TL;DR - Installed a light kit in two existing fans that both used to work. Lights now work, fan hums, but blades don't spin.

Here's what I did:

Just moved into a house that had ceiling fans already installed (and controlled by a wall switch) but didn't have lights. The fans both worked fine. I thought "that's easy, I'll grab some light kits at Home Depot and install them." Pop open each of the fan assemblies, connect the blue and white wires, flip the switch...no lights. Still fan, but no lights.

Hmm, problem must be higher up. So I get into where the fan is mounted to the ceiling and sure enough, the blue wire for the lighting is tucked away and not connected to anything. Since there is only one switch per fan (no separate switch for lights), I connect the blue wire to the existing black wire connections, screw everything back together, flip the power back on and now I have lights but no fans. I can hear the hum of the fan on each of the three speeds, but blades don't spin.

I also did this to both fans. I did the first and tested it but really was just testing to see if the lights worked, I didn't think to re-check the fans at that point. So the problem exists on both. Based on what I've been reading it seems like it may be the capacitor in the fan assembly, but the fact that this happened to both of these when I installed the lights makes me think the fix might be more than "buy a new capacitor."

Also, if I disconnect the blue and black wires for the lights in the fan assembly the fans still do not work. I haven't tried disconnecting the blue and black up in the ceiling yet (it's a huge PITA to get up there) but I feel like disconnecting in the assembly should be enough to kill that circuit.

Any ideas?

[UPDATE] FYI, the fans in question are Casablanca Airflow 1040 fans. I think this is the relevant manual. The blue lighting wire is also labeled "D1 Option" but I can't seem to figure out what that means.

  • Could you provide the model# of the fans. What you did sounds correct but some fans have multiple field windings so the 3 speeds are almost doubled with 1 of the wires compared to the other. With both connected at the same time the fan will not work. I have only seen this type of fan a few times but the model will allow us to look them up. – Ed Beal Oct 30 '16 at 15:10
  • @EdBeal that is a good question, and one I can't answer with 100% certainty since I didn't buy the fans. However, there are owners manuals in the garage for a Hampton Bay Gazebo (model 284-411) so I'm pretty sure they are those. When I look on top of the fan motor I see a gold sticker with "Airflow 1040 11" but I have a feeling that's just the motor and not the fan itself. – Matt Dodge Oct 30 '16 at 16:34
  • 1
    I looked it up and it did show the black and blue connected like you did. Can you freely spin the fan? – Ed Beal Oct 30 '16 at 18:10
  • @EdBeal Yeah, the blades spin freely. I even tried spinning them to get the motor a "head start" but it never catches, they just spin until friction takes over. – Matt Dodge Oct 31 '16 at 2:38
  • @EdBeal actually, correction, the Airflow 1040 is the model number of this fan, it's not a Hampton Bay. Apparently Airflow is a division of Casablanca fans. Finding the manual is tough but I think this is it: hunterfan.com/SupportDocuments/OwnersManuals/Airflow.pdf The blue lighting wire did have a sticker on it that said "D1 Option" — does that give you any ideas? Thanks for the help by the way, appreciate it! – Matt Dodge Oct 31 '16 at 3:01
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Alright, figured it out thanks to the help of an electrician and about $50.

TL;DR on the solution - one fan had the forward/reverse switch in the middle, the other fan had a blown cap and a loose ground wire.

My main error was an incorrect assumption I made. Once both fans were wired up and both not working, I assumed that they must have both had the same problem. Upon making that assumption, I designated one fan to be my "tester fan" where I would diagnose the problem.

Turns out, the non-tester fan had a very simple fix which I had seen online and tested on the tester fan: make sure the forward/reverse blade direction switch is not in the middle. Needless to say, I felt pretty dumb when the electrician came in and flipped the switch and had my fan working in a matter of seconds after I had assumed it hadn't been working for 2 weeks.

The other fan's problem at least validated my trials a little bit. It turned out it needed a new capacitor for the motor and that there was a loose ground wire in the light kit assembly. In all likelihood, testing some voltages across the cap or in the light kit probably would have revealed the problem, but doing that proved a little more difficult than I thought as there weren't many exposed wires to test the voltages there.

Long story short, I learned:

  1. Don't assume that if two things are broken they are broken for the same reason
  2. Check your wire connections
  3. Doing a lot of prep and having things disassembled for the electrician will save you some cash on their hourly rate

Thanks again for all the help and suggestions here!

My best guess: incompatible light kit.

Disconnect the blue wire in the ceiling and put the original controller (the 'switch housing', where the correct capacitor resides) back where the light kit goes (put everything back the way it was). If it still doesn't work, then something burnt out; assuming that the reverse switch is not stuck in the center.

My advice regardless: return the light kits and just buy a fan that comes with one. I stopped trying to 'service' ceiling fans long ago. Fans are like $50; light kits are $20, but problems cost money and time, too.

I wouldn't want to wait for a shipment (and pay shipping?) to acquire the correct light kit, only to find that it's still broke (or will soon enough - humming is not good for electric motors). Go to the store and be done with this project today, instead of having two boxes of I'll get to that eventually lying around, and avoid any chance of buyer's remorse when your old-thing-with-new-stuff breaks.

  • Personal record: number of ceiling fans installed: probably upwards of fifty. Number of fans repaired or light kits installed after the fact: zero (not including pull chain switches - that's the only thing you fix if you have to). – Mazura Nov 6 '16 at 6:06

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