Whole House Fan cycling on and off

I've got a whole house fan in our newly purchased home that is cycling on and off every 30-60 seconds. I initially thought it might be the timer that was installed above the power switch, but I took it out of the circuit and the problem persists.
The fan is 18 years old, but has no dust, rust, etc. It literally looks brand new. I've watched it while it spins and it sounds and looks great. It just cuts off and on.
There is one part that I'm wondering what it's function is. The power comes into the fan motor and then there are two wires leading to a small(2" diameter * 3 inch long) metal cylinder that looks like a capacitor(or like a small silver automobile oil filter). Anyone know what this is and if it could be the problem? I looked at a new fan at Home Depot and it had the same design.
Any ideas?
Thanks, Chris
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Subject: Re: TVX valves Date: Saturday, May 08, 2004 11:46 PM
Ya know, when reading this thread I was reminded of a recent episode in the shop. I know, Ya'll are say "Oh Shit", here comes another one of Jake's long stories, but this one's short. Here Goes:
We've got several fork lifts around the shop, and one of them is a Yale model with a really crappy electrical system.. the damn thing has been no good since day one. (We've bought Mitsubishi/Cat lifts since then, built in Houston, Tx, and those things are good).
The Yale wouldn't start... turn the key and nothing happened. The Yale dealer charges a pretty penny for service, so I go out and take a look.
I screwed around with this thing most of the afternoon. A bunch of the guys came back off jobs and were laughing at me. Then one of the older ones came up and started up a conversation.... "You ever watch the old Andy Griffith show?", he asked? I said I did once in a while.
"You ever see the episode where Aunt Bee buys a second hand freezer, then a bunch of meat, and the thing craps out on her?". I'd seen the episode but was trying to remember the details...
Ron, my guy, said, "Aunt Bee has Goober over to fix it, and he screws it up worse.... Good old Aunt Bee was just trying to save a little money. She took the meat downtown and had it stored while she messed around getting it fixed."
Ok, Ron, I said, What's the point here? He said "Andy got home and was mad as the dickens.... kept telling Aunt Bee to 'Call the Man'."
I said, Ron, What's your point, dammit? He looked at the damn forktruck and said "Aunt Bee, Call the Man!!!".
Then I understood.
Jake
PS Homeowners, Please don't screw around with things you don't understand. Tradesmen are skilled people and go through a lot of time and effort to learn what they know. Their experience in training will keep you safe and comfortable. Freon, Flammable gasses and electricity are best left to people who deal with these things for a living. "Call the Man"!!
--

Christopher A. Young
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Call an electrician. If you knew what you were doing, you'd done it already.
--

Christopher A. Young
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The metal cylinder is probably a run capacitor as it is probably a PSC (Permanant Split [phase] Capacitor) motor. Is there a flaky operation thermostat in series w/ it? A flaky auto reset thermal cutout on the motor? A defect (or excessive dust) causing the motor to overheat and operate the thermal cutout? I can't imagine a failed run cap causing it to overheat yet still run, but I suppose it is possible. W. W. Grainger or a local electrical wholesaler or motor supplier would have motor run capacitors, but replacement may be a simpler option.

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Thanks for the reply. The motor and entire fan are spotless, really is far and away the cleanest 18 year old thing I have ever seen. With that in mind, I thought there might be some simple solution. All that my admittedly untrained eyes can see is a simple motor and the capacitor. Barring a simple solution, I'll just go ahead and replace the entire fan.
Chris

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Many of those old fans required oil every year. Encountered one. Once we had disassembled its wooden 2x4 frame, then finally it got oil. Suddenly fan would rotate freely - keep spinning if fan belt was not connected.
If it is simply oil, then any homeowner can fix it. IOW circuit to prevent motor burn out is tripping every 30-60 seconds. From this distance, any further advise would only be speculation.
Is it a capacitor start motor? Maybe. However you don't even know is the incoming power is constant. First get basic facts. Does the volt meter show power to the motor even when motor cuts out? Without proper tools, then don't expect to fix the motor.
Chris White wrote:

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Oil, now there's a simple solution. I'll examine further to see if that could be the problem.

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