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

24 Comments For This Post

  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. Jason Says:

    I replaced the motor, but the bathroom fan still does not work. If I turn the switch on, I can hear a very low humming noise, but the fan is not spinning. Do you have any other suggestions on things to try? Thanks.

  6. appliancejournal Says:

    Make sure that the fan blade is not stuck and that the motor is getting 110 volts (do not test voltage unless you have experience using a voltmeter and are aware of the proper safety guidelines).

  7. Matt Says:

    My bathroom fan is not working at all when I flip the switch on the wall. No noise, nothing. Could this just be a switch issue or is it possible that it is the motor?

  8. John Says:

    I have the same problem with Matt with the exception of changing out the fan AND the switch.Still dosen’t work.

  9. LEE Says:

    same problem . when I flip the switch to turn on the bathroom fan . I get nothing. Could this be the fan ..motor or the switch needs replacing .. any suggestions ??

  10. appliancejournal Says:

    There is no way to be certain without testing. Whether the switch is bad or the motor is bad – you will get the same result – nothing. You can visually inspect the switch for any loose wiring. Wall switches don’t break often because of their simplicity. Motors are much more likely to break because of the motor winding, moving parts, and overheating. So, if I had to guess, which is all I’m doing here, I’d say the motor is bad.

  11. steve Says:

    I have replaced the fan brand new, the transformer brand new. Checked the switch, fuse box. Still doesnt work any ideas.

  12. Norma Says:

    My fan runs constantly—-I replaced the electric switch—-no change
    Any ideas?

  13. David Says:

    My fan does not start when i turn on the switch, however if I reach inside and move it a little, then it runs fine. Any ideas on how to get it to move right away when i turn it on? Would WD40 work?

  14. John Demarco Says:

    Ever since my new bathroom fan was installed my dishwasher does not rinse as well. What can be the problem? Should I try cleaning the fan blades in the bathroom?

  15. Phil Wolford Says:

    When my bathroom NuTone fan is turned on, you hear a humming noise. Then after a 3-4 minute delay the fan begins working.

  16. Kim Says:

    I just replaced a dead Broan motor with BP-27, the old unit is model#669. I installed it andd it works fine, except it seem to be blowing air into the bathroom instead of pulling out the air. It was very dirty and I cleaned the housing and mounting plate, I even removed the damper. Is there anything I can do to fix this problem. Could there be a blockage in the exhaust line and how would I be able to clean it out. We live in a 2 story apartment and live in a lower unit, where there are no crawl spaces or access to the line.

  17. Junior Says:

    Kim – check to see if the fan blade is no on upsidedown. I made that mistake when replacing mine.

  18. Ramona Beauty Salons Says:

    There are actually numerous particulars like that to take into consideration. That may be a nice level to bring up. I offer the thoughts above as normal inspiration however clearly there are questions just like the one you convey up where crucial thing will be working in trustworthy good faith. I don?t know if best practices have emerged round issues like that, but I am certain that your job is clearly recognized as a good game. Both girls and boys feel the affect of just a second’s pleasure, for the rest of their lives.

  19. Dave Says:

    When I keep my bathroom fan on for an extended period of time it trips the gfi breaker. Any ideas why?


  20. Michael Says:

    I just took off the housing to my bathroom exhaust fan. There were two plastic covers and an additional plate/housing for the light-bulb. I vacuumed the area around the exhaust fan..Now, when I try to use the exhaust, the plastic/rubber blades will not spin? They were working before cleaning.. (very poorly, but the blades were spinning. Now, I just hear the motor trying to work and no spinning of the blades. I did not unplug or mess with any switches or motor parts. I did take the vacuum extension to the blades to try and get as much dust out as I could.. Any suggestions on what might be wrong?

  21. Sherrel Curtis Says:

    As with several of the other postings, when I turn on the switch for my bathroom ceiling fan, I do not get an immediate response. Sometimes the fan will start and othertimes nothing. Not sure there is anything I can try without taking it apart. Thanks for any help you can give.

  22. Rayray1973 Says:

    When I turn the fan in my bathroom. It takes about 2 minutes for the blades to start moving. Should I just clean it well and spray wd40 on the shaft??

  23. Sean Jenk Says:

    OK I changed the Fan Motor and Light part thing and the wall switch 2X. Still nothing. Could it be the plugs in the housing that the motor and light plug into? Its the only part left I didn’t change.

  24. Trevor Says:

    I have a 4 speeds switch for the bathroom fan. It is 2 years old. It recently makes a clicking sound when turned on and the fan does not operate?

    Any ideas?

  25. 1 Trackbacks For This Post

    1. Fixing a Noisy Bath Fan - Handyman Projects - Sutton Construction Says:

      [...] 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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