Isn’t it annoying when you tug on your ceiling fan’s pull switch, and the light decides you’re better off surrounded by darkness?
Pretty much every ceiling fan+light owner has, at some point, stumbled across a similar situation where their ceiling fan works, but the light doesn’t.
There’s usually a simple explanation and an even simpler solution to the situation.
One that doesn’t require you to glare at the non-functional appliance, willing it to work!
Or call a handy (but costly) repair person.
I’ll walk you through every step of the repair process so that you can have your “let there be light” moment with a few quick twists of mechanical tape and a screwdriver!
Why Aren’t the Ceiling Fan Lights Turning On?
A ceiling fan’s lights are like all other light fixtures around the house—eventually, they burn out, necessitating replacement.
Switching out a burned-out light bulb is pretty simple, right?
Here’s the kicker.
Some problems with these fixtures aren’t as straightforward as we would like them to be.
What do you do in that case? Troubleshoot, of course!
Let’s start with the basics.
In my experience, the ceiling fan’s circuitry contains hints that help you identify the problem.
If your fan’s been working round-the-clock, then the heat generated by the motor may have led to an overheating of the wires.
The resulting contracting-expanding reaction would cause the wiring to burn out, leading to a short-circuit.
Wall Switch Wiring Malfunction and Loose Wire Connections
Many times, poorly done wiring connections lead to electrical wire malfunctions.
When two wires aren’t properly joined and secured with properly sized wire nuts, the heat generated causes wires to come loose.
If your previous electrician or installer used electrical tape, please be sure to replace this with wire nuts.
If wire nuts were used, it’s possible that insufficient copper wire was threaded through the nut to keep it solidly in place.
Damaged Light Sockets
Light sockets can corrode when they come in contact with rusty light bulbs.
The result? Problems in the metal housing.
When the time comes to replace the old bulb with a new one, chances are it won’t turn on.
That’s because the bulb and the socket are not aligned properly or because the metal housing is rusted over.
Broken Pull Chain
Kids absolutely love to play with a ceiling fan’s pull chain, i.e. jumping from the bed to try and turn it on. You know you did it yourself several times, too!
Excessive tugging on the pull chain can disturb the wiring connection or cause damage to the light kit.
Simply put, pull chains are fun and lend to our fan’s an authentic look.
They also bring out our inner child. But they’re more susceptible to wear and tear throughout the years than other parts of the fan.
Damaged Lighting Kit
In newer lighting designs, ceiling fans come with an attachable lighting kit so you can personalize your home.
I actually own a Harbor Breeze Light Kit. It’s an alabaster light case that can be attached to my ceiling fan.
If your Harbor Breeze ceiling fan light isn’t working, chances are the new lighting kit is the problem.
In most cases, lighting kits are already attached to the ceiling fan, making it harder to repair.
But don’t worry!
In both cases, you’ll just need to inspect the wires within the lighting kit for burnt wires connecting to the socket. More on this below…
I’m not here to judge how and why your remote broke. But let’s assume it found its way to the floor rather ungracefully.
In this situation, it’s clear that a broken remote is the cause, not the wiring, ceiling fan, light bulb or lighting kit.
How to Troubleshoot and Repair
Preparation for Illumination!
How many people does it take to replace a light bulb? Just one…you, and my guide!
Depending on the cause, here’s everything you should have on hand to have your ceiling fan and light working in no time.
- Voltage Reader/Detector
- New wires
- New Light Sockets
Before beginning with repairs, always turn off the circuit breaker so there’s no chance you’ll get electrocuted.
Repairing Wall Switches to Electrical Box
Begin by checking the wall switch.
Use the screwdriver to loosen all the screws, then detach the switch housing and expose the wiring.
Attach the voltage reader’s rod to the bottom screw and check the reading.
Now repeat with the top screw.
Flip the switch to the “on” position and place the rod on the screw connecting to the ceiling fan.
In each of these three instances, the voltage reader should read 120 volts.
