Troubleshooting Lighting Fixtures

Troubleshooting a light fixture can prove to be a challenging task. Several components of a light fixture may fail, causing it to error. When troubleshooting a light fixture, begin with the simplest possible alternative and work your way through, saving the hardest part to diagnose for last. Through the process of elimination, you may be able to fix the fixture yourself and save the money required to hire an electrician.

Safety First

Before trying to troubleshoot a light fixture, make certain to switch off the power providing the fixture. Merely turning off the wall switch providing the fixture does not guarantee a live circuit isn’t present in the fixture’s electric box. Analyzing the wires in the electric box with a noncontact voltage meter helps you to verify the electrical current is indeed off. Probes attached to the meter are used close to wires from the electrical box to test for electric current. If you are unsure the electricity is off, switch off the main breaker supplying the whole house at the circuit breaker box.

Light Bulbs

Ensure you are using the right type and size of lights in the fixture. This is especially significant with fluorescent and LED (light-emitting diode) fittings. Replace the light bulbs in the fixture. Occasionally a light bulb will do the job initially and fail after it has been on for some time. This is due to the filament curling and losing contact after it has had a opportunity to heat up. When the filament cools, it can re-establish contact and once again function correctly.


Common problems with a fixture electric wiring are found from the electric box. You will need to eliminate any mounting screws securing the fixture to the electric box to expose the wires. A loose or disconnected cable could cause the fixture to error. It is also possible that a problem exists in the switch or its wiring. Switches can wear out over a protracted period. The wires in the electric box providing the switch may also become loose or disconnected. When you cannot determine a wiring problem visually, it may be necessary to flip on the electricity supply to the fixture at the circuit breaker box and apply the voltage meter to verify electricity is reaching the fixture or its switch.

Light Fixtures

Traditional light fixtures aren’t susceptible to error. But there are certain problems that can develop in a fluorescent fixture which may cause it to error. Fluorescent light fixture failure generally relates to the lights or the ballast. A visual review of this fixture can help determine if it’s bad. Ballasts use oil to help keep the unit cool; once they begin to escape, ballast failure is sure to follow. Another area to inspect on the fluorescent fittings is the lamp holder. As the fixture ages, the vinyl lamp holder can become brittle. This leads to splitting, causing the bulbs to get rid of contact. Although conventional fixtures are simple devices, a couple problems can develop with older versions. Light bulb socket failure and a poor wire within the fixture are the two most common culprits.

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