Bathroom Fan is Not Working? Troubleshooting Guide with 4 causes

Bathroom fans play a crucial role in maintaining good ventilation in your bathroom and the house as a whole. In addition, they use very simple components to function, so why would they stop working?

A bathroom fan will stop working if there’s no incoming power, typically due to a tripped GFCI breaker. Besides that, a defective switch or faulty motor will also prevent it from running. If those parts work but the fan blades or blower wheel are damaged, the unit can’t draw any air and won’t do what it’s meant to do.

Bathroom fans are pretty straightforward to troubleshoot. This guide will show you what could stop it from working and how you can fix those problems.

My Bathroom Fan is Not Working. Why?

No matter the brand or model bathroom fan you have, here are the most common reasons the unit will stop working:

No Incoming Power

About this part: Bathroom fans are typically hard-wired to your household’s power supply. So, despite using only a little power, those fans still require a reliable source of electricity to function.

On top of that, those fans are also usually part of the bathroom’s power circuit which is protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)

GFCIs are necessary to protect people in wet spaces like bathrooms from electrocution.

As you can see, bathroom fans aren’t powered like most other appliances in your home. Understanding that will help you troubleshoot it much more effectively when it stops working.

What’s wrong with it: The first reason your bathroom fan isn’t working is that it has no incoming power supply. For example, your entire household might suffer from a power outage that stops the bathroom fan from working.

That power outage can also be isolated to your bathroom. For instance, the GFCI might have been tripped by an electrical fault, shutting off any electrical appliances inside the bathroom.

If, for some reason, your bathroom fan is connected to a different circuit without a GFCI, the circuit breaker for that circuit might have tripped instead.

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How to fix it: Firstly, check that your household has an incoming power supply. You can do that by turning on appliances in other rooms. 

Once you’re sure your house has power, check the GFCI outlets in your bathroom. One of them will have the circuit breaker’s reset switch that you can press to turn it back on.

For non-GFCI circuits, you’ll have to reset the circuit breaker in your home’s main electrical box. You’ll typically find that in the basement or garage.

Read: What Is Bathroom Fan Sound Rating?

Defective Switch

About this part: Earlier, you read about how bathroom fans are typically hard-wired to your home’s electrical system. That means the fan is controlled by a standard wall switch nearby, alongside your bathroom’s light switch.

That switch controls the flow of electricity to the bathroom fan. So, when you flip it on, the fan will work. But conversely, turning the switch off will cut the circuit and prevent the fan from running.

What’s wrong with it: Your bathroom fan needs two things to operate: a working fan and a power supply. If both are present, but the fan still won’t work, that means the culprit is the thing that’s between them, which is the switch.

A defective switch will prevent your bathroom fan from working. That could be because the switch is old, overused, or faulty when you bought it.

How to fix it: You can test the wall switch using a multimeter to determine if it’s allowing electricity to flow through normally. Once you confirm it’s defective, you’ll have to replace it with a new one.

If you’re not comfortable working with electricity, you should contact a qualified electrician to do it for you instead.

Read: Why Nutone Bathroom Fan And Light Stopped Working? – Troubleshooting Guide

Damaged Fan Blades Or Blower Wheel

About this part: One of the critical components in any bathroom fan is the blower wheel or fan blades. When the fan motor turns those parts, they’ll drive air from your bathroom upwards through the fan housing and out towards the vent.

Even with a functioning motor, the absence of fan blades or a blower wheel makes the whole bathroom fan useless.

What’s wrong with it: Listen closely to your bathroom fan when you turn it on. The fan blades or blower wheel are damaged if you hear the motor running but don’t feel any airflow.

A bathroom fan can’t work without either component.

Typically, fan blades and blower wheels are damaged from misalignment. That will cause them to spin and grind against the inside of the fan housing, eventually breaking parts off.

bathroom fan is not working

How to fix it: Bathroom fan blades and blower wheels are made of plastic. They’re not repairable once they get damaged, so it’s best to remove them as soon as possible.

Thankfully, finding replacements is pretty straightforward. Purchase a new fan blade or blower wheel and attach it to your bathroom fan correctly, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Worn-Out Fan Motor

About this part: The fan motor is the heart of the bathroom fan. It generates power to spin the fan blades or blower fan, creating airflow to ventilate your bathroom.

The fan motor is relatively small and operates quietly. When it functions correctly, you’ll barely hear a soft humming noise as it turns the fan at high speed.

What’s wrong with it: Your bathroom fan stops working when the fan motor becomes worn out. Depending on the age of your bathroom fan, that likely happens because it’s been in use for several years.

On top of that, bathroom fans that get excessively dirty can place too much stress on the motor. For example, dirt buildups that become too severe and are never cleaned away will stress the motor, causing it to wear out prematurely.

How to fix it: Firstly, clean your bathroom fan thoroughly to see if it affects the fan motor. If the motor still doesn’t work after cleaning, you can test it with a multimeter or check for any burn smells.

Burn smells, and the absence of electrical continuity are clear signs that the motor has failed. So, you’ll have to replace it with a new one.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are a few more questions and answers to help you understand your bathroom fan better.

Does A Bathroom Exhaust Fan Need To Be Vented Outside?

Yes, a bathroom fan must be vented outside your home to work correctly. That way, it can effectively remove the moist bathroom air and maximize ventilation in your home.

Are Bathroom Fans Supposed To Run All The Time?

No, you should only run a bathroom fan during and up to 20 minutes after your shower. Running it according to that time frame will remove moist air from your bathroom but prevent stressing the fan motor unnecessarily.

How Can You Tell If Your Bathroom Fan Is Working?

The best way to tell if your bathroom fan works is by doing the toilet paper test. Hold a thin piece of toilet paper up near the bathroom fan and see if it gets pulled towards the unit. If the toilet paper moves, that means the bathroom fan is successfully drawing air in.

Do Bathroom Exhaust Fans Need To Be Cleaned?

Yes, you must clean bathroom exhaust fans regularly as they quickly build up with dust and other debris. Doing so will maximize your bathroom fan’s lifespan by removing unnecessary burdens on the fan motor.

How Long Do Bathroom Fans Last?

You can expect your bathroom fan to work for at least 10 years with proper care and maintenance. However, bathroom fans use incredibly straightforward components. So, it’s not unusual to find many that last indefinitely.

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