How to fix a light switch

When one of your light switches isn’t working the problem is usually a dead bulb. However if a replacement doesn't do the trick and the circuit breaker isn't tripped, you may have blown a switch.

If you're a complete novice when it comes to electrics, hiring a qualified electrician is the safest way to get your home's spark back without getting shocked.

Safety first

Before you begin working:

  • Turn off the power to the circuit at the fuse box

  • Take off the cover plate and check the wires with a circuit tester to make sure no power is running through the lines

What to look for

Any one of the following problems could be causing the issues with your light switch:

Loose connections

Loose wire connections cause most switch problems. Make sure wires are securely attached to the switch. Screws should be tightened enough to keep wires securely in place.

Damaged wire ends

Wires that are frayed, bent or nicked may not provide a decent connection. Trim the wire ends and strip the plastic sheath until one inch of wire is exposed. Reattach the wires.

Bare wires touching the electrical box

Bare wires touching the electrical box will trip the circuit breaker or blow a fuse. If this is the case, check the wires have enough plastic sheathing to protect them.

Cracked light switch

Switches, like other mechanical fixtures, will break. Over time parts will wear out, so the entire switch unit will eventually need replacing.

Remember, a cracked light switch could allow damp to reach the conductors so it will need to be replaced as soon as possible.

Replacing a damaged switch is a matter of connecting the existing mounting box; otherwise you will have to replace both parts of the switch. If you are able to use the box, attach the new faceplate with the old machine screws. You can then guarantee the screws will match the threads.

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