How to Fix a Bathroom Extractor Fan That’s Not Working

stopped working bathroom vent

An extractor fan is a must for all bathrooms with showers. All of that hot, humid air can ultimately do a lot of damage to your walls, ceilings, and other bathroom accessories. On top of that, no one likes to sit in a hot bathroom if they are going to be in there for a while. And of course, you want to expel any unwanted smells.

So, if your extractor fan breaks, that’s a problem that needs prompt fixing.

That said, you don’t have to run out and buy a new extractor fan for your bathroom, then go through the hassle of replacing it. Or at least, you don’t have to do that first. At the very least, you can diagnose your extractor fan and see if the problem is something you can fix first. Here’s how to do that.

Determining a Problem

This part is technically pretty simple. If your extractor fan doesn’t seem to be doing a good job of removing hot air or vapor, or if your fan is making way more noise than it should be (loud buzzing or rattling), there’s probably something wrong with it, and you need to take a look.

Unfortunately, determining exactly what is wrong with your extractor fan is a little less simple. There are many things that could be the problem, and you’ll usually just have to go through the checklist we’re about to provide to you to figure out the root of the problem.

Step 1: Clean the Extractor Fan

An extractor fan is much like a vacuum cleaner: it sucks things in, which includes dust and other small debris. And much like a vacuum cleaner, if you don’t clean it, all of that dust and debris could cause performance issues. You should clean the fan regularly anyway, or it may even put dust back into your air!

Before you take your fan from its housing and clean it, be sure to wear gloves and a mask. You don’t want to breathe any of that crap in! Also, make sure you turn off the electricity and the fused connections for the extractor fan. You don’t want any accidents either.

When that’s done, mix liquid detergent with warm water (roughly half and half). You’ll want to use a vacuum to get the loose dust off of the fan, then use a cloth and possibly even an old toothbrush with your detergent to clean everything else. After that, dry all water from the fan with a dry cloth.

Make absolutely sure that you don’t get any water near the electrical aspects of the fan. We recommend wetting the fan in very small increments while cleaning it.

Step 2: Check the Wiring

If the problem is that your fan doesn’t turn on at all, it could be a faulty wiring issue. You should always turn off the electricity connected to the things you’ll be messing with via fuse or circuit breaker. Once that’s done, take a screwdriver to the switch that turns your fan on and remove the cover plate.

Once inside, you should tighten everything you can, including the wire nuts if there are any, and the switch screws themselves. Return everything to the right place and see if your fan turns on (after reactivating the electricity, of course). If not, there’s one more thing you can try.

Turn the electricity back off, and go to your extractor fan. Take a picture of the cover so you know exactly how it is supposed to be affixed. Take the cover off and check for a small box that has screws and wiring underneath it. Tighten anything you can tighten in or on that box. Return everything to how it was, and try to turn the fan on again.

Step 3: Turning to Professionals

If your fan still doesn’t work, the problem may be a bit more than your average homeowner can handle. At that point, the problem could be something like a faulty switch or a damaged motor, but it’s difficult for anyone who isn’t a qualified professional to make that determination. You’ll probably have to hire one.

Usually, if the motor is damaged, it’s cheaper to just replace the extractor fan rather than try to fix it. If the switch itself is faulty, that kind of job is best reserved for experienced electricians, since tinkering with such things as an amateur could cause even more damage or injury to oneself.

Still, you don’t have to rely on professional help right away. If your extractor fan stops working, give the two processes we mentioned a shot before spending money unnecessarily. After all, if the fan is going to be replaced ultimately, then it’s not like trying to fix it yourself is going to make the situation any worse.

And on top of that, we all like to save money, so that’s always a pretty nice bonus.