5 Signs Your Table Saw Motor Has Issues (Stop a Problem)

Last Updated on August 3, 2023 by Web Operator

A table saw may quickly become one of your most popular tools, but even though it can fly through cutting large boards with absolute accuracy, there are times when the tool can go wrong.

In fact, your table saw motor can jam, overheat, hums, loses power, or simply doesn’t start at all.

One problem, which can occur even though it’s not too common, is that the table saw motor can be put through a lot of pressure.

However, without it, the saw blade will fail to turn correctly, leading to you either being unable to use the table saw or it making a mess of the things it should be cutting.

But often, there will be some key signs to look out for that all is perhaps not quite well with your table saw. It makes sense to then be aware of those signs to allow you to possibly stop a problem from deteriorating and potentially even completely ruining your entire table saw.

And that’s what I’m going to look at here. Over the next few minutes, I’m going to guide you through five key signs to check out that may indicate a problem with your table saw motor. 

table saw motor issues in action

But that’s not all.

I will also tell you more about what you should be doing if you do encounter any of these issues in the hope that it allows you to get on top of the problem as quickly as possible. Ultimately, I want to help you to avoid issues that could, at times, lead to your table saw needing to basically be replaced. I don’t want that to happen to you when it could have been something you could have dealt with. 

By the end, you should feel more confident in not only using your table saw but also understanding the correct action you need to take should you run into any issues.

How Common are These Issues?

table saw motor in workshop

Modern table saw motors are far superior to those even from 20 or 30 years ago. They can cope with substantially more pressure, and you can work them harder without them falling apart. 

It does mean that issues with the motor of a table saw are not as common as they used to be, and that’s great news for you. However, it doesn’t mean that it will never happen. Let’s face it, anything that is manufactured can develop a problem, and that applies no matter how often you use the table saw. 

The problem with machinery is that things can go wrong no matter how good the manufacturing aspect may be. The more you use your table saw, the greater the chance that something may very well go wrong simply through the process of wear and tear. 

You see, parts may be more substantial than in the past, but they still break and malfunction. So, knowing what to look out for and also how to then rectify the problem still has a place.

Basically, while you may be lucky and use your table saw regularly without any problems, you can never say that there’s no chance it will ever happen to you. So, these are the five signs that all may not be well with your table saw motor.

  • It’s very slow to start
  • You lose power as it’s running
  • It just doesn’t start at all
  • It jams
  • It overheats

But don’t worry. I will delve into each sign individually.

Sign 1: It Hums or is Slow to Start

table saw with blade

You will be used to firing up the motor on your table saw, and it erupts into life with a vast amount of power. So, when you realize that the motor is slow to start, or even hums as you fire it up, then it’s a clear sign that all is not well.

This issue will generally be linked to one common complaint, and that’s a problem with the capacitor. There’s a good chance that the capacitor is going to be in the process of failing or has completely done so.

If there is a problem with the capacitor, then what it means is the motor is unable to get the correct amount of voltage to flow through. If it does not have the full voltage, then it’s unable to work, so that’s why a slow start or the motor being sluggish is a sign that the capacitor needs changing.

But another sign aside from the slow start is if the table saw motor overheats. This is because it tries to work harder to get the power it needs to operate, so it puts too much pressure on other parts resulting in an increase in temperature.

To fix this, you need to change the capacitor, and how this happens does depend on the model. Don’t worry though, it can often be quite easy to do, but sadly that’s not always the case and it’s pretty much impossible to tell in advance. 

Some table saw motors simply require you to remove the casing that is within the housing of the motor. The capacitor clips out, and you can install a new one in very little time. Also, the capacitor part does not have to even cost a fortune when it comes to getting your hands on a new one.

But it is worth noting that this particular sign is one that really does evolve, and it becomes more severe the longer you ignore the issue. The humming sound is the motor trying to force through extra power, and it may succeed at first, but that won’t last long. The same applies to the slow start. You may find it becomes slower and slower, indicating something is losing power. It’s no surprise that everything will eventually come to a halt. Also, the blades will be incapable of cutting things correctly.

That is why you need to pay close attention to how everything is firing up when you switch on your table saw. If you have bought it new, then you will be aware of how everything should run. If you notice any difference in the speed aspect, then it’s time to even just contemplate changing the capacitor in advance to prevent any potential problems later on. 

So, the key things to check out regarding this sign includes:

  • The slow start can develop over time
  • Different potential causes can be at the root of the problem
  • You may have an issue with the capacitor leading to incorrect voltage
  • The first sign may be your table saw motor sounds sluggish

Sign 2: It Loses Power When Working

large table saw with blade

It isn’t very nice when you are using a power tool, and it starts to lose some of its effectiveness as it leaves you in the middle of a job and wondering what to do. Unfortunately, this is the kind of issue that can really sneak up on you without warning, but it will often point to a very obvious reason.

