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Ceiling Fan Won’t Reverse Direction | 4 Things to Try

When you’ve become reliant on your ceiling fan’s reversibility to get the best out of your house’s heating, cooling, and air circulation systems, then it can be a pain when it suddenly refuses to reverse its direction. Here are four things you can try to remedy this problem.

  • Check nothing is blocking the switch
  • Make sure the wiring to the switch is not damaged
  • Test if the capacitor is faulty or broken
  • Check that it’s not a remote issue

1. Check There Is Nothing Blocking the Switch

Why This Stops the Fan Reversing

If you can’t get your fan to reverse direction, a possible reason is that the switch is dirty. This is very common, and luckily, it is a very easy issue to solve.

If there is a lot of dirt or another type of obstacle in the way of the switch, either on it or jammed in it, it can prevent the switch from moving all the way in one direction.

As a result of this, the fan does not switch directions because it does not recognize that you have flipped the switch.

How to Check if This Is the Problem

Checking to see if this is the problem is very simple.

The first thing you should do is check the switch itself. This is very easy to do since the switch is almost always on the outside of the fan and, therefore, does not require any disassembly to look at.

A white ceiling fan with reverse switch

Your fan might have the switch installed in the light fitting, in which can you will need to disassemble this to access it.

You should look for any obstacles such as debris and dirt that could impact your switch’s ability to flip completely. If there is anything, you should carefully clear it out.

You can also clean the switch completely. If dirt or other buildup is the cause of the issue, then cleaning it would allow your fan to switch directions again.

2. Look if the Wiring to the Switch Is Damaged

Why This Stops the Fan Reversing

If the switch itself is functional, then there could be an issue with the wiring. If your fan’s direction was able to reverse in the past, then it is possible that a wire has worn out. This is especially likely if your fan is older.

If this is the case and your directional switch’s wire is worn out, then the switch would not be able to function.

If your fan has never been able to switch directions, then it is possible that the fan was installed incorrectly. If the wires were connected incorrectly, then the directional switch would not be properly integrated into the fan and would be dysfunctional.

How to Check if This Is the Problem

If there is an issue with the fan’s wiring, then there are a couple of tell-tale signs.

Oftentimes, damage to the wiring in a fan will lead to it tripping the circuit breakers often.

Another sign is another indication of wiring issues, such as the fan’s lights are flickering or the fan is only intermittently operational, or it’s making a noise.

You could also check the wiring directly by removing the fan cover and light kit and using a voltage tester (amazon link), but remember to be careful while doing this especially if you suspect that you have a broken wire.

KAIWEETS Voltage Tester/Non-Contact Voltage Tester with Dual Range AC 12V-1000V/48V-1000V, Live/Null Wire Tester, Electrical Tester with LCD Display, Buzzer Alarm, Wire Breakpoint Finder-HT100 (Red)

Fixing the Issue

When it comes to wiring and other electrical components of ceiling fans, it is always good to first consider hiring a licensed professional such as an electrician. This is because working with wires is incredibly dangerous.

It might be a matter of replacing a length of wire and if you feel comfortable that this is the solution to the problem and that you are capable of the repair yourself, then you can go ahead and fix it. Just make sure you turn off the breaker or take out the fuse connected to the fan’s circuit.

3. Make Sure the Capacitor Is Working

Why This Stops the Fan Reversing

The fan’s capacitor is the piece that starts your fan and makes it spin.

It is possible for the capacitor to malfunction and even stop working. Sometimes, this results in the fan refusing to spin. In other cases, the fan will only spin in one direction.

The capacitor is in charge of giving the fan its initial direction. Therefore, a properly working capacitor would respond to the directional switch. 

Capacitor of the ceiling fan, Make sure the capacitor of the ceiling fan is working

A dysfunctional capacitor could ignore the directional switch and only rotate in one direction or even possibly switch directions randomly.

How to Check if This Is the Problem

Oftentimes, a malfunctioning capacitor has other tell-tale signs that it is not working properly. 

For one, if the fan does not move after turning it on and it requires you to push the blades to start them moving, it could be a sign that your capacitor isn’t working. On the other hand, this could also be a sign of a faulty motor.

A more obvious sign that your capacitor has a problem is if your fan switches speed randomly. This is because the capacitor is also in charge of setting the fan speed. If your speed settings are not working properly, then it is almost guaranteed that your capacitor is not working properly.

Fixing the Issue

Unfortunately, the only way to fix a broken capacitor is to replace it with a new one.

When getting a new capacitor, it is important to get one that is identical to the one your fan had, since this is the capacitor it was built to hold.

Like the wiring, it is highly recommended to hire a professional to replace it. If you are doing it yourself, you need to be sure that the power to the fan is completely switched off before working with it.

You will want to create a map of the wiring connected to the capacitor, which is located behind the light kit. You will then want to install it the same way the old capacitor was installed.

4. Ensure That It Is Not Just the Remote

Why This Stops the Fan Reversing

In the end, the problem may not even be with the fan itself. If direction can be controlled remotely, then it is important to make sure that your remote is working properly before checking the inner components of the fan.

It is likely obvious when the remote completely stops working since you would not be able to turn your fan on and off. 

On the other hand, it could be misleading if only the directional button was not working. This could give the illusion of your fan’s directional switch not working.

How to Check if This Is the Problem

Luckily, it is extremely easy to check if this is a problem.

As stated before, if your remote is entirely not working, you could press any button and it would not work. While it may come off as your fan not working, you would be able to manually turn the fan on.

The same is true if your directional button is not working. You could try manually switching the direction of the fan. If it switches, then there is likely an issue with your remote.

Fixing the Issue

There are two possible solutions if you find that you have a non-working remote. First, you could try replacing the batteries in the remote. It is entirely possible that the remote could have died and you haven’t realized it.

Replacing the old batteries of the remote of a ceiling fan

Those who are confident can open up the remote and check the sensor is not depressed (so that it would not respond to the button being pushed). You may be able to adjust the sensor or contact to solve this.

If that does not work, then your other option is to contact the manufacturer and get a replacement remote.


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