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math_mom 05-05-2011 11:14 AM

Intermittent Bedroom Light
My ceiling light went out in my bedroom. At first I thought it was just a bad bulb, but then it would turn on and off on its own. I tried replacing the bulb and nothing worked. I tried replacing the switch. The first couple of times I tried it the light didn't go on, then it blinked like it did before, then it would turn on whenever I turned the switch. The next day it wouldn't come on, but after a few tries it eventually did.

Here's some information. Other lights and receptacles are on the same circuit and I don't have any problems. Is it safe to assume it's not a problem with my circuit breaker?

If the light comes on, even if intermittently, is it safe to assume the wire between the switch and the light is alright? If there was a short, the light shouldn't work at all right?

The light fixture is about 7 years old. I read somewhere that the socket may be bad (something about the center pin getting pushed in too much from overtightening lightbulbs), but there are two sockets and I think it's unlikely that both sockets are bad. Another suggested that the wiring to the sockets could have come lose, but again it wouldn't likely be to both. I can't imagine how the wiring could come lose on a ceiling fixture, but I suppose it's possible.

I'd appreciate any advice or things to try short of hiring an electrician or destroying my walls.


RST 05-05-2011 11:19 AM

Start by checking the switch (or all switches if there are multiple ones). Kill the breaker. Use a circuit tester or voltmeter to verify there is no power at the switch before touching anything! Then check that all wires are tight and well connected. If you see any black marks - a sign of a short - replace the switch.

If the switch(es) are fine, next plan would be to check the connections at the fixture.


SD515 05-05-2011 11:38 AM

In addition, check if the switch is 'back-stabbed'. I'd remove the wires and put them under the screws if so. Might fix the problem.

McSteve 05-05-2011 02:43 PM

It definitely sounds like a loose connection. If nothing else is affected, I'd start by pulling out the switch again with the circuit breaker turned off, and checking all of the connections in the switch box to make sure they're solid. Then take the light fixture down and do the same with the connections in the ceiling box. If you don't find the problem in either of those places, turn the power back on, turn the light on, and start tapping on stuff. If there are outlets nearby which are on the same circuit, it's possible that the light is fed from one of those. So knock on them a bit and see if the light flickers. Or just keep the power off, and pull the outlets out to check their connections as well.

It's possible that there could be a broken wire, or a nail driven through a wire, or some similar damage inside the walls, but it is much more likely that there is a loose connection in one of the light, switch, or outlet boxes.

math_mom 05-05-2011 02:46 PM

There are three light switches. I'm not even sure what the other two go to. I think originally there may have been a ceiling fan. If they are bad, could it affect the third switch, which I did replace already?

Yes, they are backstabbed. Perhaps I will re-replace with the ones to screw on instead. I assume I can get single pole for those as well?

McSteve 05-05-2011 03:17 PM

Yes. In fact most switches commonly available will have the screw terminals on the sides, as well as the backstab holes. I, and most of the others here, recommend against using the backstab holes because they do not make a very good connection, and are prone to failing over time.

math_mom 05-05-2011 03:48 PM

Thank you everyone for the information. I'll start by replacing all three but with the screw-type connections. Then I'll take out the fixture and check those leads. Since it is intermittent, the lose connection seems to be the most reasonable explanation rather than a bad wire. I'll keep my fingers crossed that it does the trick.

The Deez 05-05-2011 04:25 PM

I hate back stabs :P sometimes it's hell to find which device is loose. but your on the perfect path, just start replacing devices with screw type(better connection anyways)

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