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Repairing a Light Switch

Light Switch
Sometimes when a light doesn't turn on it isn't just a a burned out bulb. Use these handy tips for troubleshooting and fixing your broken light switch. This is a guide about repairing a light switch.


Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

March 21, 20150 found this helpful

My wife's light switch stayed on all the time and my buddy took one out of another room and took the wire in the screw out first and then the one in the hole and then moved it to her room. It worked and then he tried to put the one that stayed on all the time where the other one was. He put in the wire that went in the hole first and he blew a breaker. Should he have put the top one in first then the one that went in the hole in next? Or is it the switch itself that is bad?


By AN from NY

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March 22, 20150 found this helpful
Best Answer

I think that what you have is the blind leading the blind. Some things, like changing light switches, are simple tasks that home handymen can do, but sometimes, when things go wrong, it is time to call in someone who is trained. Toss the old light switch, at the very least, and put in a new one. But I think you need to call in a professional.

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By 0 found this helpful
April 2, 2016

Why are my lights on when the switch is in off position and the on breaks the circuit?

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April 3, 20160 found this helpful

I think you switch is incorrectly wired. Call an electrician to get it fixed.

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April 4, 20160 found this helpful

Is the off and on labelled? If not, it could be that the switch was installed upside down. Have an electrician turn the switch over.

Is this part of a three way circuit? Is there another hidden switch that got flipped?

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September 23, 20160 found this helpful

for my outdoor switch to outdoor spot light I have to hit switch at least 4 x then it turns on ?

Thank you Rick

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By 0 found this helpful
July 14, 2017

In my bedroom I have one wall light switch that operates a ceiling fan. There are also 3 other outlets in the room. The problem I'm having is my ceiling fan, when on, will suddenly stop working; the lights also. Sometimes it can take 2 hrs up to a few days before the light switch works.


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By 0 found this helpful
January 13, 2017

My friends light is not working in his bedroom. The lighting circuit breaker is on and the other lights and switches in the circuit are working. I replaced the switch and light fitting, but it still doesn't work. I don't have any test equipment, but to me it seems as though the switch isn't getting any power to it.

Any ideas?

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January 13, 20170 found this helpful

I would think you would need a test meter to determine for sure. You can get simple ones for around $20.

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January 19, 20170 found this helpful

It is possible that the light is fed from the load side of a GFCI or AFCI receptacle. If this is the case, it would be an easy fix to reset the tripped receptacle.


Going beyond that, I would hire an electrician to help identify that both the power and the neutral are continuous to the light. (a meter would show about zero resistance between neutral and ground and with power on it would show 120 VAC between hot and neutral or ground)

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By 0 found this helpful
August 9, 2015

Recently I changed a faulty light switch in one room and right after doing so the light switch in the adjacent room stopped working. I tested the lines for power and it came up negative. Is this something that can be easily fixed or do I need to call an electrician?

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August 10, 20150 found this helpful

I would always recommend an electrician.

Assuming the other switch is for a different light fixture, what may have happened was that in the process of changing your switch the hot wire feeding the other switch came loose under the wire nut.

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August 14, 20150 found this helpful

@Bruce S: thanks so much for the advice! It worked. I was able to fix the light based on your suggestion :)

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By 0 found this helpful
July 24, 2011

I have a light pole near my dock with one plug outlet near the top. The switch for that light pole is on the outside wall of my pool deck. On the house that is near my backdoor, there are 2 switches in that box and one is for that pole and the other for the pool lights that change colors.

My friend plugged in a 5 hp compressor into that pole and blew something because now I have no power to the pole or the pool lights. The breakers are not tripped, I re-set them all and still no power, I checked the current and there is no power getting to those 2 switches on my back wall, what could it be now? Thanks so much for any info.

By John2112 from Cape Coral, FL

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July 26, 20110 found this helpful

John, I don't think your friend 'blew something' as much as he/she burned something. This is a job for a professional, someone with the high-end tracking tools to find where the burn-out is. Make sure to contract with someone who is licensed in your area and the state, and check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure you aren't accidentally hiring a shady character.

You might want to shut the power feed off to that area as well to keep the fire hazard down until you can get a pro in there to find out what and where the trouble is.

