Why Is My Ceiling Fan Making Noise?

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Is your ceiling fan making noise? If so and it's one of these five noises, the fixes are simple. Here's how to keep your fan running smoothly and silently.

A ceiling fan should generate a nice breeze and nothing more. Hearing a persistent sound while you’re trying to sleep or watch TV is not normal and can definitely distract.

Fortunately, noise coming from your ceiling fan doesn’t necessarily mean your fan is broken beyond repair, or even broken at all. Sean Dion, an electrician for Mr. Electric in Queensbury, New York, says ceiling fan noises usually come down to a loose part, improper installation, or accessories incompatible with your fan’s motor — things like dimmer kits, fan speed and remote control kits.

If you’re installing a new fan, Dion says you can prevent future noises by making sure the fan box is secure (it shouldn’t move at all) and the fan latches into place.

“Sometimes they maybe didn’t put the ball into the socket properly so it’s not seated properly,” he says. “There’s a little notch you have to turn the ball into to get it to latch properly. If it’s loose, you’ll have vibration and noise.”

If you’ve ruled out improper installation and the accessories, The Home Depot associate merchant Alex Forte says there are five sounds that can indicate a specific problem. You can investigate and remedy each of these noises while on your ladder or step stool.

Ceiling Fan Making Humming Noise

Cause

The blades are dirty.

How to fix

Forte says use a lightly damp rag to clean the fan blades. Dirty fan blades can lead to imbalance that can cause the unwanted humming noise. While cleaning, check for warped or damaged blades and replace them if necessary.

Ceiling Fan Making Clicking Noise

Cause

Blades aren’t firmly attached to the fan assembly.

How to fix

Forte says position a ladder or step stool so you can reach one or two fan blades. Locate the screws that attach your fan blades to the housing, at the end of each blade closest to the fan assembly. Tighten the screws with a screwdriver. Repeat this on all the blades and test the fan for noise.

Ceiling Fan Making Scraping Noise

Cause

The fan canopy (located at the top where the fan meets the ceiling) is loose.

How to fix

Forte says try to wiggle the fan canopy with your hand — it may need to be tightened if there’s any movement. Look for fasteners around the fan canopy. If fasteners hold the canopy in place, use the correct tool (a screwdriver should do the trick for most fan fasteners) to tighten them.

In some cases, the canopy is threaded on the inside with a ring that directly connects the ceiling to the fan itself, allowing it to be tightened by hand. Remove it by twisting and gently pulling down. Check your fan by turning it on.

Ceiling Fan Making Grinding Noise

Cause

The motor needs oil.

How to fix

Forte says locate the oil hole on your fan, usually near the down rod. Check the oil level in your fan by inserting the end of a pipe cleaner about 1/2-inch into the oil hole. If it comes out dry, your fan needs oil immediately. The owner’s manual for the fan should list the type and quantity of oil to use. Do not use WD-40 or three-in-one oil.

Perform this test annually, regardless of any noise, to keep the fan in good working condition.

Ceiling Fan Making Rattling Noise

Cause

The light kit is loose.

How to Fix

Forte says locate the screws or fasteners that attach the light kit to the fan housing. Remove the globe or covering, then secure it back in place. Securing it properly will reset the position and any previously loose parts. Tighten the fasteners or screws that hold the light kit in place, making sure you check each side. Then test your fan.

When To Hire a Pro

If none of the solutions listed work, it may be time to hire some help. Forte says a professional electrician or handyman can come to the rescue. If your fan is generally in good shape and you want to keep it, hiring a professional is a good idea because it may be an internal motor issue, and they can fix it.

However, if your fan is old and/or no longer matches your decor, it may be time for replacement. The older a fan is, the harder it becomes to obtain parts. A fresh, new fan is a great mini makeover for any room.

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Veronica Graham
Veronica Graham is a freelance writer in Arlington, Mass. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post and SheKnows. She's covered health, politics, high school football and everything in between. Graham enjoys learning about the world through a variety of lenses as a reporter.