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If Your Air Conditioner Fan Is Not Spinning, Use These Tips to Fix It

When your air conditioner fan is not turning, not only will your home become hot and humid, your system will need to be diagnosed and repaired. Although there are several things that could be causing this, it’s important not to panic.

Your air conditioner fan may not be spinning because there’s debris stuck under one of the blades. You could also have a bad capacitor or a faulty motor. There might be also another reason contributing to the problem.

If you’re inexperienced with this sort of thing, let the information below help you diagnose your air conditioner’s problem.

There may be debris near your blades

One of the first things that you should check is whether there’s any debris near your fan blades.

It’s possible that something got stuck in there and is stopping them from moving. For example, a branch from a nearby tree may have gotten lodged in your blades. Or a bird could’ve placed their nest near it.

That being said, make sure to turn off the power to your system before checking for this. Otherwise, the fan could turn on once you clear the blockage and hurt your hand.

Once you’ve turned the power off, you can remove the top of the air conditioner cabinet. Then, use your hand or a long stick to dislodge any objects that you see.

Try to give your fan a push

If there is no blockage near your fan blades, you can slide a long, thin wooden stick through the fan grate and push on one of the blades gently. This may help to get it started.

But if you’re going to do that, don’t use any conductive metal or material. Doing so could lead to a serious injury.

If the fan keeps going after you do this, then it means it has a problem starting up but not running. That indicates your issue lies in your capacitor.

But if the fan doesn’t start running after you do this, you likely have a bad fan motor. Or you have a serious debris problem that’s wrapped around the fan axle or motor bearings.

Your capacitor could be the reason your air conditioner fan is not spinning

The purpose of a capacitor is to store energy. There are a lot of things that can contribute to your capacitor breaking down on you. If this part has failed, you shouldn’t run your system until you fix it.

That’s because the fan is needed to keep your compressor cool. Without it, your system could quickly overheat, which could cause damage that can’t be fixed.

There are some visual cues you can look at to see whether your capacitor has an issue as well. These include:

  • Cracks in the capacitor
  • Bulging
  • Oozing liquid from the capacitor and circuit board

Can you replace a faulty capacitor yourself?

If you want to do it by yourself, it will only cost you somewhere between $13 and $55.

However, most people probably shouldn’t replace a bad capacitor on their own. You’d be dealing with a high voltage system that you need to be able to interact with safely. Even a small mistake could result in a serious injury or even death.

If you choose to replace it yourself, you can read the necessary steps here.

A burned-out motor might be causing your air conditioner fan to not work

Over time, the motor in your air conditioner goes through the basic wear and tear and will eventually burn out. When this happens, your air conditioner fan will quit spinning.

You have two options. You can call and have a professional technician help you, or you can invest in a brand-new system. If your unit is an older system, it might be time to start shopping.

Most AC fan motors last anywhere from 10 to 17 years. However, if you perform regular maintenance, you can prevent the chance of your air conditioner fan from breaking down and not spinning. This includes changing the filter at least once every two to three months and using a soft brush to clean the coils on the inside of your unit.

Do I need a fan motor replacement?

You may or may not need to replace your fan motor. If the capacitor looks fine and you’re still having this issue, then replacing the fan motor makes sense.

All-in the cost for replacing a fan motor is between $250 and $480.

Contactor problems can result in your central air conditioner fan not working

If you’re unsure as to what your air conditioner’s contactor switch is, it’s a switch located on the inside of your unit that ensures that there is enough voltage being provided to control the compressor as well as the condenser fan motor.

When this switch goes bad, your air conditioner’s fan will not spin. This is another issue that will need professional assistance unless you have experience repairing air conditioning systems.

If your air conditioner fan is not spinning, the problem could be a faulty belt

Another problem that may cause your air conditioner fan to not spin might be a belt that has either broken or become loose. Most of the air conditioning systems that use belts are outdated units.

Replacing this part is not too hard, but when the belt does slip off or break, it usually means that your unit is getting old. You may want to think about replacing the whole system.

If you do decide to replace your air conditioner’s belt, you’ll want to look in the owner’s manual to be sure you get the right size. These belts can be purchased at most home improvement stores and are fairly easy to replace if you have the right tools.

A blocked air filter may be the culprit in why your air conditioner fan is not spinning

When your air conditioner’s filter is dirty, filthy and clogged, airflow can’t go through the filter, and ice will begin to accumulate on it. As a result, this puts more stress on your unit’s fan as well as the other parts of the machine.

In addition to this, some systems have a built-in feature that will automatically shut down the fan when it detects that the filter is dirty or blocked.

If you are unsure as to what kind of filter your system requires, you have two options. You can take your old filter to your local home improvement store, or you can look in your owner’s manual. It’s also important to make sure that you get the right-sized filter. A filter that’s not a proper fit can obstruct airflow and put more stress on your air condition fan. After an extended period of time, your fan can break or stop working.