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July 30, 20110 found this helpful

1. Is this a ground fault outlet/switch? if so there is another breaker for it at the pole not just at the breaker box, many times they look fine but you need to press them

2. It sounds like you have a plug/s run by 2 switches. If this is right they are called 3 way switches (why not 2 way? who knows some guy named them <g>) 3 way switches cost more than standard switches make sure you are getting the right one. When you take it down take a picture or draw it (or both) because if you get the wires in wrong spot one switch works the other won't. (DH did not listen to me.)

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By 0 found this helpful
December 9, 2015

I had a BC 10 amp light switch fitted to the safety board in my garage with 2 sets of fluro lights. I thought I was turning the switch on wrong! Initially it would make a buzzing noise and sometimes would turn lights on and other times it wouldn't. Electrician who fitted the switch and lights says its not his wiring, it's the lights. The switch would initially set safety switch off and cut power in the garage, or lights would trip its own switch and turn off? I have spoken to Midis who say it's the switch not the lights! My thought is it is the switch or the way it has been fitted. Any ideas? I am not sure why a normal light switch wasn't wired at the time.

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December 11, 20150 found this helpful

The ballast control switch, for dimming lamps, and your safety board often require special reduced voltage fixtures.

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By 0 found this helpful
October 22, 2015

I have this stairs' light circuit, but the LED won't turn off. What can I do?

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October 26, 20151 found this helpful

The capacitor is there to debounce the switch.

When the button is pushed, the negative terminal of the op amp is at 0 volts. The positive terminal is at 2/3 of Vcc. This drives the output of the op amp high (to Vcc).

With the button released the positive terminal stays at 2/3 of Vcc. The negative terminal must rise above that value to drive the output low. Evidently the input impedance of the op amp is less than 2 M ohms so the negative is staying below 2/3 Vcc. (input impedance for an op amp is typically 1 to 2 M ohms). Assuming an input resistance greater than 1 M ohm, decreasing the 1 M ohm resistor to a 500 k ohm resistor would cause the input voltage of the negative input to rise above 2/3 Vcc and the output would shut off. Care must be taken because this will increase the current flow to he input of the op amp which could shorten its life.

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By 0 found this helpful
September 21, 2015

I have a 3 switches for the lights and vent fan in my bathroom. The second and third switches work fine every time, but the first one does not turn the light on unless I play with it or I hit it. Does this sound like a electrical issue that I need to be concerned with, especially when it comes to safety?

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September 24, 20150 found this helpful

Hire an electrician to change the switch. From what you have described, it is going bad.

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By 0 found this helpful
September 10, 2015

We have a problem where a light in the stairwell is controlled by 2 - 3way switches, however not in the traditional sense. When you turn the light on with one switch, you have to turn it back off with the same switch. It can be either one, but it must be the same one to turn on and back off.

I've rewired the entire circuit. (I'm an industrial controls electrician.) With no power on the circuit, I checked the resistance through the switches. The circuit performs perfectly. When I apply power, we have the same issue.

I removed the light fixture and inserted the voltmeter between the power coming back from the switch to the fixture (hot). I tie the other lead of the meter to the neutral of the power coming in. Theoretically I should see 0 volts (or very close) when the switches are in one position, and then changing to 120 volts and back, but I don't. I see 120 volts and as I switch one or another switch it goes to 105 volts or 110 volts.

I'm not entirely sure what I have on my hands here. I have only 2 wires (old) power coming into the new circuit I've replaced, so there is no ground to check to. I'm thinking someone might have crossed the wires and I may be switching neutral?
I'm not sure. I guess I will be re-wiring the rest of the incoming circuit as well. :-(

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September 11, 20150 found this helpful

One of the two switches has the power coming in with no ground. It would be good to run a ground.

This switch has the hot wire connected to it (or possibly the neutral if someone crossed the wires). The two wires coming off the switch on a three way will always have one wire hot and one not. These are the "travellers". You can use your meter to measure the voltage between a traveller and the neutral to make sure the switch is working correctly. The hot traveller will change with switch position.

