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

Remote controls make ceiling fan usage a breeze. The ceiling fan turns on or off or changes speeds effortlessly; however, if the remote control breaks, you might wonder if your ceiling fan can still be turned on or off. 

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

  1. Know how the ceiling fan pull cord works.
  2. Know the difference between the fan cord and the light cord.
  3. Fix or replace the remote if needed.

When you buy a ceiling fan with a remote control, you likely don’t anticipate the remote breaking. As such, you probably don’t instinctively know what to do when your remote does break. The good news is, it’s usually a simple process, and this article will explain the process.

1. Know How the Ceiling Fan Pull Cord Works

Knowing how the fan pull cord works is simple when you know a few basic details. You may need to pull the cord several times to hit the right speed or to turn the fan off if it’s in the “on” position when the remote breaks. 

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

  • Find the fan pull cord. The cord will be dangling from the fan. If you don’t see one, you’ll want to buy one and attach it to your fan’s pull switch.
  • Pull once. Pulling the fan cord once will turn the fan on at high speed.
  • Pull twice. Pulling the fan cord twice will turn the fan on medium speed. 
  • Pull thrice. Pulling the fan cord three times will turn the fan on at low speed.
  • Pull four times. Pulling the fan cord four times will turn the fan off.

Be careful not to pull too hard to avoid damaging the fan. On the other hand, if you pull the cord too softly, the fan may not turn on or off, so finding the right pull balance is key to ensuring your fan turns on or off.

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

ceiling fan with pull cord

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

Knowing the difference between the fan cord and the light cord ensures you’ll turn the correct function on or off as intended.

Confused about which cord is which? Don’t worry; it’s easy to tell the difference:

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

If you make a mistake and accidentally pull the light cord instead of the fan cord, simply pull the same cord again until the light turns off. You can then pull the fan cord following the directions above.

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

3. Fix or Replace the Remote if Needed

A broken remote doesn’t have to be a permanent problem. Sometimes, you can fix remotes quickly. Be sure first to troubleshoot some common areas to see if your fan remote might have more life in it. If the quick fixes don’t work, replace the remote. Doing so can be cheaper than replacing the entire fan.

Suggested: Do universal remotes work with all ceiling fans?

Here are some tips for fixing or replacing your fan remote so you can turn your ceiling fan off and on with ease again:

Change the Remote Batteries

Before you determine your remote is broken, remove the battery cover and test or replace the battery. Testing the battery can tell you quickly if you need a replacement. 

If you don’t have a tester, first look for an indicator light. If there isn’t one, try replacing the batteries with new ones and see if your remote works again.

Check the Range and Frequency

Sometimes, a remote isn’t permanently broken. Looking for a quick fix solution can be a wise idea before spending money on a replacement. 

Check both the range and the frequency of your remote to troubleshoot the problem when your remote stops working.


To check the range of your remote:

  1. Try pointing the remote control toward the fan.
  2. Start by standing about 20 feet (6 m) away.
  3. If it doesn’t work, move a bit closer.

Standing within 10-20 feet (3-6 m) should be effective if the remote is working and if the issue is simply a matter of range. Although many remotes work up to 40 feet away (12.19 m), closer is often better.


Your remote and fan might not be on the same frequency, especially if you’ve recently bought the fan or replaced the remote. Changing the frequency is relatively technical, and you need a ladder with a couple of screwdrivers. 

Check out the following video to learn what to do: 

Replace the Remote Control 

If you’ve exhausted all the previous options, it might be time to replace the remote. The good news is that there are many universal ceiling fan remotes on the market, so finding a replacement should be pretty straightforward.

You may consider replacing your remote, especially if your fan doesn’t have a built-in switch, as electrical rewiring can be a costly alternative.

Need a recommendation for a new universal ceiling fan remote? This Universal Ceiling Fan Remote Control Kit from works with several fan brands and controls both light and fan features.

Need help installing your new remote control? What the video below: 


A broken ceiling fan remote can be frustrating. Here are some things you should do if your ceiling fan remote doesn’t work:

  • Make sure that the remote control is the source of the problem.
  • Locate and then pull the fan cord attached to your fan.
  • Pull the fan cord once to turn the fan on high. Pull it twice to turn the fan on medium; three times to turn the fan on low, and a fourth time to turn the fan off.
  • If you’re looking for a long-term solution, fix or replace your fan’s remote control.



Matt moved to a location where the climate is hot and humid year round 8 years ago and got a bit obsessed with ceiling fans as an alternative or supplement to air-conditioning. He just wants the optimal ceiling fan and to get it to work the best for the specific situation. And now you can follow what he learned on

Recent Posts