Signs Your Air Conditioner's Fan Motor Is Ailing

Your air conditioner has a fan that pushes the air out into your home, through the ducts. This fan is powered by a motor, and sometimes, that motor fails. In most cases, a fan motor will give you some indication that it is ailing before it quits completely and leaves you without air conditioning. Keep an eye out for these signs that your air conditioner's fan motor needs attention.

Squealing and Squeaking

The fan motor is driven by a belt. If that belt begins to split or tear, it will often make a squeaking or squealing noise. Some people describe this as sounding like the noise that whirly-bird toys make. The squealing is often loudest when the fan is just starting and when it slows down before shutting off.


Rattling in an air conditioner can indicate a number of problems, from a loose bolt in the enclosure to a broken blade on the fan. In most cases, however, rattling that persists throughout the AC unit's running cycle is due to a loose ball bearing in the fan motor. You may also notice a bit of a scraping noise when the fan is just starting to run, as a damaged bearing increases friction within the motor.

Low Air Flow

Pay attention to how much cold air is actually coming out of each of your ducts. Do the ducts nearest your air conditioner get plenty of airflow, while those further away do not? This could indicate an obstruction in the ducts, but more often, it indicates that the fan motor is not pushing air out powerfully enough to reach the end of the duct system. This could be caused by some worn parts or a faulty electrical connection.

Metallic Smells

Spend a few minutes standing next to your air conditioner's fan when it is actually running. If you notice a smell that reminds you of burning metal, this probably indicates that there is something wrong in the fan. One of the blades may be scraping, causing the metal to heat up. There could also be an electrical issue that is causing some sparks and burning.

If you suspect that your fan motor may be starting to fail, give your local air conditioning service a call. They can make the needed changes to your system so that it continues to run and cool your home in the months that follow. It's easier to make repairs early on.