In this instance, the most common issue is to do with the carbon brushes that exist in the motor. These carbon brushes are built to last, but there’s only a finite length of time for which they will continue to operate as they should. The good news is that carbon brushes are inexpensive to replace, so while it’s annoying, it doesn’t have to spell the end of your table saw. 

As the wear down, it means the motor is unable to function correctly. So, it starts to lose power as the incorrect voltage is effectively being pushed through the motor, so it’s unable to perform to the best of its ability.

Of course, the best way to deal with this problem is to replace the brushes in the motor. Again, this should be easy to do, but where they are located, and also exactly how to replace them, will depend on your make and model of table saw

For that reason, while I suggest you need to change the brushes, it’s always better to consult with the manufacturer of your model to ensure you do this correctly. Failure to do so may result in you damaging the motor and possibly even destroying your table saw.

Also, I’m not saying this is something that will happen regularly. Generally, brushes on a table saw should last for anywhere from 50 hours of use to 100 hours of use. Some can last longer than that, but those are the types of figures you should be looking at achieving.

For me, the key points to take from this sign includes:

  • Damaged brushes remains one of the most common reasons
  • Damaged brushes can lead to a damaged motor
  • Poor brushes means insufficient power is moved throughout the motor
  • Changing brushes is generally easy, but depends on the model

Sign 3: The Motor Doesn’t Start

working a table saw

Now, the problem of the motor starting can result in more than one possible cause, so this is not an easy one to focus on. However, I’m going to take you through what is probably the most common reason as to why the motor on your table saw will simply not kick into life.

Often, the problem lies with switches within the motor as they are actually prone to breaking with continual use. However, you should have no problem getting your hands on new switches to replace them should this indeed be the issue. 

You see, the motor in a table saw does come with a centrifugal activated switch. This switch is able to remain closed while the saw is in its off state. However, when you go to fire it up, then this switch is then capable of providing a bit more of a push to the motor to really get things moving. 

With this, what is probably happening is that it’s starting to interfere with the start windings. If that happens, then it’s clearly going to have an impact on the efficiency of the motor and its ability to even run in the first place. 

You see, when you fire up your table saw motor, no matter the type of table saw, the push the switch gives to the start windings is designed to help the motor to start smoothly and without a problem. However, when an issue develops with the switch, it cannot do that. 

As time progresses, the switch can corrode, and it then opens up as the motor is working, and it effectively disconnects the windings. If you fail to notice this is happening or believe it to be something else causing the issue, then it reaches the stage where the switch stops the motor from starting up at all.

Unfortunately, if you blow this switch, which is possible the more you use it, even when issues are developing, then the only option that’s available to you is to replace the entire motor. It’s just not worth it as it can cause damage to other parts of the motor, and it’s quicker to just deal with it all in this way.

But, once again, you can stop this major issue from developing by simply paying attention to how the motor is running every time you use it. While you may not be in a position to understand what’s causing the problem from the outset, it does mean you can catch when something else is going wrong and take the appropriate action. 

The key points for this sign that something is wrong includes:

  • The activated switch is the main culprit
  • If the switch is blown, you probably need to change the motor
  • The switch means the windings won’t work leading to the motor not firing up
  • You can reduce the chances of it happening by carrying out maintenance

Sign 4: It’s Jammed

table saw jammed motor

If the motor appears unable to effectively complete a rotation, or it does so significantly slower, or with more trouble than it used to, then one possible answer is that things are jamming up inside the motor.

The leading cause of this will be an amount of sawdust building up inside the housing of the motor, and that means you need to get the sawdust out to get everything working smoothly again.

Sawdust can cause so many problems, and there’s nothing you can really do to prevent sawdust from getting into the housing in the first place. However, that’s one reason why you need to carry out maintenance to prevent things from becoming problematic and potentially causing more damage than it should have. 

One thing you can look at is the drive load. Is the motor below the normal drive load? If so, then it too points toward it being blocked or jammed. Clearly, if something is jammed, then it’s impossible for it to work correctly, so you need to look at ways to unjam it and get everything back up and running. 

A good table saw motor should not really develop this problem if it has been manufactured correctly. That’s because seals should be in place to stop sawdust from reaching the inner core of the motor and causing problems. After all, something as simple as sawdust will put more pressure on other aspects of the motor and possibly lead to overheating. 