In the case of a Hampton Bay ceiling fan light not working, chances are the voltage went over 190 watts, causing the in-built watt regulator to malfunction.
On the other hand, a Hunter ceiling fan light not working may mean that the wires are not capped properly with wire nuts.
If it was manufactured between 2009 to 2019, then it has a wattage limiter like those in Hampton Bay models.
If your voltage reader does not register any voltage, then you have one of three potential issues:
- a detached wire
- a burnt wire from the breaker to the switch
- a burnt wire from the switch to the ceiling fan
The above are complex repairs that only an experienced electrician should handle. Drat.
Repairing Loose Wire Connections
With a screwdriver, remove the top portion of the ceiling fan (the canopy), which covers the wiring.
With the voltage tester, rest the rods against each wire to determine if there’s an electrical current.
You should check the connectors of the wires to see if anything is disconnected.
If so, tighten these connectors to ensure power can go through.
Remember to always turn off the breaker while you do these repairs.
Light switches and fan switches are different so that you can control them independently of each other.
If this is the case, a red wire should be attached to the light kit’s blue, red, or black-white wires (wiring color varies depending on your ceiling fan’s manufacturer.)
Damaged Light Sockets
Begin by switching off the electric supply.
Then inspect the light bulb socket to see if it is worn out or burned.
If it’s burned, then the wiring may need to be replaced.
If not, look for a blue wire in the canopy to check if it’s connected to the socket.
If the blue wire is not the problem, it’s time to remove the mounting screws. Doing so will give you better access to the light socket.
Once done, gently pull the light socket away from the ceiling fan terminals and unscrew the wires.
Ensure that the new socket has the same amperage and voltage as the original.
Otherwise, you risk a fire, and we do not want that!
Lastly, with your screwdriver, attach the new light socket.
Damaged Lighting Kit
In modern units, a light kit is attached to the fan by a simple plug.
In most Hunter Lighting Kits, a plug socket running from the kit to the ceiling fan can be found in the center.
Unscrew the kit from the ceiling fan and check for unconnected or burnt wires.
If a wire is unconnected, simply use your screwdriver to connect these wires properly.
However, if there are burnt wires, you will likely need to replace the entire lighting kit by ordering parts from the manufacturer.
Broken Pull Chain
While the chain is handy, sometimes it needs some love. It might cause a ceiling fan to make noise or stop working at all!
Replacing a pull chain is pretty straightforward.
Disconnect the pull chain by unscrewing the nut holding the pull chain to the light kit.
Replace the pull chain with a new one and connect to the black wires found within the lighting kit.
In most cases, a ceiling fan light not working with remote likely means that your batteries have run out.
If changing batteries didn’t solve your problem, then it needs resetting.
To reset it, press and hold the “off” button for 30 seconds or refer to your ceiling fan’s manual on how to reset your specific remote.
Keep Your Ceiling Fan Lights in Shape!
Here are some pro-tips to keep your fan light kits well-maintained after installing!
- Always use new light bulbs to avoid socket rusting and corrosion
- Use your ceiling fan with the appropriate voltage limit
- Dust your ceiling fan from time to time
- Clean the fan motor and lubricate it
Troubleshooting the Entire Ceiling Fan
Here are some common problems that we all have encountered some way or somehow!
Watch this YouTube video to effectively troubleshoot your ceiling fan by yourself!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Alexa and Echo turn off my ceiling fan lights for me if the switches are broken?
Yes, you can!
If your current ceiling fan isn’t a smart one, you’ll need a third-party wireless hub or a smart remote control kit.
Is It Safe to Customize My Ceiling Fan While I Do Repairs?
That depends. If you’re painting non-electrical parts of the fan, then go for it!
However, if you’re planning on changing the light fixtures with different voltages of any sort, then I’d advise against it.
When you ceiling fan is working, but the lights aren’t it’s a major conundrum.
But now that you’re equipped with all the basics of how to decode and troubleshoot your ceiling fan’s light woes and make basic repairs yourself, this is one less question that will keep you up at night (after you’ve turned out the light of course!).