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Does the breeze of your ceiling fan bring a foul smell of burning plastic or metal? Like many electrical problems, you could have bad wiring that is overheating the parts. In other cases, the motor may have a defect or damage, like a car engine overheating when a part breaks.

An electrician removing an old ceiling fan. The fan was installed without a ceiling box, in violation of code.

Unless the light bulb or socket has a problem, your ceiling fan probably needs a new motor or wiring repairs. Here’s how to figure out what to do:

Turn It Off Your Ceiling Fan

Before doing anything else, turn off that ceiling fan! The burning smell means something has overheated. The fan motor and other parts need to cool down before you investigate any further. You should also avoid breathing in more of the fumes of whatever plastic or paint might be burning up. Turn off the fan and walk away for several minutes.

Test Another Fan Speed

The safest action would be to go ahead and call an electrician to repair the wiring or motor. But if you want to troubleshoot on your own, one thing you can do is to run the ceiling fan at a different speed.

What are you looking for? The motor uses different coils for different settings. If you do not smell burning when the fan runs at certain settings, you know that the motor needs repair or replacement (if it was the wiring, you would notice the burning smell on any setting).

Careful When Troubleshooting!

Consider ceiling fan replacement to be something that requires professional help. Only if you have the proper knowledge and safety equipment, like electrical gloves and insulated handle screwdrivers, should you try to troubleshoot this problem.

Turn off the circuit breaker that powers the fan, but still be careful — a ceiling fan motor has capacitors that retain a charge even when disconnected from the grid. Check the charge with a voltage detector before touching anything; you could get shocked if you touch a charged capacitor with a metal tool.

Replacing the Fan Motor

A replacement ceiling fan motor costs very little. Some models can be easily installed by the homeowner, but it involves some electrical wiring so most people will want to call the local electrician.

Keep in mind that replacing the motor will not help if you have bad electrical wiring. So a visit from the electrician can determine what’s causing the burning smell in your ceiling fan and what needs to be fixed.

Is It the Light Bulb?

Another possibility is that the light fixture overheats when on. Check the light bulb wattage (this would be a good time to switch to low-wattage CFL bulbs) and inspect the socket for signs of burning. Contact the fan manufacturer about replacing the light fixture or ask an electrician to repair the socket.

Ceiling Fan Wiring Repair

Faulty wiring to a ceiling fan can cause that burning smell if the wiring is loose or frayed. The wiring needs to be replaced or cut and crimped, then connected tightly to the motor with new wire nuts.

Whatever was burning, other parts might have been melted or damaged. In addition to fixing the fan wiring, we at Spyrka can check the junction box and connections to make sure that everything is clean and functional. So contact us to ensure you and your family’s safety.

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