Do Ceiling Fans Need Oil? (Step By Step Oiling)

Last Updated on October 9, 2022 by Barry Gray

A ceiling fan is a tried and tested way of cooling down a room by moving the air around.  So, on those days that aren’t hot enough to justify a full-blown AC, and you just need a breeze, the good old ceiling fan has you covered.  But, they are not perfect, and we’ve all had one that suddenly started squeaking or grinding. 

Ceiling fans use bearings that spin around an axle, and those bearings require lubrication to spin freely.  To oil your ceiling fan, you will need to switch off the power, remove the unit from the ceiling, remove the motor cover to gain access to the motor, and oil the bearings. 

The process of lubricating your ceiling fan can seem pretty intimidating, but we are here to walk you through it.  Remember that being able to do this simple task could just save you a few hundred dollars. 

Why Do Fans Need Oil?

up-cycle an old ceiling fan

Your ceiling fan uses an electric motor to spin the blades around a center axle or rod fixed to the ceiling

Imagine a typical bicycle wheel that also uses bearings to spin around an axle in the middle.  In the case of a ceiling fan, the wheel represents the blades, while the hub is the motor.  

Between the motor and the axle, a set of bearings allows the motor and fan blades to spin around the axle with no play or movement.  

Changes in temperature and humidity and continued use will eventually dry out the lubrication oil inside the bearings.  And even if it doesn’t manage to completely dry out the oil, the oil that remains will eventually degrade and lose much of its lubricant properties. 

Added to this is one of the biggest culprits that cause friction inside the bearings: dust.  Dust build-up can eventually find its way to the motor housing and bearings, and, in case you were wondering, bearing do not like dust at all. 

So, if you’re a fan is squeaking or grinding, and you’ve ruled out other potential faults like balancing, then it is highly likely that you need to give it some fresh oil. 

How To Oil Your Ceiling Fan

Depending on how old your fan is are likely going to use one of two methods to apply oil to it.  Older fans and brands such as Hunter Original use an oil cup, while most modern fans apply the oil straight onto the bearings. 

Before You Start

Regardless of which fan you have and which method you will need to follow, the first step is universal and ESSENTIAL.  

Before you bring a screwdriver anywhere near that fan, you must make sure that you switch off power to that circuit at the circuit board.  Granted, you won’t be fiddling with the wires in the case of oil cup fans, but it’s a safe practice, nonetheless. 

In the case of modern fans, you are unfortunately likely going to have to disconnect the whole unit, and, trust me, you don’t want to be fiddling with live wires. 

Fans With Oil Cups

In the case of older fans and Hunter Original fans, you likely have a fan that uses an oil cup, which is not unlike the oil sump of your car.  Basically, an oil cup houses a fair amount of oil which then lubricates the whole inner system of the fan as it runs.  

Step 1 – Locate The Oil Hole

With these fans, the method will differ depending on where the oil hole is located.  It’ll either be on the side below the blades or right on top of the unit above them. 

Step 2 – Check The Oil Level

It is possible to overfill the oil cups on these fans, which can cause a mess in the room, so check to see how much oil is in there before you add any extra.  

In the case of the hole on the side, tilt the fan toward the hole, remove the cover and then let it down again.  If oil comes out of the hole, then there is enough oil.  If there is no oil that comes out, you need to add oil until it spills out of the hole. 

If the hole is at the top, you will need to remove a single fan blade, insert a pipe cleaner above the fan blades, and check it for oil.  If it’s dry, then you need to add oil.  

Step 3 – Add The Oil

If you have determined that your fan needs extra oil, you can now add some to the oil hole.  Don’t squirt a whole lot in there.  Only squeeze a few drops at a time and allow for the oil to seep through the system. 

Most Modern Fans

While the modern design of ceiling fans spares you the headache of potentially overfilling an oil cup and dealing with blocked oil-return lines, oiling them is a bit more painstaking.  

Step 1 – Remove The Blades

blade

You will likely have to break the whole thing apart, so the first thing you want to get out of your way to make your life a little easier is the blades.  Most will come off quickly using just a Phillips or flat screwdriver. 

Step 2 – Disconnect The Wiring

With the blades out your way, you can disconnect the wiring from the ceiling.  Double-check to make sure the circuit breaker is off before you start grabbing at wires.  

It may be good to use some color tape to mark which wire needs to be rejoined if they aren’t color-coded already.  Otherwise, you may have an issue putting the whole thing back together. 

With the wires disconnected, you can remove the whole unit from the ceiling. 

Step 3 – Remove The Motor Housing

Once you have the fan on the table, you can use a screwdriver to remove the housing around the motor.  You will need to do this to get access to the bearings underneath. 

Step 4 – Clean Off The Dust

ceiling fan

With the motor exposed, blades removed, and the housing off, you now have the perfect opportunity to deep clean all the dust off your fan, and I strongly suggest you do so before adding new oil.  

Step 5 – Add Oil To The Bearing

Using a small dispenser or dropper, you can now start adding drops of oil to the bearings.  Turn the motor by hand after each drop to allow it to seep down into the bearing, coating it thoroughly. 

Step 6 – Retrace Your Steps

After adding the oil, you can now retrace your steps up to this point to put the whole thing back together and mount it back to the ceiling.  Job done. 

Here is a helpful video to walk you through the entire process: 

Conclusion

Most ceiling fans will require you to add new oil at some stage in your lifetime.  Changes in ambient temperature, and the continuous use of the fan will cause oil to degrade or completely disappear eventually.  Running a fan without oil could cause irritating noise and damage the unit. 

Most fans will need oil applied directly to the bearings.  Unfortunately, you need to take the fan down from the ceiling and remove the motor housing to access the bearings.   Older models use an oil cup that can be filled through an oil hole. 

Photo of author

Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.