Light switch problem

by 3po3
So my bedroom light switch stopped working. I thought the old switch had just died, so I switched it with another switch from another room. It seemed to do the trick. The light came back on and worked fine - once.
Then I came back later and tried to turn on the light again. It no longer worked. Could it just be a fluke, and two switches died in the same spot on the same day, or is there something else I should troubleshoot?
  15 answers
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Jan 22, 2013
    We had a neighbor who had the same problem and hubby advised him to get larger wire nuts for the fixture...sometimes builders do not use the correct sizes when installing light fixtures. You might want to look at this before driving yourself nuts! Just a thought!
  • Designs by BSB Designs by BSB on Jan 22, 2013
    Sorry for the obvious... but you may want to try new bulbs
  • If the bulbs are burning out, there is probably a loose wire- I would not expect the switch. A loose or worn wire can short the bulb out, check the light fixture connections.
  • 3po3 3po3 on Jan 22, 2013
    I should have clarified that I know it's not the bulbs. I have three CFLs in the fixture, and they couldn't have all burned out at the same time. Also, when I briefly had working lights again, they all came back on. Also, an update. I just fiddled with it again, and there is no power going to the switch. There is power on the circuit, but I used a little tester, and I don't think any power is going to the switch. Is this something I need an electrician for?
  • I would check the wiring in the fixture. How many wires are in the switch box, one set or two? Is this a three way switch or single pole unit? Some cases the power comes from the light box down to the switch itself. If the wires become loose or short out in the light box just by wiggling the fixture you make and break the contact thus putting power to and off of the switch location. Lastly , If you used a switch where you push the wires into the little holes in the back, be sure you put them in the correct ones. One set of holes are to release the wire should you need to remove the switch from the wire, If you placed the wire in that hole, you may get it to work and sometimes it may short out and not work. It is something simple I am sure. But my guess would be to check the light fixture box if the power is coming from there.
  • 3po3 3po3 on Jan 22, 2013
    Thanks Woodbridge. I knew I could count on you. There is just one set of wires in the switch box. It's a single pole unit. It is the type of switch where I wrapped a hook in the wire around the little screw (I'm sure there is technical lingo for this, but I don't know it). I will check the fixture, although it's odd because the fan on the fixture works fine (it's not connected to the same switch).
  • The fan wiring can be an issue as well. Does the light have a dimmer? Or what about the light fixture itself. Perhaps the pull chain on the light is faulty. Lots of ceiling fans have all sorts of internal wiring and sometimes if it runs it can wiggle the wires loose. But if the switch is controlling the entire fan and light and you separately control the fan on and off with speeds on the pull chain. My bet the issue is in the fan housing or where the wires are connected in that box location. To confirm that the switch is working or not, If you have power to the switch and its on but the fixture is not. Take a voltage tester and place the leads on each screw of the switch. If you get power, the switch is bad, if you do not the switch is working.
  • 3po3 3po3 on Jan 22, 2013
    Thanks Woodbridge. The odd thing is that I haven't used the fan for months, and never use the pullchain for the light. We always just control it from the wall. I'll start more troubleshooting and let you know what happens. Thanks again for all your help.
  • Start at the light. My bet something is loose in there. Stay warm. But do not touch hot wires!
  • From the gist of this discussion I believe you will find the problem is the light connection at/in the fan but without knowing the wire configuration it's just a guess. You say there is only one set of wires in the switch box and the light and fan have different switches. Are they at different locations in the room? How many single wires, black/white/bare/green, are actually in the box and what are they connected to? Troubleshooting is the hardest thing to do. Sometimes you get lucky and get it right away, 10 minutes. Other times it takes forever, 10 hours. If you still can't get it, upload some pix so we can get a better idea of the setup. When working with electric it should always be done with the power off except when testing for power of course.
  • 3po3 3po3 on Jan 23, 2013
    Thanks. I will try to take apart the fixture today and see what's going on in there.
  • LandlightS LandlightS on Jan 23, 2013 said there is only one set of wire in the junction box for the switch....if so, I assume there is a black wire and a white wire both attached to the light switch. The white wire may be marked with black tape indicating that this is a switch loop from the junction box in the ceiling, and the white wire is the hot side of the switch loop. Did you check the white wire for power? If this is the case, the connection in the ceiling is the juxt of the problem. If you are using a multi=meter, you can check for a circuit by testing the white wire and the ground wire for 120 volts, or the black wire and the ground for same. If you do have voltage, the neutral in the ceiling may be the problem. Just be careful....Gary
  • 3po3 3po3 on Jan 26, 2013
    Gary, Thanks so much for all your wise advice. I solved the problem today sort of by accident. I finally got a chance to take the cover off the fixture housing. I just kind of looked at the jumble of wires and twisted a couple of the wire nuts, then went to check your notes and start testing things. When I turned the power back on, the lights just started working. Woo hoo.
  • There is another lesson to be learned from this. Be sure to always use covers on splice boxes when doing wiring. If a spark occurs because of a loose wire, and it happens. the spark will be contained inside the box and not cause a fire.
  • 3po3 3po3 on Jan 27, 2013
    Thanks for the tip and helpful info, as always.