Bathroom Extractor Fan Not Working? (here’s why)

For the most part, we ignore the extractor fan in the bathroom. It’s just a slight noise in the background which we take for granted. That is until it stops working, then we notice the effects of the extractor fan’s inactivity.

In this article we’ll be looking at the reasons why the bathroom extractor fan could have stopped working. As well as ways to fix it and prevent it from breaking down in the first place.

How Does A Bathroom Extractor Fan Work?

The extractor fan fitted into your bathroom has one primary function, that is to remove moisture from your bathroom. It should work in conjunction with an open window or other vent which replaces the moist air removed from the room with fresh air. The extractor fan is basically a fan set into a pipe connected to the outside of your home.

The fan blades are angled to remove air from the bathroom and force that air outside your home. Extractor fans can be fitted into the ceiling, wall or window of your bathroom. Depending on where it is installed, it relies on ducting to transport the warm, moist air or steam from your bathroom and deposit it outside of your home from a vent set in the wall, a small chimney set in the roof or a vent in the window.

Why Is The Extractor Fan Not Working?

There are several reasons why the extractor fan has stopped working, anything from old age to general maintenance. It could be;

  • An accumulation of dust and debris
  • Wiring problems
  • Faulty or failed motor
  • Blown fuse or circuit breaker tripped
  • Faulty switch

A Buildup Of Dust And Debris

Every time you take a bath or shower, hot, humid air and dust particles pass through your extractor fan. This creates the ideal breeding ground for bacteria, mildew and mould. If you never clean the extractor fan out, it will become blocked which will eventually stop the fan from working.

Once the fan gets obstructed, the motor will continue to try to spin the fan and eventually the motor will burn out. However, before the fan stops working altogether, there will be a time when the extractor fan is working but not as well as it once did. This is your window of opportunity to give it a thorough clean out and maybe prevent it from breaking down.


This stage could be avoided altogether by simply adding the extractor fan into your regular cleaning routine in the bathroom. All you need to do is ensure the power supply is off and remove the lid of the extractor and clean as much of the dust and debris from the fan blades, the joint between the fan blades and the motor, the vent itself and as much of the ducting as you can reach.

But the most important parts are the fan blades and the point where they join the motor. We would suggest using a soft lint-free cloth and a small amount of window cleaner or white vinegar. With the power off, check that the blades are spinning freely and remove anything which is inhibiting them.

Wiring Problems

If you suspect that loose wiring could be causing the problem, check the wiring which connects the switch to the motor. If it has become loose, just retighten the screws after ensuring the wires are fitted into the connectors correctly. If the wiring all looks good and it’s not loose, then this isn’t the problem.

Defective Motor

Bathroom Extractor Fan Motor

If you’ve ruled out dirty fan blades or faulty wiring, it’s likely to be the motor itself which is at fault. You can buy replacement motors from DIY or electrical stores, and fit them yourself. It’s a relatively simple task, just unscrew the old motor and remove it and replace it with a new one. But unless you are electrically minded, it might be a job best left to an electrician in the interest of safety.

Alternatively you can pick up a decent extractor fan for a relatively small amount so it can make better financial sense to replace the entire unit. This can be done by anyone with basic DIY knowledge or left to an electrician if you don’t feel confident or competent.

It could also be that the motor needs lubricating with some light machine oil at each end of the motor shaft. 

Be careful to not use too much oil, just use a few drops and try to turn the fan by hand with the power still off to ensure the oil gets worked in properly.

Blown Fuse/Circuit Breaker Tripped

To remedy this issue all you need to do is check in the fuse box for a blown fuse or a circuit breaker that has tripped. Replace the fuse or reset the circuit breaker and you could have solved the problem. But beware, it might go again.

In all honesty, if the fuse has blown or the circuit breaker has tripped, you need to think about why it’s blown. What could cause an extractor fan which has presumably been working fine for some time, to suddenly blow the fuse? We would definitely recommend calling in a qualified electrician to investigate this.

Faulty Switch

Extractor fans are usually wired up to the light switch in some way. As soon as you pull the light cord in your bathroom, the light comes on and at the same time, the extractor fan comes on too. The extractor fan is often set with a timer which means that it will keep running for a set period of time even after the light has been switched off.

Again, you need to think about the fact that if the light is still working, but the extractor fan isn’t, could you do anything about that yourself, safely? We would recommend calling an electrician at this stage in the interest of safety.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why has my bathroom fan stopped working?

If your bathroom fan has stopped working it could be the fuse has blown or the circuit breaker has tripped, or it could be the motor has packed up, or the fan blades are too clogged with dust and debris.

How do you fix a bathroom fan that won’t spin?

To fix a bathroom fan that won’t spin you should clean the fan, vent and duct and then you could try applying a few drops of machine oil to each end of the motor shaft. If this all fails, it’s likely that the motor has burnt out and will need replacing.

How long do Bathroom extractor fans last?

Bathroom extractor fans have a typical life expectancy of 10 years.

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