Keep your cool: How to stop a ceiling fan from wobbling

Where there’s a wobble, there’s a way to fix it.

The whole idea of a ceiling fan is to cool things down with a gentle breeze and a soothing hum. Wobbling is a cry for help. Which is what you could end up doing if you don’t diagnose the cause and fix it before things spin totally out of control—damaging not just the fan but anybody who’s underneath it.

Fortunately, there’s a good chance you can get things running smoothly again by yourself. Let’s run through a few simple steps for fixing wobbly ceiling fans and getting things back in balance.

Clean up.

You might be surprised what a little bit of dust can do to a ceiling fan. 

  • Make sure to put a drop cloth down under the fan first, then place a step ladder under it, a little off-center, and climb up and dust the debris off the blades. 
  • Then clean the blades and the fan’s motor housing with warm, soapy water or a dusting spray. 
  • While you’re up there, make sure all the screws that connect the fan blades to the brackets are nice and tight. Then check the screws where the brackets mount to the motor spindle. Jiggle each blade to see if there’s any play.

Dry things off and run the fan at high speed to see if you’ve figured out how to stop a ceiling fan from wobbling.

Power down.

There’s more than one solution for balancing a ceiling fan.  Start by going to the breaker box and shutting off the power to the zone with the wobbly ceiling fan.

On your next trip up the ladder, you’re going to check to make sure your ceiling fan is mounted on a fan-rated electrical box that’s attached to an adjustable fan brace or a crossbeam with lag screws. It’s possible yours was installed on a box intended only for a light fixture. If that’s the case, it’s not designed to handle the added weight, and will eventually fail.

Check the mounting bracket.

A mounting bracket is used to securely attach and hang the fan from the ceiling and if it’s loose could be a reason your fan is wobbling.

  • Remove the canopy—the dome-shaped part that touches the ceiling and covers the mounting bracket and hanger ball. 
  • Pull off the cover ring, then unscrew the set screws on the side. 
  • The fan's mounting bracket is attached to an electrical box. Grab the bracket and wiggle it side to side to see if it’s stable. 
  • Check the label on the electrical box to make sure it’s fan-rated, and look for hexagonal heads of the lag bolts that attach the bracket housing to a wood or metal brace. 
  • Tighten the bracket if it wiggles. 
  • Measure the distance between each blade and the ceiling—it shouldn’t be more than around eight to 10 inches, and the blades should be within about a quarter-inch of each other. 
  • Then switch the power back on and give it a whirl.

How to balance fan blades: Try a coin. Or spend a few bucks.

If the wobble won’t go away, it’s time to try balancing the fan blades. Tape a dime to the middle of each blade and, one at a time, crank the fan up to high. Eventually you’ll pinpoint the one whose wobble begins to weaken. Then move the coin up and down the blade, trying heavier coins if you need to, until you find the perfect balance.

If you want to try a slightly more professional approach to balancing a ceiling fan, pick up a balancing kit at your nearby lighting store and follow the same procedure, substituting a plastic balancing clip for the coin.

Try new blades.

If the fan blades are warped or sagging, you can try to (carefully) bend them back into shape, but the simplest solution might be to just buy a new set of blades. Swap them out all at once and your ceiling fan should be good to go. Around and around.

Prevent wobbly ceiling fans in the future. 

No matter how often you use your ceiling fans—you may have one or more that almost never get switched on—it’s important to keep the blades clean. Try to stick to a cleaning schedule—at least once a month—to keep debris from accumulating and gradually putting fan blades out of balance, resulting in wobbly ceiling fans.

 

At Frontdoor®, we know you love getting things done around the house. Staying in control of your to-do list is easier when you can keep the small things from turning into bigger—and more expensive—ones. We’re here to answer your home repair and maintenance questions in real-time.

Want to learn more about balancing a ceiling fan, or any other household tips? Download the app if you haven’t already, and chat with a helpful, friendly Frontdoor Expert.

Frontdoor assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.