How To Repair Your Bathroom Fan

Bathroom fan motorOne of the things that you rarely think about ever having to fix is the bathroom fan. That exhaust fan seems to work perfectly for years on end, but what happens when it does quit working? How do you repair or replace it? You can call for help, or you can follow some simple instructions and do it yourself.

One of the best things about repairing your bathroom fan is that you don’t have to replace the whole fan just because you have a dead motor. No matter how old your fan is, you can typically find replacement parts, since the technology of a bathroom fan has changed little in the past few decades. Keep in mind that a new motor will cost about the same as a new fan; however, you’ll save a lot of time and labor by just replacing the motor.

Before you do anything at all, make sure the power has been shut off at the main breaker panel for safety purposes. Collect the model number of your fan from the label behind the fan grille so that you can be certain you get the correct parts, and be sure to take the old fan with you to make sure this is the only part you’ll need when you get to the store. You may have to vacuum off some dust and dirt or wipe the unit down with a damp cloth in order to see the model number, especially if you can remember ever having needed to open up the unit before!

Regardless of the age or model of your bathroom fan, motor replacement is basically the same. Start by taking the blower off the motor’s shaft – probably the hardest thing you’ll do – and if you wreck it, you may have to replace it as well (not uncommon). Then, you can remove the motor from the plate by removing the screws or nuts. Note that, if you release a tab on the housing or remove a retaining screw, this plate will easily tip out of the housing with the motor, making it easier to work with.

While you have the air vent open, be sure to vacuum out the accumulated dust and dirt to leave the area as clean as possible, as the buildup reduces the effectiveness of the fan and can actually shorten the life of the motor. To install the new motor, simply reverse the order of removal, screwing the fan back on the plate, replacing the plate, and putting the blower back on the shaft.

In repairing a bathroom fan, you’ll find that the motor is the most likely culprit of the malfunction. As mentioned earlier, you can obtain an entire fan for about the same price as the motor. However, to install the entire unit, you would have to enter the attic or make cuts into the roof and ceiling, making it a long, messy job that is both time consuming and frustrating. In choosing to simply replace the motor, you can be finished with the entire job in less than an hour.

Here are some of the more common and popular fan motors:

Fan Motor SM550

Fan Motor 2

35 Responses to “How To Repair Your Bathroom Fan”

  1. Ana says:

    If my bathroom fan is on all day and doesn’t want to turn off, what is wrong with it?
    I try the switch.

  2. appliancejournal says:

    Sounds like there is something wrong with the switch. I’d have that checked first. You may want to call an electrician or a handy man for that.

    Keep us updated.


  3. Michael Macklin says:

    the electrical contractor I hired to repair/replace the originial 24 year old bathroom fans in my condo decided to install new fans rather than clean the original fans and install new motors on them. the original fans were jenn-air…the new fans he installed are nutone…as a result in one bathroom he had to use lambro lamflex connector hose and an adaptor because the new nutone fan did not fit the building duct in my condo. will I have problems with air flow or dirt collecting and fire potential because of the use of connector hose and an adaptor? should I have insisted on cleaning the original fans and finding new replacement motors to install?

  4. Donnie Stancil says:

    Thank you for your time, the problem I am having is that my bathroom fan is making an increditably loud noise, and I am not sure what the proper cleaning procedures are.

  5. […] First, unplug the electrical cord from its receptacle and then slide a flat screwdriver between the fan housing and the metal bracket that supports the fan mechanism. The fan motor assembly should be relatively easy to remove. Once removed, take it to your local home center and see if you can match it to a new one. There are replacements for some models, and if you are lucky enough to find one, it’s a simple matter to pop it in the old housing, and you’ll soon be rid of the noise problem. There is a good step by step instruction page here. […]

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