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How to Troubleshoot a Broken Bathroom Fan

Getting an unwanted sauna effect because of a broken bathroom fan? If your fan stops working or has begun making a loud humming or rattling noise, it’s time to troubleshoot the problem.

Let’s review how a bathroom fan works, so you can more quickly identify the cause of a broken bathroom fan:

  • Wiring connects the fan to your wall switch and the home’s electrical system.
  • When you turn on the fan, the motor powers a fairly simple set of fan blades. The blades should rotate easily without dust, gunk, or lack of lubrication slowing them down.
  • If you have an exhaust fan, the duct must be clean and tightly connected.


So, the key parts to inspect include:

  • The fan motor
  • The unit’s electrical outlet
  • Fan blades 
  • Bearings
  • Ductwork (if the fan runs noisily or fails to clear the air)


When the Bathroom Fan Will Not Turn On

Sometimes a broken bathroom fan is actually just a bad electrical outlet. If the fan will not turn on, we first want to make sure there is power.

Remove the cover to the fan and you’ll see the motor has wires running directly to an electrical outlet inside the unit. Unplug the motor and plug in a lamp or other small appliance to test for power.

No power? You might want to replace the entire fan — but that may be unnecessary. Your local electrician can repair the wiring and connections while also investigating to find out if the circuit has a problem. We would recommend calling a professional electrician because replacing a broken bathroom fan will not solve the problem of an underlying electrical issue.


Broken Bathroom Fan Does Not Circulate Air

You hear the fan running, but the air feels uncomfortable. Stepping up on a ladder, can you feel air moving under the fan? Can it hold a square of toilet paper to the screen?

Running fans that fail to ventilate or circulate air usually mean the motor or blade needs repair:

  • Remove and clean the fan blades
  • Tighten the fan blades so they spin evenly
  • Clean and re-lubricate the bearings behind the blades
  • Tighten the wires on the motor if it is receiving some power, but running inconsistently

Then, if problems persist, you probably have a broken bathroom fan motor. Remove it from the unit and take it with you to the hardware store (these are usually common parts that are easy to find, but you want to make sure you get the right one).

Standard fan motors can easily be replaced without having to call a professional, because you only need to put it in place and plug it in. If there appears to be more complicated electrical wiring or any other confusion, just call your electrician to take care of the replacement.


When a broken bathroom fan requires more than just a simple cleaning, you can call on us for fast and friendly service to get it running perfectly again. We can repair wiring problems and replace motors in one quick visit so you can enjoy a clean and well-ventilated air.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a broken bathroom fan in the Sonoma County area.