Ceiling Fan Hums but Doesn’t Turn: Possible Reasons and Solutions

It’s always disappointing when your ceiling fan breaks down on you especially on a hot day. Even a new ceiling fan can end up having unforeseen problems. A common problem is when it refuses to spin, why does this happen and how can you fix it?

The common reasons why a ceiling fan hums without spinning are a faulty capacitor, frozen bearings, broken motor, loose wire connection, frozen bearings, or a blown fuse. Most of the time, the problem can be fixed by yourself but if not then there are some professional services that will help you out with fixing these issues.

The first step to solving this issue is identifying what the problem is. Like I said above, it can be due to many reasons. Given below is a detailed list of the likely problems and the solutions to fix each of them.

A ceiling fan

Faulty capacitor

One of the most common reasons why the blades of your ceiling fan won’t spin is because the fan’s capacitor is faulty. The function of a capacitor is to give the fan an initial torque to spin. A faulty capacitor will make the motor go out of sync with the AC power supply, and so there won’t be enough torque to get the blades spinning. It eventually leads to a buzzing sound where the blades don’t turn, run very slowly, or do not run at all. To test if the capacitor is the culprit, use a stick or your hand to manually turn the blades while the fan is switched on. If the fan starts spinning once you give it an initial push, then the culprit is most likely the capacitor.


You have to change the capacitor. Turn off the electrical circuit first before working on your fan.

  • A ceiling fan capacitor is located inside the housing of the ceiling fan, if you have a light fixture, the location of the capacitor will be just above it.
  • There are screws at the edge of the housing, take them out and keep them in a safe place.
  • The capacitor is a little black box connected to the pull cords. It may look pretty burnt out, swollen or the same.
  • When buying a new capacitor, use the numbers written on the former one as a guide.
  • Remove the bad capacitor by cutting the wires connecting it to the fan’s circuit.
  • Connect the wires of the new capacitor to the exact formation and replace the fan’s switch housing.

Here is a video showing the process of replacing a capacitor when the fan is not running but stays humming.

Reverse switch in neutral position

A reverse switch controls the spin direction of the fan, it can either go clockwise or counterclockwise when you flip it up or down. If you have a ceiling fan with a light fixture and the lights work but the blades spin slowly or just hum, there’s a huge chance that the issue is with the reverse switch. In some cases, a newly installed ceiling fan will have the switch in a neutral position.


Toggle the direction of the fan’s reverse switch. You can find it on the motor’s housing of the fan. Toggle it in any direction and switch on the fan. If it works, job well done!

Once the fan starts spinning, switch it off and set the reverse switch in whichever direction you want the fan to run. If you are not sure what direction the fan needs to run, here is a great resource: What direction should my fan spin?

Broken wall switch

If your fan is powered by a wall switch, that may be the problem. The switch completes or breaks the connection of the hot wires circuit. A broken switch means that the switch may not be receiving any power from the circuit breaker or it may be damaged.


Turn off your circuit breaker and disconnect the switch. Twist the ends of the hot wire from the fan and the wire from the panel. Secure it by screwing on a wire nut and turn on the circuit breaker. If your fan works perfectly, replace the switch.

Loose wires in the fan

A loose wire can break some important connections that are vital to your fan’s performance. If wires are not connected securely to the coils, the fan may not spin even when the switch is working fine.


Check the connected wires inside the fan’s housing and fixed them if needed:

  • Turn off the breaker. Loosen the housing screws so that you can check out the wires.
  • Check every wire connection within the fan housing and tighten all the nuts to make sure everything fits nicely.
  • Check the connection at the pull chain switches for blackening (this indicates that they are burning out).
  • Push back any wires that pulled loose.
  • Take a look at the wires inside the fan canopy as well. If those aren’t loose, connect the housing and turn on the fan.

Bad fan motor

One possible reason why your ceiling fan isn’t spinning may be that its motor has accumulated dirt over the years which prevents it from functioning properly. The fact that the fan makes a humming sound means that the motor may not be completely burnt and can be saved. It’s trying to spin but the dirt is preventing the motor from spinning.


Clean the fan’s motor. Take down your ceiling fan, wipe all the dust and fragments, and reinstall your ceiling fan. If the motor housing is very hot and the bearings are burnt out, buy a new motor.

Ball bearings are defective

To check if the ball bearings of the fan are frozen or stuck, try to turn the fan blades by hand. They are supposed to spin freely. If they offer resistance then the bearings in the ceiling fan are bad.


Changing the bearing is very difficult and needs precision, you will have to take the motor apart and lubricate the bearing with some WD40. If this does not work you will need to replace the motor.


All of the above suggestions are the most likely reasons for your ceiling fan problem. Fixing your ceiling fan yourself can save you a lot of money but if you find yourself trying out several possible reasons your fan won’t spin but hums, seek professional help.

Charles John

Experienced HVAC technician with 8 years of experience in the industry. Capable of handling all sorts of heating and cooling equipment as well as proficient in operational management, construction-related techniques such as preventative maintenance, electrical troubleshooting and AutoCAD

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