Stop The Chain Reaction

By Joanne Loos Posted in: ImproveThe Fix is In

Ever get a little overzealous when turning off the lights and snap! — there goes the pull-chain? Below are simple steps for a frustration-free fix

I’ve always been a little bit of a klutz, so it came as no surprise to me when I broke the pull-chain light fixture in our laundry room. I’ve broken these types of chains before, but this time was different. Instead of snapping the chain, as I’ve done in the past, I pulled the entire thing out. Luckily, fixing a broken pull-chain light fixture is inexpensive and can be done in less than 30 minutes. Here’s how:

• Gather materials. You’ll need a screwdriver, a voltage tester, a wire stripper and a new, porcelain pull-chain fixture. (If you don’t know the size and wattage of the switch you need, hold off on purchasing it until you’ve gotten through the “Disconnect” step below. Then, take the old switch to the store when you go.)

• Turn off the power. Make sure to shut it off from the main panel. If your fixture is in a dark room, have a friend help you by holding a high-powered flashlight or lantern.

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• Test the wires. Unscrew the existing fixture and pull it down. Use your voltage tester to make sure there are no electrical currents going through. Do this by touching the one probe to the black wire and the other to the white wire. The indicator will light up if the power is still running through. If not, then you’re safe. Remember to keep your hands away from the wires while doing this.

• Take a picture.Take note, either by taking a picture or writing down the colors of each wire and the terminals to which they attach.

• Disconnect. Carefully detach the wires and examine the ends to make sure they aren’t damaged or corroded. If they are, use your wire stripper and strip off a little less than 1 inch of sheathing from the ends.

• Connect. Wrap the wires around the terminal screws of your new fixture, according to your notes. Typically, the black wire will go to the gold terminal screw and the white to the silver. Tighten the screws. Then, screw the new fixture into the box, being careful not to over tighten. Turn on the power and test it out.

This fix works well for copper wiring. If you have aluminum, call a professional. If you feel at all uncomfortable, consult a trusted contractor before proceeding.

Have a comment or question for Joanne? Email thefixisinhawaii@gmail.com.