10 Noisy Fan Causes and Fixes

ceiling fan

The Spruce / Almar Creative

A noisy ceiling fan is one of the worst household annoyances. Some people might even stop using their fan. But instead of sweating it out in silent defeat, take a few minutes to poke around your fan to look for the source of the racket. Some of the most likely culprits are also the easiest to fix.

Here are 10 potential reasons for a noisy fan.

Dirty Fan Blades

Dirty blades can cause a fan to wobble and shake because they throw the blades out of balance. Clean both sides of the blades with a slightly damp cloth. The top sides will be much dirtier than the bottom sides, so don't stand directly under the blades as you clean.

Dry any moisture from the blades right away. Many are made from wood composite or particleboard materials that are easily damaged by water.

dusting the ceiling fan

The Spruce / Almar Creative

Warped or Damaged Blades

Make sure each blade is straight and not warped or otherwise damaged. Damaged blades also can cause shaking and noise when the fan is running. And they can be very hard on the motor and fan mount.

You'll most likely have to replace a warped or damaged blade. Contact the fan manufacturer to be sure you're getting an exact match.

Unbalanced Blades

Sometimes there's not a clear reason for unbalanced blades, but they still could be the reason for your noisy fan. Fortunately, balancing the blades requires a simple balancing kit. These often are included with new fans, or you can buy them at hardware stores. The kit consists of a plastic clip and stick-on weights.

Fit the clip onto the rear edge of a fan blade, and turn on the fan. If the wobble is gone, you've found the problem blade. (If not, try the other blades in turn.) Turn off the fan, and move the clip to a few different positions on the problem blade to determine where it's most effective at reducing the wobble. Finally, stick a weight to the top of the blade by the clip. Test the fan again, and add another weight if necessary.

Loose Blades

Several different parts can become loose on a ceiling fan and make things noisy. The first part to check is where the blades mount to their brackets.

Blades are fastened to the brackets with screws or another type of fastening system, such as keyholes that fit over pins or studs on the bracket. Tighten any loose parts of the fastening system.

Tip

Some blade screws might be sized for a #3 Phillips screwdriver tip. The standard size is #2. You can identify #3 screws by a squarish space at the center of the screw head. A #3 bit (which is commonly included in screwdriver sets) has a corresponding flat area. If you use a #2 screwdriver with #3 screws, you're likely to strip them.

Loose Blade Brackets

The blade brackets themselves also might be loose, resulting in wobbling and a noisy fan. This is where the brackets mount to the rotating part of the fan's motor assembly.

The brackets usually fasten to the motor unit with screws or bolts. So tighten them as needed with the proper screwdriver or a wrench.

tightening screws

The Spruce / Almar Creative

Poorly Positioned Motor Cover

An intermittent noise or scraping noise might be caused by the fan's blade brackets dragging on the fan shroud or motor housing cover.

Often you can remedy this by loosening the cover's screws, slightly adjusting the position of the cover, and retightening the screws. Also, make sure the blade brackets are tight and not rubbing against the cover.

Loose Light Fixture Parts

If your fan has a light fixture, make sure all globes, shades, bulbs, and any other light fixture parts are snug. Most globes and shades are secured with thumbscrews and are easy to tighten by hand. Don't use tools on these, as you're likely to overtighten the screws and possibly crack the glass.

If tightening the fixture parts with their screws doesn't get them snug, you can add a thick rubber band around the neck of the globe or shade and then reinstall it with the screws. Fan manufacturers also sell sets of rubber "silencer" bands for the same purpose.

replacing the canopy cover

The Spruce / Almar Creative

Loose Fan Canopy

The fan canopy is the part of the fan that sits flush against the ceiling. And it too might become loose over time.

Assess the canopy by gently trying to move it; if you feel movement, it needs tightening. Canopies often have screws you can either tighten by hand or with a screwdriver, so check which you’re working with and tighten them.

Lack of Lubrication

Noise coming from your fan might be due to interior parts not being well-lubricated. Some fans need oil annually, so note what your manufacturer recommends in the fan’s manual. 

Consult the manual for where the fan’s oil hole is, and note how to check the oil level. Add oil as necessary, using the variety that the manufacturer recommends.

Loose Mounting Screws

The mounting screws that attach the fan to the electrical box in the ceiling also might be loose and cause noise. Before you check these screws, turn off the power to the fan's circuit on your home's service panel (breaker box). You'll be working with a metal tool around wiring, so it's not safe enough to simply turn off the wall switch.

Loosen the canopy cover screws, and slide the cover down. Test the fan's wiring using a non-contact voltage tester to make sure the power is off. Then, as necessary tighten the screws securing the fan's mounting bracket to the electrical box in the ceiling using a screwdriver.

When to Call a Professional

Sometimes the electrical box that the fan is attached to can be the source of noise and wobbling. This might be because the wrong type of box was used (one that isn't rated for fans) or it wasn't mounted properly to a brace or ceiling framing.

If this is the case, you might have to start over with a new box. And it's best to call in a professional to install it to ensure that the electrical work is done right and that it's suitable for your fan model.