A white vent cover for a bathroom ceiling fan is on top of a white-painted textured drywall ceiling.

How to Replace A Bathroom Vent Fan That's Not Rotating

Originally contributed by • last updated 6/2/2021

10 min.Active Time
BeginnerDifficulty
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10 min.Active Time
BeginnerDifficulty

It’s early in the morning. You’ve just woken up and are getting ready for work. You step into the bathroom to start your morning routine. Just when you’re about to get in that slumber-stopping shower and go to turn on the bathroom ceiling fan, you suddenly realize it doesn’t work.

No big deal, you think. That’s not going to stop you from getting ready. But when you get out of the shower, your mirror’s all fogged up, it looks like you’re at a rock concert, and it feels like you’re in a rainforest. Not good. The fan is more important than you thought. You need to get this thing sorted.

Luckily for you, replacing a bathroom vent fan that’s not rotating is very easy and requires little-to-no tools! 

Here’s a stress-free way to fix that bathroom fan so you can go back to having showers and not thinking about where all the steam goes. Then you can focus on what really matters, like the lyrics to the song you’re singing in the shower. No judgments here.  

What You'll Need

Equipment

  • Utility Knife or Drywall Saw (as needed)

Materials

  • Ceiling Fan Vent Motor
01/8

Turn Off Fan

Start by turning off the power to the bathroom ceiling fan motor by flipping the wall switch to the off position. 

Info: Normally, it is good safety etiquette to flip the breaker on your electrical panel or breaker box before tackling electrical projects. However, it is unnecessary when servicing a bathroom ceiling fan. This is because ceiling fans use a socket and plug system instead of being directly wired to the house’s electrical infrastructure. 

02/8

Remove Vent Cover

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To remove the vent cover, simply hold the edges of the cover and pull down. 

There are two small slots in the metal housing that hold the vent cover clips. Pinch the metal wire arms inwards and pull down to release the cover clips from the ceiling fan housing. 

Tip: If the vent cover doesn’t come off the ceiling, it could be stuck to the paint. Use a utility knife and cut around the edges of the vent until the cover comes loose. 

03/8

Unplug Motor

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Ceiling fans operate with standard two-prong electrical plugs, the same ones that we see every day on everything from TVs to coffee makers. The only difference is that these plugs don’t allow us to find out what happens on the next season of This Is Us or help keep us awake!

Unplug the motor from the socket the same way you would with any electrical device. Unless that “same way” entails vigorously ripping the plug out of the socket, in which case, take it easy!

04/8

Remove Metal Casing

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The motor bracket is attached to the metal casing with three metal tabs — two tabs on one side and one on the opposite side.

Push the casing away from the bracket while simultaneously pulling down the motor bracket on the side with one metal tab until it is released. 

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From here, release the other two tabs by sliding the motor bracket out of the metal casing by pulling it down on an angle. 

Tip: It’s easier to remove the motor bracket from the casing by unfastening the side with the single metal tab first. 

Why Your Bathroom Ceiling Fan Isn’t Rotating

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One of the main reasons bathroom ceiling fans fail is because the motors are prone to rust, which can eventually seize. This is often why ceiling fans make a humming noise but don’t actually move. The rust is caused by the bathroom’s humidity that the fan sucks up and pushes out through the vent.

05/8

Remove New Motor Bracket From New Casing

New motors often come with a new metal ventilation casing as well. However, as long as there is power still going to the socket in the old casing, there is no need to swap the casings, which is a bigger job. 

Remove the new motor bracket from the new ventilation casing by removing the metal tabs and lifting the motor out. It will be the same process used before to remove the old motor. Again, there are two tabs on one side of the bracket and one on the opposite side. Find the single metal tab and pull on the bracket and push on the casing until it slides out. 

Info: If there is no electricity going to the existing ventilation casing socket, new motors come with detailed instructions on installing the entire casing. However, before attempting to put in a new casing, which is often unnecessary, we recommend trying the new motor in the old casing first. 

06/8

Attach New Motor To Existing Vent Casing

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Secure the new motor bracket to the ventilation casing in the bathroom ceiling by lining up the two metal tabs with the matching slots on the casing. 

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From here, push the motor up until the single tab on the other side fits into its matching metal slot. The motor is now in place, and we’re one step closer to less-foggy mirrors after a hot shower! 

Trim Drywall If New Motor Doesn’t Fit

If the new motor doesn’t fit, in many cases, it’s because the drywall surrounding the vent casing is blocking it. If this is the case, use a utility knife or drywall saw to cut away the drywall that is preventing the motor from fitting into the ventilation casing. Trim the edges, so they are square with the edges of the casing. 

07/8

Plug In New Motor

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Once the motor is in place, plug the new motor into the socket on the ventilation casing. Easy peasy! 

With the motor locked into place and plugged in, flip the switch on the wall and give the new motor a test run to ensure it’s working correctly. Do this trial run before putting on the vent cover.

If the motor still doesn’t work, you may need to replace the ventilation casing as there may be no power going to the socket. If this is the case, follow the manufacturer’s instructions provided with the new motor.

What To Do When Installing A Fan Cover With A Light

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There will be an extra plug coming from the light on the fan cover when replacing a bathroom ceiling fan with a light attachment. Instead of plugging the motor directly into the ceiling socket, plug it into the adapter on the light. Then plug the adapter into the ceiling socket. 

08/8

Attach Vent Cover

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With the motor up and running again, it’s time to attach the vent cover. Locate the two slots on the motor bracket. Squeeze the metal arms that are attached to the vent until they fit inside the slots. 

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Now push the vent cover up until it is flush with the bathroom cleaning. Give the fan one final test to ensure everything is still working smoothly. And just like that, you’re done!

No More Foggy Mirrors

With your bathroom ceiling fan working again, there’ll be less humidity in your bathroom and you can get back to business as usual. What that means is up to you, but one thing is certain, you won’t have to worry about your bathroom fan again anytime soon!