How to fix a pull-chain light switch

Written by dave donovan
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In many situations in the home, the traditional light fixture controlled by a switch on the wall isn't necessary. Closets, basement stairwells and other confined areas are served just as well with a light that's turned on and off with a simple tug of a pull chain. But, while a pull-chain switch can provide many years of trouble-free operation, repeated use can cause it to wear down to the point that the switch no longer turns the light off or on. Luckily, fixing a pull-chain light switch is inexpensive and relatively easy.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • Wire strippers
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Touch-type voltage tester
  • Wire connectors
  • Electrical tape

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Turn off the power to the pull chain light fixture by toggling off the circuit breaker in the electrical panel that controls the light's circuit.

  2. 2

    Remove the cover or globe (if applicable) and light bulb from the pull chain light fixture. If the light was on before turning the breaker off, wait a few minutes before removing the cover and bulb to allow them to sufficiently cool off.

  3. 3

    Remove the two bolts that secure the fixture to the wall or ceiling box, using the screwdriver.

  4. 4

    Pull the fixture away from the box carefully, press the button on the touch-type voltage tester and press the tip of the tester to each of the wires within the box. This is to make sure the circuit is off before you disconnect the wires. If the tester beeps, lights up or both, the circuit is still hot. Don't continue until you have the correct breaker off.

  5. 5

    Loosen the cap that secures the pull-chain switch to the fixture, using needle-nose pliers. Finish unscrewing the cap with your fingers and slide it off over the chain.

  6. 6

    Pull the pull-chain switch out of its hole and disconnect the wires connected to it. One wire is the feed wire from the wall or ceiling box and the other is the black wire connected to the fixture.

  7. 7

    Install the new pull chain into the hole left behind by the previous one and secure it in place, using the screw-on cap.

  8. 8

    Remove any insulation necessary for making the connection, using wire strippers. No more than 3/4 inch of non-insulated wire should be exposed.

  9. 9

    Connect the black wire from the wall box with one of the black wires from the pull-chain switch. It doesn't matter which one you choose. Use a wire connector to secure the connection and wrap it with electrical tape.

  10. 10

    Connect the black wire from the fixture with the second black wire from the pull-chain switch. Use a wire connector to secure the connection and wrap it with electrical tape.

  11. 11

    Push the wires back into the wall or ceiling box carefully and resecure the fixture to the box with the two bolts removed earlier.

  12. 12

    Install the light bulb and the cover (if applicable) and turn the circuit breaker back on.

  13. 13

    Tug on the pull chain to turn the light on and then again to make sure it goes off.

Tips and warnings

  • Before using a touch-type voltage tester on the circuit you're working on, test it on a circuit that you know is hot to make sure the tester is functioning properly.

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