When your air conditioner’s outside fan is not working, inspect the motor bearings

If all else fails, check to see if there is a problem with your air conditioner’s motor bearings. The bearings make it possible for the fan to spin. If the bearings are jammed and have acquired debris on them, then the fan can get stuck. This will in return, put more stress on the motor, which could also lead to the motor being burned out.

To lube up your bearings, you’ll want to first start by shutting down the power. This includes unplugging your air conditioning unit and turning off the breaker that provides power to it.

Once you have the power off, remove the panels and insert oil into the lubrication ports on the motor. Give the blades a spin. If all works well, put the panels back on, reconnect the power and start your air conditioner.

Replacing a faulty air conditioner capacitor

If you have a faulty air conditioner capacitor, then you’ll need to replace it to get your system back to normal. We’ve included instructions on how to do that below.

1. Turn off the power

The first thing you need to do is turn off the power to your air conditioner. Otherwise, you’ll put yourself at risk while working on it.

To turn off the unit power, you need to disconnect it from the breaker panel. This should be mounted outside the house within a few feet of the condensing unit.

You can double-check to make sure the power is really off by using a circuit alert device on it. This will 100% confirm that you’re not working on a device with live power.

2. Find and inspect the capacitor

The next step is locating the capacitor and taking a look at it. You can do that by following these steps:

  1. Take off the AC unit’s service panel.
  2. Look for a round or oval, typically silver-colored component with several prongs on top for wire connections. This is your start capacitor.
  3. Take a closer look at the pronged area of the capacitor. Is it raised or domed?
  4. If it is, you likely have a blown capacitor.

Most of the time, when a capacitor goes out, its shape deforms. Often, the top of it will be pushed up or swollen.

3. Discharge the power in the capacitor

Once you’ve located the capacitor, you need to shut off the power in it. This is separate from the power to the air conditioning unit as a whole.

Make sure not to touch two of the terminals at the same time with your hand. Doing so could shock you. Additionally, an old capacitor could start a fire in your trash can if you don’t discharge it before removing it.

That’s why you need to place a screwdriver with an insulated handle across the terminals. This will discharge the capacitor power, making it safe to remove.

4. Dismount the old capacitor

Now you’re ready to dismount the faulty capacitor. This is typically a pretty straightforward process. You just need to remove the screw that’s mounting the unit from its metal band.

5. Make sure you know how the wires connect

Before disconnecting the capacitor, make a diagram of how the wires are connected to it. Note the colors of the wires while doing this.

You want to have this information ready to go. That way, it’s super easy to install the new capacitor once you get ready for that step.

6. Disconnect the old capacitor

Now you’re ready to disconnect the old capacitor from the AC unit. You can do this by removing the wires that connect it to the unit with needle-nosed pliers.

You might find that the wires are pretty tight when you try to do this. If so, don’t yank on them. Use a slow rocking motion to pull them out slowly.

7. Pick a replacement

Finally, you’re ready to pick a replacement capacitor and install it. When shopping for a new capacitor, there are a few things to pay attention to.

First, make sure that the micro-farads and the voltage rating match what your system needs. The size and the shape of the capacitor are less important than this.

You need to match the micro-farad number exactly. But the voltage rating on the new capacitor doesn’t have to be exactly the same as the old one. You can use a slightly higher voltage rating if you need to.

Also, the brand that you choose for this isn’t super important. You can get a generic capacitor at any common hardware store, such as Home Depot or Lowe’s. Don’t worry about matching the brand of your new capacitor to your old one.

While shopping, you may want to consider picking up a second capacitor as a backup just in case you need it. These are fairly cheap, and it’ll save you time if this happens again in the future.

Michael Joseph

Rita Westfall

Wednesday 1st of June 2022

My fan stopped turning on ac today. I turned it off for a hour. Turned it back on and turned the fan with a stick and it’s working now. What could be wrong with it?

Gary

Saturday 18th of June 2022

Start up capacitor, dangerous to replace your self, service and part at the most $200.

Scott

Thursday 20th of August 2020

My fan doesn't spin when I start the air conditioner up via the thermostat control but if i take a screwdriver and give the fan a push it start spinning. What's the problem and fix

Vicki

Sunday 9th of June 2019

I turned on our a/c unit and the fan keeps shutting of on the unit outside. The unit is blowing cold air. What could the problem be?

Gina

Saturday 11th of May 2019

Hi Michael, what could be a cause for an outdoor fan that starts with the AC unit but stops after the unit has run awhile (maybe 20-25 minutes)? The fan is loose and not bound. The motor is only about 6 months old because I replaced it due to this issue, but the issue is still happening. Thanks for any tips on what to try, Gina

Karen C.

Wednesday 10th of July 2019

I am having the same problem. When fan stops spinning...Turn a/c unit off for a few minutes, then back on and fan spins for awhile.

Gene Phoenix

Monday 20th of May 2019

I got same problem !