How to Reverse an AC Motor

Updated April 17, 2017

AC or alternating current motors rotate by way of an alternating electromagnetic field, while DC motors rotate via a direct current of electricity transferring through copper brushes. The most common AC motors come in two different classifications-single-phase and three-phase. Although AC motors are more complex than DC motors, learning how to reverse an AC motor's direction can be a useful bit of information for any motor enthusiast. By acquiring a little wiring knowledge and understanding how the motor operates, you can make an AC motor rotate in any direction you please.

Disconnect all sources of input power and do not open the motor for at least twenty-four hours.

Determine the motor type. Look in the operator's manual or on the back cover of the motor to determine the motor type-single-phase or three-phase.

Take off the back cover of the motor with a flathead screwdriver, a crosshead screwdriver or the appropriate size socket, back cover mounting hardware will vary with motor type.

Find the starter winding leads, using a wiring diagram or the instruction manual. The winding leads start the motor and cause it to go in a set direction, usually counter-clockwise. Look for engraved numbers, 1 through 8, or letters, A through H.

Pull out the first and last wires with a pair of needle-nose pliers. Reconnect the first wire to the last wire's lead port and the last wire to the first wire's lead port.

Pull out the middle two wires and reconnect them to their opposite lead ports.

Find the stator or main winding wiring dock using the motor's wiring diagram or the operator's manual. Once the starter windings cause the motor to rotate in a certain direction, the main windings keep the motor going in that same direction. You will need to switch the stator wires to change the direction of a three-phase motor.

Look for the main winding poles labelled "T1" and "T3." Pull out the two wires from their respective pole ports with a pair of needle-nose pliers.

Hook up the "T1" wire to the "T3" pole and the "T3" wire to the "T1" pole.


Make sure the motor has absolutely no power going to it for at least twenty-four hours. Many AC motors run on 220-current which can be fatal. Follow all safety guidelines and precautions.

Things You'll Need

  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Cross-head screwdriver
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Socket wrench
  • Various sockets
  • Wiring diagrams
  • Operator's manual
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About the Author

Josh Turner started writing in 2001. He wrote ad campaigns and business materials for Carpetland U.S.A. and his work has also appeared in his campus newspaper, “The Correspondent,” and “The Wellhouse” magazine. Turner is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics with a minor in journalism from Indiana University.