.

A ceiling fan has dozens of parts that hold it all together. Usually from a primary location on the ceiling where a roof support beam is located. Tiny screws are used to keep all the fan parts connected. Unless they are brand new, they aren’t very effective at keeping tight. Older screws might start to slip loose due to micro-vibrations. This can lead to noise issues coming from rattling parts.

How to fix

New fan models might have loose screws because factory production lines can miss tightening a screw here or there. Be sure to check all the screw connections and joints where fan parts are seated. Anything too loose can contribute to your ventilator noise. If you want to be double sure, wrap every screw thread with Teflon tape before screwing them in. This will prevent screws from getting loose and remain tight.

2. Wobble ceiling fan

All ceiling fans can have a wobble problem that is the result of something off-center. The reason is typically due to fan blade balancing. If these blades are not properly spaced or have been accidentally bent, the entire fan can wobble. There are many special kits you can buy that are dedicated to fix a fan from wobbling. They include little weights that are attached to fan blades to even-out a blade that’s off-center.

These kits can be expensive and don’t always solve the problem. You might have missed something else in the process of looking for where the wobble has started. Often the down rod can be loose because it’s not fitted into a locking slot. The longer the rod happens to be can be a clue as well. The upper hanging anchor needs to be very secure so there cannot be any slipping or sliding. It needs to be locked in a downward position at all times.

How to fix

Even so, the motor housing is designed to be equal on all sides to ensure that it’s balanced. The big clue will be to measure the distance of each fan blade to the next. This begins with the tip of one blade measured to the rear edge of the next. They should all have the same distance. If one is off by to 1 inch, you’ll be certain it’s off-centered. You can then begin testing different weights from a ceiling fan balancing kit to stop the wobble.

3. Ceiling fan running slow or not working on all speeds

One annoying issue that might seem like it’s not problematic is a sign that your motor is having electrical issues. A motor that is going bad doesn’t start to run slow or decide to skip certain speeds on the speed control. Electrical motors that are going bad simply stop working. Usually, they burn out when it overheats or too much voltage is run through the motor. Every motor should have a resistor or a capacitor to control electricity.

A resistor is more prone to letting a motor get too hot despite limiting the electricity to the motor. Most imported fan motors, unless they are checked for quality, will have resistors instead of capacitors. However, the problem is with ceiling fans that have capacitors that start to go bad. A capacitor does more than limit electricity since it helps to convert voltage better, so the motor is not overloaded.

How to fix

A capacitor that’s starting to have issues or is going bad will show all sorts of signs. The fan will run slower than usual or selected speeds won’t work correctly. At that point, it’s time to take your ceiling fan down and replace the capacitor. Be sure to choose the exact type capacitor that is recommended for your ceiling fan. Otherwise, the number of speed settings and control will not work properly.

4. Remote controller does not work

Having a remote control for any kind of electrical appliance it a great gadget to have! You don’t need to get up from your chair or couch to turn on the light or change the TV channel. But what happens when that remote control stops working? What could the problem be? Oh, that’s an easy one isn’t it, since it’s always the battery! If you thought that even before you got to this point in reading, you forgot about Occam’s razor…

In reality, there are always two explanations for something that happens. Most everyone will assume that battery power is an automatic reason so it’s not a hard choice to solve. If you were piloting an expensive remote-controlled 4K drone, this is the last thing you would think of. Do you now see the reasoning for Occam’s razor? Even the little electronics inside a remote control can go bad, but first, they give you little signs.

How to fix

This is how electronics tend to work. One thing starts to slip and then an avalanche happens. You can stay ahead of that dangerous slope by watching for that tell-tale signs. If your remote control is acting funny, it’s time to order a replacement. Check the warranty on your fan or contact the company. That remote control won’t be very hard to replace either way. You might even be lucky enough to get the entire fan unit replaced for free.

5. Flickering lights

Now this problem is two-folded for obvious reasons. The first reason is simply obvious for those who don’t own a ceiling fan with a bottom light. Newer ceiling fans will have LED lights to give you better energy savings. Often they can be dimmed, which is a great bonus. The bad part is that it needs LED dimmer switches if you use it for on/off wall switch control panels. Standard dimmers will make any LED light flicker as a result.

Always buy a ceiling fan model that includes a wall switch mounting that’s meant to go with that LED light. But that’s not the end of this problem since there is another issue that causes flickering. The real issue can be with a built-in current limiter. What it does controls current on higher Watt bulbs and limits current so it won’t overstress wiring. These limiters can go bad and when they do, they make any light blink and flicker.

How to fix

You have a couple of choices to either replace the limiter or remove it completely. If you change it, you won’t need to worry about wattage issues. If you remove it, then you will only be able to use lower wattage lights. This is because of how much your ceiling fan wires can handle the type of light bulb used. Be smart and replace the limiter to reduce the risk of problematic electrical fires. These light bulbs may have too much wattage for that fanlight.

