How to Fix & Replace a Ceiling Fan Pull Chain Switch?

How to Fix & Replace a Ceiling Fan Pull Chain Switch?

Pull Chains Switches

Before you attempt to tackle the repair on a broken pull chain, it’s a good idea to understand how they work and why they break. Pull chain breaks come in two forms with internal and external breaks. With either type, the area where the chain goes into the housing and connects to the switch is an area where friction can occur.

After pulling on those chains for years, they can snap off, but where they snap has a huge impact on the repair process. It can also affect the switch inside the fan, which makes things a bit more complicated than most people realize. If your fan has an overhead fixture, you may have two pull chains to deal with, although both can be fixed using the process we’ve outlined below.

Getting Ready

The first thing you’ll want to do is get a ladder and inspect the chain. If you’re lucky, and it’s simply snapped at a point that’s shorter than you’d like, it’s an easy fix. You can pick up a pull chain extension like this one which is 36” in length and rustproof. They come in a wide variety of finishes and sizes, and can simply be snapped onto the end of the broken chain to lengthen it.

If the chain is broken behind the housing or you can’t see it at all, it’s time to head grab a ladder and a few tools. Before you do anything you need to turn off the wall switch if it uses one, and then cut power to the fan. Ensure you have enough light to work safely when removing the housing and set aside some time for this DIY project so you’re not distracted or get into a rush.

Finding the Break

Once you’re sure the power is off and you have the ladder in place, it’s time to find the break. This process will vary to a degree depending on the style of fan you have but is straightforward once you get to the switch.  Remove the globe or any accents that may hinder you from reaching the housing, and then you are ready to begin.

Remove the nut from around the pull chain, and then use a screwdriver and remove any screws around the light fixture. These hold it in place, but the screws themselves can be tricky to remove. Take your time, and be cautious about stripping the screws as well. When you get to the last screw, proceed with caution as the fixture will pop loose in most cases when the last screw is out.

Place the screws with the fixture you removed. You may need to remove a nut around the switch as well, but again, it all depends on the model of the ceiling fan. When you have the fixture loose, you should be able to get a good look at the switch. If it’s completely broken or looks damaged, you can replace the entire switch with one that’s compatible with your ceiling fan model.  If that’s the case, skip ahead to the Switch Replacement part of our guide.

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What do the two chains on a ceiling fan do?

Of course, this makes them easy to operate and priced to sell. Ceiling fans with lights and pull chains typically feature two controls. One focuses on the air movement mechanism while the other turns the light kit on and off.

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Draw a diagram or, even better, snap a few pictures with your cell phone. Pay particular attention to how the wires are attached to the switch, and in what order.

Are ceiling fan pull chains universal?

A pull chain activates a switch inside the fan assembly. Replace either type of switch following the same procedure. Switches are not universal, so you will likely have to remove the defective switch before searching for a replacement part.

Installing A New Fan Switch

If your ceiling fan’s pull chain is jammed, the easiest fix is to install a new switch completely. Once you’ve turned off the power and removed the outer housing, swapping out the old switch with a new one is a relatively simple undertaking.

First, you’ll need to head to your local home improvement store to purchase the replacement switch. We recommend taking a picture or writing down information about your old switch in order to make sure that you’re purchasing the correct one. However, if you need any help, you can always consult the employees at the store as they often have a wealth of information.

Step 1: Disconnecting The Old Wires

Once you’ve secured your replacement switch, you can disconnect all the wires attached to the old one. Take a photo of the existing setup before taking anything apart so that you know how to reassemble it all.

Disconnecting the wires can easily be done by twisting or pulling off the connectors, holding them together, then allowing you to remove the old switch.

Step 2: Prepping And Installing The New Wires

To properly allow the electrical connection to pass through the wires of the new switch, you’ll need to strip the insulation off the ends. Using a wire stripper, remove about 0.5 to 0.75 inches of insulation. To strip, cut into the insulation first and then pull it to the end of the wire.