The second switch should receive the two travellers from the first switch. The output wire from the second switch, called the switch leg, goes to the light. You can use your meter to make sure that one traveller is hot from the other switch, then throw the other switch and make sure the other traveller is hot.

The neutral should be continuous through all this and its voltage to any ground (water line, drain line, furnace duct) should be zero.

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By 0 found this helpful
August 24, 2015

I just replaced a wall switch and it still won't work. The tester shows a dim light. This wall switch is connected to the ceiling fan. Please help.

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August 28, 20150 found this helpful

I would call in an electrician.

You replaced a switch, presumably because it was not working, and the fan still doesn't work.

I assume this is the only switch for the fan.

Usually, and with good working practice, the hot wire is switched. But for the fan to work, both a hot and neutral are required.

An electrician would have a meter to test for continuity between the neutral and the ground at the fan, since they are connected in your panel.

The electrician would also check the inexpensive switch that is part of the fan. These often go bad. Is it possible the fan is turned off here?

Some fans have remote controls and it could be the fan is not in run mode.

Good Luck

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By 0 found this helpful
August 23, 2015

I was changing a bad light switch on my wall and when I opened it up it only had 2 wires, one copper and one covered in red. There was no ground wire coming out of the metal box.

When I hooked up the new switch and turned it on it worked, but when I tried to screw it back into the box it sparked a bit. Please help; I don't have one of those ohm readers or anything.

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August 24, 20150 found this helpful

Please use an electrician. You should never work on electrical when it is energized.

The two wires, "one copper and one covered in red", on the switch should both have insulation because both will be current carrying conductors. Again, an electrician can fix this condition for you.

No ground wire coming out of the box is not uncommon. The ground wire may be attached to the box itself and the switch is protected by the screws to the box.

The sparking may have come from the copper wire touching the grounded box. Although the bare wire is bad, it sounds as though your box is grounded.

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By 0 found this helpful
July 16, 2015

A few nights ago I turned on the landing light and the bulb blew. I thought no more of it, knowing I needed to get a new bulb, but then a few hours later I went to go upstairs and the landing light was on! The next night it was working fine, but then the night after it wouldn't turn on again, but then turned itself on during the night! Should I be worried and call the council to get my electrics looked at? Thanks in advance.

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July 18, 20150 found this helpful

The first thing to check is to see if the bulb is securely screwed into the outlet. It may be only partially set in, and so if it gets banged or bumped or jiggled, it may shut itself off because it has come loose. You could also try just replacing the bulb. If neither of these easy solutions solves your problem, you should call your maintenance person.

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April 13, 20150 found this helpful

What is the problem if a bulb is still lit to dim while the switch is turn off? Please help me!

By Joems from Phillipines, Quezon City

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April 13, 20150 found this helpful

If this is a new problem, it is most likely a faulty switch.

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March 28, 20150 found this helpful

I was putting in a new light bulb in my kitchen. I installed the new light bulb and when I turned on the light switch the bulb flashed and I lost power to my 2 back bedrooms, living room, and basement. However my bathroom upstairs, my front bedroom, and TV in living room still turn on.

By Anthony

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March 30, 20150 found this helpful

All this from changing a light bulb? I'd say - call an electrician.

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January 13, 20150 found this helpful

We have a 4 switch panel in our kitchen and every light it controls works fine except the one in the garage. Sometimes it comes on and sometimes it doesn't. It is completely random as far as I can tell. Flicking the switch on and off doesn't seem to make a difference, it basically has a mind of its own.

By Steven C. from AL

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January 22, 20150 found this helpful

Often times garage lights are on three way switches. If installed incorrectly or using the wrong type of switch it could behave as you describe. Its working would depend on the position of the other switch.

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November 20, 20130 found this helpful

The light switch flashed as I turned it on, I made it safe. I have undone and reconnected the red wire that had come loose, but it will not turn on. All other lights work. I have even changed a light bulb. It's a dimmer switch for a light with four spot lights.

Please help.

By Mary H

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By 0 found this helpful
March 29, 2010

My bathroom outlet only works when attached light switch is in the off position. When I plugged in a drill, and turned it on, the lights went on. How come?

By gager from Rochester, NY

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