6. Ceiling fan stopped working

If your ceiling fan has stopped working, there could be a danger you need to fix immediately. It could be an electrical problem, a capacitor problem, or an electronic problem. Whatever the case may be, you need to disconnect the fan power source so there is no issue at all. Unless you are an electrician you don’t have an instant answer, so the next logical step is to check the warranty.

How to troubleshoot

Most ceiling fan warranties cover a limited amount of components in your fan. If it’s brand new you can go ahead and replace the entire unit. But if it’s more than a couple of years there will be problems that might need the fan replaced. The first step is to have someone look at the fan to check all the parts. If they can be replaced with new parts then it can work fine.

This is the case for all electric fans, and luckily you might get away with putting in a new motor or capacitor. Expensive fans may have a better warranty than others, so always know when you bought your fan. When you troubleshoot this type of problem, it’s not as easy as others. Unhook everything and take the time to have the fan looked at by a professional electrician before ordering anything new.

7. Ceiling fan is too big or too small

Perhaps you had no idea what kind of fan to buy and ordered a fan that looked nice. Aesthetics over function can lead to a big mistake. Either you have a fan that’s too big or too small. The major problem of a fan that is way too big for a room will be obvious. A room will feel like a wind tunnel and is forcing air downward faster than you expected. It can make lower settings blow paper off of tables or worse.

How to troubleshoot

Having a fan that’s too small will be the opposite and you end up having to use higher settings. To get the air circulation that you wanted can use more electricity and potentially wear-out your ceiling fan motor faster. To eliminate this problem, you should always check the CFM rating on that fan. The amount of air that’s moved tells you if that will be good for your room.

Lower CFM (cubic feet per minute) is fine for small rooms whereas higher numbers indicate that larger rooms are better. The fan model can also tell you what room size is recommended. Measure the height, length, and width of the room and compare that to the recommendations of that fan model. If it falls into that category for size requirements, you can be sure it will be best for your room.

8. Putting the ceiling fan too close to the floor

There are rules as to how close a ceiling fan should be to the floor. The reason is simple since the fan blades can be a danger if they hit anything. Not only can it injure somebody, but it can also harm the fan and cause the blades to become misaligned. Then you have to deal with wobbling and other sound problems. Spinning fan blades should always be at least 7-8 feet above your head.

How to troubleshoot

The tallest person in the room should be the starting point for that measurement. If you’re a very tall person then you need to look at hugger fans. These fans have no down rods and fit closer to low ceilings. Most rooms are 8 feet tall, so this usually isn’t a concern. You need at least 7 feet between the fan blades and the floor to make an effective downdraft possible. This way, airflow is maximized to allow the fan blades to bring air back up to the ceiling again.

Small children are always curious about what a ceiling fan does so make sure they never get too close. Small toys, balloons, and things are thrown at a fan can damage the blades or worse. Be sure to keep an eye on them if you install this kind of fan in their room. What most parents never do is tell their kids about the dangers of a rotating fan. Make this a part of parenting and keep them safe from unforeseen accidents.

9. Putting the ceiling fan too close to the ceiling

The issue of vaulted ceilings and a room that is taller than the average room will affect your ventilator. This is why down rods were invented to allow ceiling fans to work effectively. When you have an especially tall room, you’ll need to measure from the point where a fan is attached. Choose a fan that allows you to put in a down rod. Each model will have special lengths of rods that fit specifically onto your ceiling fan.

How to troubleshoot

Determine the length by measuring from the anchor point to the bottom of the blades. Then subtract the amount between the motor housing and fan blades. This should give you an approximate length of down rod needed to hang. Electrical wires will need to be long enough to run through the rod to the ceiling anchor point. Make sure the rod wires are not giggling inside the rod in case there is vibration. This can often help solve excess rattling noises.

Then finally attach the fan to the motor housing where the down rod coupling is found. It might have a special groove at the bottom to prevent slipping or movement. Then attach the set screw firmly. The fan can now be wired together and finished-off by sliding a canopy over the electrical housing. Just be sure that your electricity is turned off in that room to prevent from being electrocuted. Turn on the electricity and troubleshoot the fan after that.

10. The ceiling fan is an antique and needs replacement parts

You might have a passion for antiques and having a classic ceiling fan holds a lot of appeal for you. There’s only one problem since these kinds of fans don’t have replacement parts that are found easily. You will need to rewire it and carefully replace old motors with new ones. It’s better to have help from an electrician friend for this kind of project. Old motors can be problematic and can also waste electricity.

How to troubleshoot

Retrofitting an old fan is also a love of labor so this is a job that can take time. Hiding all the parts you fix needs to be a consideration from start to finish too. You might even consider looking at retro ceiling fans that are reissued with all new parts. But if you are set on having the original pieces, make sure you follow safety precautions. Consult experts and tutorials that deal with these types of ceiling fans.

By the end of any restoration, the results are always worth talking about. An old ceiling fan might have quite a story to tell making it a prize piece in anyone’s home likewise. It may never be as efficient at newer fans although the sentimental value surpasses that. If you can restore the old parts without having to compromise the fan itself, that’s equally impressive. And having a piece of electrical equipment that can still work like new makes it worth more!