Using the photo that you took of the original setup, locate the old wires that your new wires will need to be connected to. Most wires are color-coded, so this step should be relatively easy. Tightly twist the wires together in a clockwise motion and cover them with a twist-on connector. Make sure that the connector covers the entire bare wire.

Step 3: Putting The New Switch In Place

At this point that you’ll need to locate the small nut that you removed from the outside of the ceiling fixture. This nut is what will hold your new switch into place within the housing. Place your new switch into the housing and hold it in position while screwing the nut back on the outside of the fixture.

Step 4: Reassembling The Fixture

The final step in this entire installation process is to put the fixture back together. With your new switch, place the section of the housing that you removed back where it belongs, over the wiring. Hold it steady and screw it back into place.

Put the lightbulbs that you removed back into the fixture and reattach any sconces or globes that you took off. Next, head to your circuit breaker and turn the power back on.

In order to check for proper functionality, you’ll want to test the pull chain. Now that you a have a brand-new switch, you should no longer be experiencing any issues with your pull chain being stuck. Pull on it gently until either the fan begins to rotate or the light turns on. Avoid using too much force on the chain, as this is often how it breaks.

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Note the model number and brand of your ceiling fan as well as how many speeds it has. Take this information, along with the old switch, to a home center so you can match it up with a replacement part.

Replacing a Pull Chain Switch

Fixing a switch is a little more complicated than replacing a pull chain if you’re uncomfortable with wiring. If that’s not an issue, you’ll want to cut the power off, get a set of wire strippers and get ready for a trip to the hardware store.

To get started, you need to remove the switch from the wiring. More often than not, you can simply twist the wire caps off and disconnect the switch and remove it from the fan. At this point, we highly recommend taking a good look at the wiring or even a photograph on your mobile for reference when you refit.

If you have a manual for your ceiling fan, you may be able to pull the part number and order what you need online. A trip to the hardware store is quicker, however, and a helpful clerk can help you quickly hone in on the part you need. Once you’ve gotten the correct switch, you need to remove a short section of insulation from the ends of the wires if they aren’t pre-prepped.

With the new switch in hand, reattach the wiring to the old wires by twisting them together with your fingers. Use a wire nut or twist connector to cover the ends and keep them safe from a short, then put the new switch back in the housing. Reattach the fixture nut that holds it in place, and reassemble the fan following the steps we outlined above.

FAQs About Fixing Ceiling Fan Chain

Can you fix a broken pull chain on a ceiling fan?

If you have a broken chain in the ceiling fan, the best thing to do is replace it. Fixing a completely broken pull chain is possible, but getting the ceiling fan operating smoothly again may take some work. You also risk your safety if you fix it instead of replacing it with a new switch.

Why is my ceiling fan light fixture not working properly?

There are a few possibilities. The first thing to check is your fan’s bulb or light kit. You may have burned out the light if one of them is no longer working. If this isn’t the problem, you can try tightening screws on your fixture to ensure that everything is secure.

If the new fan switch doesn’t work, you may need to replace the light fixture. If neither of these solutions works, then it is possible that your fan has a faulty pull-chain or switch. You may have to replace your pull-chain or switch on the wall to fix this problem.

Can you use a ceiling fan light for kitchen lighting?

Ceiling fan lights work well for small kitchens because they produce a soft glow that is aesthetically pleasing and flattering to the eyes. They can be installed either flush or semi-flush with the ceiling, which means that you do not have to worry about them getting in the way of your cooking area (unlike chandeliers). Ceiling fans are also a great choice for kitchen lighting for anyone living in warm, humid locations as they provide a cooling breeze.

Safety Considerations

Cut power to the ceiling fan by flipping off the switch on the wall. Find the circuit breaker at the electrical service panel that controls the ceiling fan, and turn off that circuit breaker. After you have opened up the ceiling fan housing, double-check that the power is off by using a voltage tester.

Be careful when working on the ladder. Have an assistant work with you.

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