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AC Answers: Why Your Air Conditioner's Outside Fan is Not Working

air conditioner outside fan not working

When it comes to your air conditioner, there are many moving parts that help keep it running and keep you cool. But the outside fan (also called the condenser fan) is one of the most important components of your system. The outside fan sits on top of the condenser, which is responsible for converting the system’s refrigerant from a gas to a liquid so that it can flow through the system and cool your indoor air. That process produces a lot of heat, which the fan removes from the system. That keeps the pressure in the system down, allowing your home to be filled with comforting cool air.

Because it’s such an important part of your AC, you’ll want to make sure the outside fan is always in top running condition. Here are some of the signs your fan may not be working correctly and what you can do about it.

Warning Signs Your Fan is Failing or Broken

Click. Click. Click. If you’re hearing that continuous clicking noise, it’s a surefire sign something is wrong with your fan. Usually, this grating and clicking noise indicates there is some debris obstructing the fan. Inspecting and cleaning the area may be all you need to get things running properly again.

A bent blade on your fan is another problem. This one isn’t one you can fix by simply trying to straighten the blade. Instead, it needs to be replaced. When you do, make sure the fan blades rotate freely and don’t wobble. If the fan seems loose, apply a drop of thread-locking compound.

Even smaller pieces of debris can interrupt your fan’s smooth operation. Be sure to keep the fan clear of nearby vegetation – which should be two feet away from all sides and the top of your unit. Try to aim grass clippings away from the unit when mowing the lawn. And during the fall, keep the fan grill free of leaves.

Why is Keeping the Fan in Good Shape So Important?

Your AC fan acts as a heat exchanger – moving hot air from the house and replacing it with outside air that cools through the condenser and then cools your home. So maintaining proper airflow is critical to keeping your system running efficiently and cooling your home.

According to Keith Hill, technical support manager from Minnesota Air, “it’s critical that the airflow is reliable. Just like in your car, if your radiator doesn’t get enough airflow, your engine overheats quickly and will either shut down safely or ruin your engine. The same is true on an AC system. A non-functioning condenser fan motor may ruin your compressor if the system does not ‘fail safe’.”

What Can I Do To Prevent/Fix Problems?

The newer your unit, the more likely it is to use advanced technology. Keith says newer units have permanently lubricated motors, but some older units have oil ports on their condenser fan motors. If it’s noisy, or you notice that it’s not moving as efficiently as it used to, just put one or two drops of oil in the port before turning on the system again.

When you do your spring cleaning and AC maintenance each year, you should also make sure to look at the fan motor and fan blade. Keith recommends doing this visual inspection in spring, fall, and after big storms, to make sure the fan is clear of debris and can move freely.

“Poke a screwdriver between the grille openings and give it a spin – with the power off, of course,” Keith says. “The blade should move freely and there should be no wobble. Stiff turning or wobbling may be a sign of bearing trouble, in which case you’ll need to replace the motor. Blades are inexpensive and often hard to remove on older units due to rust on the motor shaft. It’s not a bad idea to change the blade if and when you change the motor.”

If you’ve tried troubleshooting and still can’t figure out why your AC isn’t working like it should, use our dealer locator to find a dealer near you. We’ll have you cool in no time!



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