Problems With a Pull Chain Switch

Updated April 17, 2017

Created for ease of use, pull chains connected to electric switches should turn on or off lights or ceiling fans without wall switches. However, sooner or later, whether string or chain, the pull chain breaks, leaving the light or fan on or off if no other switch exists. Often located in attics, basements or garages, pull chain switches pose added difficulty in their accessibility; the fixture hangs high above the repairer's head. In addition, understanding electricity and how to avoid electrocution remains compulsory during the repair. Most handymen can fix the problem if you don't want the expense of an electrician.

When the Pull String or Chain Completely Breaks From the Light Fixture

Buy a new, usually inexpensive ($5-10), pull chain light switch at any hardware store. To replace the switch, turn off electricity to the light from the circuit breaker and unscrew the screws that fasten the switch to the electrical socket or ceiling. Label each wire with masking tape, or take a photo showing which wire goes with which screw. Use a screwdriver to unhook the wires from the old fixture. Connect wires to the new pull chain light switch and attach the pull chain or string. Turn the electricity back on and pull the chain to make sure the light works.

When the Pull Chain Breaks, Leaving Part of the Chain Hanging From the Light Fixture

"Bead connectors" can be bought online or in hardware stores for less than a dollar. Take the small bead connector in hand and attach a piece of chain into the largest hole on the connector and slide it to the end. Then place the last bead on the hanging broken chain in the connector and pull to the end to restore the chain.

When the Chain Sticks, and the Light Will Not Turn On or Off

You must replace the pull chain switch unit by following the instructions in Section 1.

When the Pull Chain or String on a Ceiling Fan Unit Malfunctions

Often ceiling fans come with a pull chain for the lights and a string for the fan or vice versa. If the chain or string breaks or the switch stops functioning for the lights or fan, buy a replacement at any hardware store. Many carry replacement parts for ceiling fans. Take the old one with you to the store to ensure the new switch fits exactly. Before disconnecting the wires, take a photo to help reinstall the part.

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About the Author

Patricia Hunt first found her voice as a fiction and nonfiction writer in 1974. An English teacher for over 27 years, Hunt's works have appeared in "The Alaska Quarterly Review," "The New Southern Literary Messenger" and "San Jose Studies." She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from American University and a doctorate in studies of America from the University of Maryland.