AC Fan Quit Working? Here's How You Restart it

If your air conditioner's fan quits working, clean the unit and check the run capacitor for problems. The run capacitor sends or relays power to the unit's fan motor during operation. Sometimes, dirt builds up inside the capacitor and power to the fan motor. Dirt, grass and weeds can also disrupt the unit's performance by blocking the flow of air around and in it. If these things happen, your cooling system fails and requires major repairs or a replacement. There are things you can do on your own to repair and restart the fan, including these below.

Clean the Fan and Sides of the AC Unit

The first and most important thing to do before cleaning the fan and unit is turn off the power to your cooling system from the outside power switch or at the breaker box. You can receive electrical shocks if you don't do so.

You'll need a thick, dry cloth and soft-bristled brush for the job. Don't use a wet cloth because you may touch the electrical wiring attached the fan and shock your skin. The sides or panels of the unit cover very delicate parts called fins, which can break or bend under pressure. A soft-bristled brush, such as boar's hair, glides over and under the panels easily. 

Once you have your items, follow the steps below:

  1. Remove the fan from the unit with a manual or electrical screwdriver. The fan connects directly to the top of the unit, so be very careful when you handle it. 
  2. Use the cloth to wipe down the fan's blades very carefully. Avoid placing pressure along the edges of the blades, or you may cut your hand.
  3. Replace the fan, then use the brush to clean the sides of the unit. 
  4. Use an electrical weeder or your hands to clear away any grass and weeds from around the base of the unit. 

Now, return power to the cooling system. Wait a few seconds to see if the fan motor starts back up. If it does, you've solved the problem. If not, you need to turn the unit's power back off and check the run capacitor.

Check & Clean the Run Capacitor

The run capacitor sits behind a small black silver, or gray panel near the top or center of the unit. You'll need to use the screwdriver to remove the panel. Once you remove the panel, look for a silver or gray cylinder-shaped device attached to plugs and colorful wires, which are typically red, yellow and purple. The wires and plugs are also labeled with the names of the internal parts they operate. 

Now, follow the steps below:

  1. Pull the capacitor out its holding spot. You may need to unscrew the bolts that secure it inside the panel. 
  2. Look for the wire that attaches to the power plug designated "fan" and pull it out. If the plug appears soiled or covered with dirt, use the end of your cleaning cloth to remove it.
  3. Wipe down the wire, then reconnect it to the plug. Don't leave it unplugged, or you can confuse it with the other wires later.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 with the other wires and plugs.

Put the capacitor back into place, then cover it with the panel. Turn on the cooling system's power. If the fan comes on, you completed the repairs. If the fan stays off, contact your HVAC contractor. 

If you need additional services or help with your outdoor unit's fan, contact a reputable HVAC contractor in your area like Jones Air Conditioning & Electric. Your contractor can inspect the capacitor and fan to see if there's something else wrong with them.