Do you want to know how to properly oil a bathroom exhaust fan?
After 5-10 years, fan motors slow down (and may burn out) due to gunk buildup. Applying oil to the bearings can make them run like new.
In this guide, I will go over how to...
- Remove the bathroom fan
- Clean it of dust & debris
- Inspect the oil wick bearing
- Correctly apply oil to the bearing
Let's get started with this guide!
Oiling an old bathroom exhaust fan can help it come back to life --- running like new.
However, newer fans may have permanently lubricated motors, so there may not be any oil ports (holes) for you to add oil.
Also, adding oil to a permanently lubricated motor may damage the motor or void a warranty. Please use your best judgement.
#1. Shut Off Power
The first step in oiling a bathroom fan is to shutoff the power to the bathroom. Simply locate the right breaker at the electrical panel box and flip it.
In order to properly oil the fan motor, the motor and housing will have to be removed from the ceiling, and this means undoing the electrical wiring --- so you don't want to get shocked.
To verify that the power is off, try to turn on the bathroom fan at the wall switch. If the bathroom fan doesn't turn on, then you know the power is off.
You can also take the additional step of touching (or getting near) the wiring with a non-contact voltage tester before you uninstall the electrical wires.
#2. Remove The Fan Cover
The second step is to remove the bathroom fan cover.
All you have to do is pull down on the plastic cover a few inches until you feel some resistance --- around 1-3 inches. After it is pulled down, the two metal clips will be visible.
With your fingers, squeeze the metal clips --- this will set the cover free from the housing.
#3. Remove The Fan Assembly
Now it is time to remove the actual fan from the ceiling in order to get to the motor.
The fan & motor assembly will usually be clipped into an outer housing that is secured to the joists.
You will have to remove one or two clips and 1-3 screws in order to remove the fan assembly.
#4. Unplug Motor Or Disconnect Wiring
The older fans may have an actual plug that goes into an outlet in the fan assembly such as with the ubiquitous Broan 600 series bathroom fan.
Before pulling out the fan assembly, simply pull out the electrical plug.
If there is no plug, then proceed to remove the fan assembly.
Now is the time to disconnect the electrical wiring. Make a note of which wire connects to which --- usually black to black and white to white for a basic exhaust fan --- as well as green for ground.
Read Also: Is Your Bathroom Fan Leaking When It Rains?
#5. Disassemble The Motor & Fan Blade
Before you can oil the motor bearings or even properly clean anything --- you will first have to remove the motor and fan blades from the metal frame.
It's a good idea to take pictures of the fan with your phone so you can remember where all of the parts go so you can put it back together without problems.
For my Broan 600 series fan, to remove the fan blades, all I had to do was twist and pull. There wasn't a clip to hold it in place.
After removing the fan blade, I just had to remove two bolts holding the motor and two bearings together.
Once the motor is disassembled, you may want to clean the motor, the cover, and the fan blades before you apply oil.
Read Also: Best Rated Quiet Bathroom Exhaust Fans
#6. Clean the Cover, Motor, And Bearing
When the exhaust fan is poorly maintained & dirty, it won’t suck the air in. This often has to do with debris, lint, and gunk lodged inside. As a home inspector, I report on dirty bathroom fan covers due to the fire risk of an overheated motor.
To make sure this isn’t a long-term problem, please take the time to clean each component thoroughly.
The most common mistake people make is to start oiling right away. Yes, you may be eager to begin but it’s important to take a step back and clean everything.
To do this correctly, use a sturdy toothbrush or vacuum cleaner (handheld preferably). This allows you to clean the different components while making sure nothing gets damaged.
For the blade, you should wash it separately with soap.
While cleaning, keep an eye out for the shaft that’s holding the motor. This area can go unnoticed and should be cleaned as well.
Once everything has been scrubbed, it’s time to organize each part. You want to lay them down ensuring all sides can be oiled.
#7. Apply Oil To Bearing
This is what you’ve been waiting for, it’s time to oil the bathroom exhaust fan.
The most common mistake is just to lubricate the shaft of the fan motor and think you are done—this will help the fan for only a brief period like a week.
In order to truly oil the fan as close to the manufacturer as possible, you will have to add oil to the oil wick bearing.
Once you remove the shaft of the fan motor, look for the oil wick bearing. There will be some fuzzy material sticking out — this is the felt which must be oiled. If the bearing has a lot of gunk, clean the bearing first with some Q-tips.
Carb cleaner works great for this which comes in a spray can. Take the fan motor outside and spray it with carb cleaner. Make sure it has dried before adding oil to the bearing.
There also may be an actual oil port (a round hole) where you can apply oil. With my Broan 600 series fan, I added oil to the oil port and to the rear side holes.
Just make sure the bearing is clean first before adding about a teaspoon of oil.
My favorite light oil for fans is 3-In-One Motor Oil.
3-In-One Motor Oil is a high grade oil for lubricating small electric motors. It has a higher viscosity (it's thicker) which means it will extend the life of your fan motor.
#8. Align The Shaft
After you have re-assembled the motor, it is time to re-align the shaft.
The bearings are flexible, so once you reinstalled the motor, you will need to gently tap on the shaft with the end of a screwdriver in every direction.
Twist the shaft so it spins freely --- then tap again in all directions one more time.
Check again that the shaft is spinning freely.
#9. Reinstall The Fan
Now that the bearing is oiled, and have realigned the shaft, its time to reinstall the fan assembly into the ceiling.
Reconnect the electrical wiring the same way it was before, and screw the fan assembly into the housing.
Flip the breaker back on at the electrical panel box.
What's The Bottom Line On Oiling A Bath Fan?
So, there you have it.
Properly oiling a bathroom exhaust fan can be a tricky thing to manage. Many homeowners refrain from oiling it and allow the problem to continue for years if not decades until it stops working.
Neglecting to oil a bathroom exhaust fan isn't only bad for the motor, it can even lead to a fire if the fan overheats.
Many homeowners incorrectly think that they can just oil the motor shaft rather than the bearing. Always remember to oil the fan bearing at least every 5 years.