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How to Troubleshoot Table Electric Fans

Electric table fans are simple home appliances that use a motor to drive fan blades for circulating the air. Inside the plastic or metal housing is an electric motor connected to a fan propeller, wiring and a rheostat-type switch for turning the motor on and off, and adjusting the speed.

Electric table fans are simple home appliances that use a motor to drive fan blades for circulating the air. Inside the plastic or metal housing is an electric motor connected to a fan propeller, wiring and a rheostat-type switch for turning the motor on and off, and adjusting the speed. Read on to troubleshoot a tabletop electric fan.

  1. Disconnect the electric fan from the wall outlet.

  2. Remove the safety cover from the front of the fan by unscrewing the cover and removing the 4 to 6 Phillips head screws or by pulling open the metal clips that hold the front cover to the back. Metal clips swing upward from the edge of the safety cover.

  3. Clean the front and back of the fan blades with paper towels dampened with window or countertop cleaner such as Windex or 409 to restore proper speed to the electric fan. Be sure to remove dust and dirt from the back of the blades and along the motor shaft, as this accounts for most problems with poor performance, including slow fan blades.

  4. Troubleshoot a sluggish driveshaft by applying a few drops of WD-40 lubricant to the shaft and rotating the fan blades by hand.

  5. Remove the motor housing from the back of the fan by extracting the screws that hold it in place.

  6. Inspect the back of the motor to be sure the two electrical wires are secured firmly to the contacts on the motor.

  7. Use a dry paint brush to remove accumulated dust and dirt from the motor, then add additional WD-40 to the drive shaft where it attaches to the front of the motor. The drive shaft should spin freely when turned by your fingers.

  8. Check the oscillating pull knob (it makes the fan turn from side to side) on some models to make sure the knob engages and disengages the motor when it is pulled. Adjust the knob if necessary so the hook attaches to a clip on the motor. If the knob is broken, it may be possible to repair it with glue, although your best bet will probably be to live without the oscillating feature or replace the fan.

  9. Reattach or tighten broken or loose motor wires by stripping 1/2-inch of insulation from the ends of the wires, then twisting the wire strands and wrapping them to the contacts.

  10. Tighten the contact screws with the screwdriver and replace the motor housing.

  11. Turn the fan upside down and remove the cover from the bottom of the base by extracting the four screws holding it in place.

  12. Check the two wires that should be connected to the bottom of the fan switch and reattach if loose or broken.

  13. Clean the metal switch contacts by scraping the surface with the tip of the screwdriver to remove any corrosion and create a better electrical connection.

  14. Reassemble the base and attach the screws.

About the Author

James Clark began his career in 1985. He has written about electronics, appliance repair and outdoor topics for a variety of publications and websites. He has more than four years of experience in appliance and electrical repairs. Clark holds a bachelor's degree in political science.