How to Repair a Bathroom Fan (2022)

Updated: Jun. 07, 2022

Replace a dead motor and improve air flow

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How to Repair a Bathroom Fan (1)Family Handyman

Fix your bath fan without replacing the entire unit and improve air flow with a first class vent system. You can replace a dead motor without tearing out the ceiling and replacing the whole thing. You can also improve venting and prevent roof rot by running the vent through the roof, and not leave it in the attic as was done by many contractors. Both improvements are easy. This article shows you how.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Time
A full day
Complexity
Intermediate
Cost
$51–100

Replace a dead motor

How to Repair a Bathroom Fan (2)

Photo 1: Remove the grille

Pull the grille down and pinch the springs to release them from the housing. Then vacuum out the dust so you can find the model number.

How to Repair a Bathroom Fan (3)

Photo 2: Remove the motor

Unplug the motor and remove the plate that supports it. The plate will tip out of the housing after you release a tab or remove a retaining screw.

(Video) How to replace or repair a bathroom fan

How to Repair a Bathroom Fan (4)

Photo 3: Install the new motor

Pull off the blower wheel and detach the motor by removing screws or nuts. Install the new motor and reattach the blower wheel.

If your bathroom fans are dead, here’s some good news: You don’t have to tear out the entire unit. Even if you fan is decades old, chances are you can get a replacement motor. Although a new motor costs about the same as a new fan, a bathroom vent fan motor replacement saves time and trouble. You don’t have to cut into the ceiling, crawl around your attic or get up on your roof. It usually takes less than an hour.

Your first step is to get the fan’s model number. Remove the fan grille (Photo 1) and vacuum away the dust to find the number on a label or stamped on the fan’s housing. But don’t order a new motor until you remove the old one. You might need other parts too.

Bath fans vary in design, but motor replacement requires the same basic steps, no matter which brand or model you have. Turn off the power to the fan at the main breaker panel. Then unplug the fan and remove the motor plate (Photo 2). Some motor plates release by pressing or prying on the side of the fan housing. Others are secured with a screw or two.

Before you can remove the motor from the plate, you have to get the blower off the motor’s shaft. This is often the toughest part of the whole project. An older metal blower might be fastened with a screw. Plastic blowers usually aren’t fastened at all, but simply slide off the shaft. Either way, removal may require some hard prying and pulling. If you wreck the blower while removing it, don’t worry. You can order a replacement at little cost. To install the new motor, simply reverse the removal process.

Run duct outside to prevent roof rot

How to Repair a Bathroom Fan (5)

Photo 1: Locate and cut the vent hole

Slice out a 4-1/4 in. circle of shingles centered on the marker screw. Then drill a starter hole for your jigsaw blade and cut out the roof sheathing.

How to Repair a Bathroom Fan (6)

Photo 2: Trim back shingles

Notch out the upper layer of shingles to fit around the vent’s hood. Remove any nails that will stop the vent’s flange from slipping under the shingles.

How to Repair a Bathroom Fan (7)

Photo 3: Install rigid duct

Fasten a 6-in. length of duct to the roof sheathing with three screws. Seal around the duct with roof cement.

(Video) Replace Your Bathroom Fan in 5 Minutes FLAT! NO Attic Access!

How to Repair a Bathroom Fan (8)

Photo 4: Set the vent hood

Slide the hood under the shingles. Cement the shingles to the vent’s flange. Fasten the lower edge of the flange with 1-1/4-in. roofing nails.

How to Repair a Bathroom Fan (9)

Photo 5: Connect the duct to the fan

Connect the flexible duct to the exhaust port with 1/2-in. sheet metal screws. If the port and duct aren’t the same size, use an elbow and reducer.

How to Repair a Bathroom Fan (10)

Photo 6: Connect the duct to the vent hood

Slip the insulation over the duct and secure it with a hose clamp. Connect and insulate the upper end of the duct the same way.

When there’s an attic above the bathroom, some installers take a shortcut: Instead of running the duct through the roof, they end the duct inside the attic. The result is that the fan fills the attic with moist air. That moisture feeds wood rot. In winter, frost forms in the attic and as the frost melts, water can damage the ceilings below.

If you don’t have a cap on your roof like the one shown in Photo 2, chances are your bath fan vents into the attic. Running a new duct up through the roof isn’t a complex job, but you will have to work in the attic and on the roof. Since you’re doing all that work anyway, consider replacing the fan.

An attic can get dangerously hot in summer, so work on a cool day. Wear a dust mask and eye protection. Bring a trouble light and a large scrap of plywood to use as a work platform. Here’s how to do the job with only two trips to the attic: On your first trip, measure the exhaust port diameter and pick a spot near the fan where you want the duct to exit the roof. Drive a screw up through the roof so you can find the location from outside. Then head for a home center. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A roof vent cap.
  • Aluminum duct the same size as the flexible duct. You only need about 6 in., so buy the shortest section available and cut it with a metal snips.
  • Two 6-in. hose clamps.
  • One tube of roofing cement.
  • 1-1/4-in. roofing nails and 1/2-in. sheet metal screws.
  • Flexible, insulated duct. Insulation prevents condensation from forming on or inside the duct. Home centers often carry only 4-in. insulated duct. If your fan has a 3-in. port, you can still use 4-in. duct by attaching a 3-in. elbow and a 3 x 4-in. reducer with 1/2-in. sheet metal screws as shown in Photo 5.