The best way to deal with this issue is to simply take apart the motor as much as you can and clean out the sawdust. Trust me when I say that a faulty seal can lead to sawdust getting into almost every compartment of a motor. Also, the amount of sawdust that can build up in there is astonishing.

But be careful as you strip the motor down. Some versions do come with a multitude of parts, and you need to obviously be aware of how to put it all back together again when done. After stripping it, blow the dust out, or use a soft brush that can work into all of the corners to get it as clean as possible.

I admit that this is a bigger job than you would have probably expected, and yet there’s no doubt it does have the potential to cause a whole lot of problems with your table saw motor.

The key points to remember with this sign something is wrong includes:

  • Sawdust is a common culprit
  • Regular maintenance and cleaning out sawdust can prevent it
  • Take care stripping down the motor. There can be so many parts
  • Check for faulty seals as a possible cause

Sign 5: It Overheats

close up of table saw blade

The fifth and final sign that all is not well with your table saw motor is if it overheats when in use. Now, I’ve mentioned this as an issue in other signs above, but it can be quite a common sign that something is not quite right, and that’s why I’ve included it on its own.

Now clearly one of the main reasons will be connected to simply pushing it too hard. However, this is quite difficult to do, especially if you take care of your table saw.

A table saw motor that is overheating can do so for a multitude of reasons. That is why trying to deal with this problem can be a case of trial and error on your part. However, I would look at the most obvious things first in order to get to the bottom of the problem. 

For example, it can easily be the case that worn out brushes have caused the motor to overheat. However, that will clearly not be the problem if you have a brushless motor version, which a number of table saws tend to be today.

Another issue is the dust collection I mentioned in the previous point. That one is also easy to rectify when it comes to getting the dust back out, even though it’s a long and drawn process. 

Again, trying to keep on top of maintenance with your table saw can help stop this problem developing. But then, I know we are all guilty of putting off cleaning up our tools as often as we should, but it’s a habit most people need to get out of due to the issues that can then occur. 

But those are not the only possible causes of the motor overheating. 

The motor overload switch may also have seen better days. This switch is specifically designed to stop the motor from overheating. It does this by switching off the power to stop the motor from working so hard, and it’s a great component in a fully-functioning motor.

However, when that switch starts to break down, then it won’t stop the power supply as it did before. The result? Your motor keeps on working and overheats, potentially leading to more serious damage.

To resolve this issue, it clearly involves you trying to ascertain which problem lies behind it all. I accept this is not the easiest of things to do, but with some time and patience, it does become possible. 

I see the main points regarding this sign as being:

  • There are multiple reasons for the motor overheating
  • All of the signs listed above can contribute
  • You must identify the core issue to prevent it happening again
  • Regular maintenance is key

Can You Always Fix Your Table Saw Motor?

can you fix a table saw motor

So, even though I accept the five signs above do not represent the full list of how things could go wrong with a table saw motor, they are the most common. The five points are certainly the areas I would focus on when I was first getting to grips with the possible issues with the motor on my table saw. 

But now another question, can you always fix the table saw motor?

The answer is that you should be able to repair things on most occasions, but I do accept there are times when this is not possible. But seriously, this is why I always state that you should pay close attention to things such as motors and ensure regular maintenance.

By doing maintenance, you should find it easier to spot problems before they develop into more serious issues where repairing the motor may no longer be an option. That is just an insane thing to allow to happen simply because it could so easily be avoided if you only took a bit more care. 

Just look at the issue of the motor overheating as a perfect example of what could happen.

An overheating motor may only do it sporadically, as it fits in with how much pressure you are putting on the motor while using the saw. If you only make a few small cuts, you may not even notice as you are not pushing the motor to its limits.

But that doesn’t mean the issue doesn’t exist. It’s still there even though it’s effectively flying under the radar. That is why you need to pay close attention to everything and have a better understanding of what’s going on with the motor to allow you to identify a problem as soon as possible. 

Yet that problem can develop into a more significant issue, and you find yourself suddenly faced with trying to deal with a table saw motor that is simply not working at all. That’s not good, and it can quickly turn from something you could repair into something that requires you to completely change the motor.

But overall, I would say that with minimal effort, you should be able to fix and repair most issues that could develop with the motor of your table saw. 

Overall Conclusion

And that’s my list of the five signs that there may be some kind of issue with your table saw motor, and also what you can then do. I admit that they do vary in severity, but there’s always the risk that the more minor complaints will still add extra stress to the motor resulting in a more serious failure down the line.

But I feel you need to know more about table saws in general before you deal with the motor aspect. So, check out these articles in order to make your life easier.

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.