How to Replace Ceiling Fan Reverse Switches

Replace worn-out ceiling fan reverse switches. It's rare for these switches to break, but occasionally a switch will allow the fan to rotate in only one direction. Ceiling fans are designed to rotate in reverse at low speed to bring warm air down from the ceiling during colder months. Fans can be used in reverse at high speeds for cooling the outer walls of a room as well. While the fan is turned off, the reverse switch slides to the opposite position to change the direction of the blades when the fan is turned on again.

Replace worn-out ceiling fan reverse switches. It's rare for these switches to break, but occasionally a switch will allow the fan to rotate in only one direction.
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Replace worn-out ceiling fan reverse switches. It's rare for these switches to break, but occasionally a switch will allow the fan to rotate in only one direction.

Step 1

Turn off the power at the breaker box. Simply turning off the switch does not stop the flow of electricity to the unit, or remove the threat of electrical shock.

Step 2

Loosen the bottom cap by unscrewing the screws around the housing. Support the weight of the lights as you remove the three or four screws. Many of these screws can accommodate a Phillips or slotted screwdriver, yet one type usually works better.

Step 3

Unplug the light wires to remove the bottom cap and light fixtures. Two plastic slip-boot connectors will pull apart. Make a note of the wire colors connected by each boot before unplugging them. Set the light fixtures and bottom cap on a soft surface, out of the way.

Step 4

Unscrew the switch. Turn the switch to the up position to remember which side is up. Unscrew the two screws holding the switch to the outer housing.

Step 5

Make a note of the order and placement of the color-coded wires, drawing a diagram if necessary. Some switches only have three wires, but most use six. Unplug the color-coded wires. These wires have boots that fit firmly over connector tips on the switch.

Step 6

Buy a new switch from a hardware or furniture store. The number of connecting wires on the switch and the make and model of the fan is the only information you should need to order a new switch. (Or buy the switch online. See Resources for links.)

Step 7

Connect the three or six color-coded wires in the same order they held on the old switch. Slip the connector boots on the wires over the prongs on the switch.

Step 8

Screw the switch back into place on the inner housing. Align the screw holes and reset the screws.

Step 9

Test the switch before replacing the lights. Set the switch in the upper position. Turn on the power, then turn on the fan at the wall switch. Take note of the rotational direction and turn off the switch, then the power. Switch to lower position and turn on power and switch to be sure fan spins in the opposite direction.

Step 10

Turn the power off at the breaker to replace the lights and cap. Hold the lights in one hand, with your thumb and index finger free to plug in the light wires. Stuff the wires into the housing and cover with the cap. Support the lights' weight as you set at least two of the screws in the housing to hold the lighting and cap. Tightly set all screws and restore power.