Install the roof vent cap as shown in Photos 1 – 4. Photos 5 and 6 show how to finish the job in the attic.

CAUTION!

Your roof may not look intimidating from the ground, but it will seem a lot higher and steeper when you climb on it. So don’t take on this project unless you feel safe and secure up there. Wear soft-soled shoes for good traction, make sure the roof is dry and stay clear of power lines. For increased safety, buy roof jacks at a home center. These metal brackets support a plank that keeps you and your tools on the roof. For the ultimate in safety gear, rent a roof harness. The harness connects to a rope that’s anchored to the roof.

(Video) How To Replace And Install A Bathroom Exhaust Fan To A Quiet Motion Sensor Exhaust Fan! DIY Tutorial

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Caulk gun
  • Drill bit set
  • Drill/driver - cordless
  • Pry bar
  • Utility knife

Trouble light

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • 4-in. flexible insulated duct
  • 6-in. hose clamps (2)
  • Aluminum duct
  • Roof cement (tube)
  • Roof vent cap
  • Roofing nails
  • Sheet metal screws

Originally Published: November 28, 2018

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FAQs

What causes a bathroom fan to stop working? ›

If it still isn't working, you might have a clogged exhaust duct. You can clean it with a broom handle that has a rag attached on the end. You can also buy duct cleaning rods that can curve or make 90 degree bends to clean your ducts. Wet-dry vacuums can also work to clean shorter ducts.

How do you fix a broken bathroom fan? ›

How to replace or repair a bathroom fan - YouTube

Is it easy to fix a bathroom fan? ›

A project like this normally doesn't involve doing any electrical wiring—most fan motors simply plug into a receptacle mounted inside the housing. If your bathroom fan stops working, replacing the fan motor is an easy fix that you can do yourself in under an hour.

Can you repair a bathroom extractor fan? ›

Clogging of the motor puts stress on the bearings and results in them working harder than needed. It's usually not worth repairing a bathroom extractor fan if it has broken. It's usually more economical to have it replaced with a new one.

How much does it cost to fix bathroom fan? ›

How much do bathroom fan repairs cost? Bathroom fan repair projects typically range from $75-$200. The cost is based on the type of repairs that need to be completed, the accessibility of the unit, and the condition of its ducts and wiring.

Can I replace a bathroom fan myself? ›

Whether you need to install a new wall bathroom exhaust fan or a ceiling bathroom exhaust fan, bathroom fan installation is a project you can do yourself.

Do I need an electrician to replace a bathroom fan? ›

Installing a bathroom fan in a room that doesn't currently have one is a significant job because you'll need to have an experienced contractor fit the wiring and run air ducts to vent the air out of the room through the wall or roof. You'll need to have an electrician request the permit and install the fan for you.

How long do bathroom fans last? ›

Typically, bathroom exhaust fans have a lifespan of about 10 years, provided they receive proper care and maintenance.

Who should I call to fix bathroom exhaust fan? ›

If your extractor fan continues to be faulty after giving it a clean, you should get a qualified electrician in to fix it. Why is my bathroom extractor fan not working? Due to the amount of hot air that the fan filters out, the blades can collect dust and dirt resulting in it becoming faulty.

How do you reset a bathroom extractor fan? ›

Best Way To Reset A Bathroom Exhaust Fan Light Cover ... - YouTube

Where is the fuse in a bathroom extractor fan? ›

The box you are describing does not contain a fuse. It's called a fan isolator. These are put in so that the fan can be switched off without having to turn the entire lighting circuit off. Inside there is a permanent live, used for the timer function, a switched live connected to the light and a neutral.

How long do bathroom exhaust fans last? ›

Typically, bathroom exhaust fans have a lifespan of about 10 years, provided they receive proper care and maintenance.

How do you reset a bathroom extractor fan? ›

Best Way To Reset A Bathroom Exhaust Fan Light Cover ... - YouTube

How do you test a bathroom exhaust fan? ›

A simple way to test your fan's suction is to take a single square of toilet paper and place it along the fan vent while the fan is running. If the fan holds up the toilet paper, then the fan is working properly.

Do bathroom exhaust fans need to be cleaned? ›

Bathroom exhaust vent fans need to be cleaned regularly. It's very important to have an exhaust fan that's vented to the outside in every bathroom in your home, and to run it whenever you shower or bathe and for 15-20 minutes afterward to remove excess moisture that can cause mold and mildew to form.

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