How To Turn a Ceiling Fan On/Off When the Remote Is Broken?

Remote controls allow ceiling fans to circulate air. The ceiling fans can be controlled including turning on or off or changing speed levels without effort. However, if the remote control is broken, you might want to know if your ceiling fan still is turned on or off.

Here are some methods you can turn a ceiling fan on or off when the remote is broken:

  • Know how the ceiling fan pull chains work.
  • Know the difference between the fan cord & the light cord.
  • Fix or replace the remote if required.

When you purchase a ceiling fan with a remote control, you do not think of the remote breaking. In addition, you will not be familiar with what to do when your remote breaks. The great thing is, it is a simple task and this guide will explain the process.

1. Know How the Ceiling Fan Pull Chains Work

It is simple to know how the fan pull cord works when you are familiar with a few basic details. You may need to pull the cord multiple times to reach the right speed or to turn the fan off if it’s in the “on” position when your remote breaks. 

Here’s an imperative guide for manually operating your ceiling fan by using the attached pull cord if the remote is broken.

  • Find the fan pull cord. The cord will be swinging from the fan. If it is not available, you’ll have to buy one and attach it to the pull switch of your fan.
  • Pull once. Pulling the fan cord once will switch on the fan at high speed.
  • Pull twice. Pulling the fan cord twice will change the speed of the fan on medium speed. 
  • Pull thrice. Pulling the fan cord three times will run the fan at low speed.
  • Pull four times. Pulling the fan cord four times will switch off the fan.

Just make sure that you do not pull them too hard to prevent damaging to the fan. Alternatively, if you pull them too softly, it may not turn on or off the fan, so you need to maintain the balance to make sure that your fan turns off or on.

Recommended: 13 reasons your ceiling fan doesn’t work and how to fix it

2. Know the Difference Between the Fan Cord& the Light Cord

Having knowledge of the difference between the light cord and the fan cord make sure you will switch on or off the correct feature as intended.

Are you confused and thinking about which cord is which? There is nothing to worry about; it’s easy to identify the difference:

  • The fan pull cord is usually the shorter in size of the two cords.
  • The light pull cord is generally longer in size from the fan pull cord.

If you have pulled the light cord accidentally instead of the fan cord, just pull the same cord again until the light turns off. After that, pull the fan cord by following the above directions.

Recommended: Does a ceiling fan with remote need a wall switch?

3. Fix or Replace the Remote if Required

A broken remote is not a permanent issue for you. At times, you can fix the remote immediately. Firstly, you should troubleshoot some of the common issues to find out if your remote might have some life in it. If the quick solution is not working, simply change the remote. Replacing a remote is a cheaper option than changing the entire fan.

Recommended: Do universal remotes work with all ceiling fans?

Here are some tips you can use to fix or replace your fan’s remote so you can turn your ceiling fan on and off easily once again:

Change the Remote Batteries

Before you finalize that your remote is broken, remove the battery cover to test or change the battery. After testing the battery, you will be able to know quickly if you need to change it.

If you don’t have a tester, first find the indicator light. If there is no light, try to change the batteries with new ones and see if your remote starts working again.

Check the Range and Frequency

At times, the remote is broken temporarily. Looking for a quick solution will be ideal before you make an investment in a new one.

Examine the range and the frequency of your remote to fix the problem when your remote is broken.


To check the range of your remote:

  1. Try moving the remote control toward the fan.
  2. Judge it by standing about 20 feet (6 m) away.
  3. If it is not accessible, move a bit closer.

Standing within 10-20 feet (3-6 m) should work if the remote is not broken and if the problem is simply due to the range. Although a lot of remotes can be used up to 40 feet away (12.19 m), closer is often better.


Your fan and remote might not be on the same frequency, especially if you have purchased or replaced the fan or remote recently. It is a technical task to change the frequency and you need tools like ladder and a screwdriver.

Just watch the following video to learn what to do: 

Replace the Remote Control 

If you have tried all the previous options, it might be time to update your remote. A good thing about remotes is you can find universal ceiling fan remotes all over the market, so getting a replacement will not be hard.

You may want to change your remote, especially if your fan doesn’t contain a built-in switch, as electrical rewiring will not be cost-effective.

Do you want to get a recommendation from me for a new universal ceiling fan remote? Here is a Universal Ceiling Fan Remote Control Kit that is compatible with several fan controls and brands both fan as well as light features.

Do you want assistance in installing your new remote control? What the video below: 

Final Words

A broken ceiling fan remote can be irritating for everyone. Here are some tips you can use if your ceiling fan remote doesn’t work:

  • Firstly, ensure that the remote control is the main culprit.
  • Find and then pull the fan cord attached to your ceiling fan.
  • Pull the fan cord once to switch on the fan and set it on high. To change the speed to medium, pull it twice; for the third time, turn the fan on low, and to turn off the fan, pull it for the fourth time.
  • If you want to get a long-term solution, fix or replace the remote control of your fan.

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