What to Do If an Electrical Switch Is Not Working

What to Do If an Electrical Switch Is Not Working

Electrical switches are found throughout your home to control light fixtures, receptacles, and appliances. They’re used many times per day. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to have, for example, light switch problems. If the switch doesn’t turn the light/appliance on, lights flicker, or the circuit breaker trips, the issue could be with the switch itself. Here’s a look at what you can do if an electrical switch is not working.

Step 1: Check the Switch

Know the type of switch you’re examining. There are toggle-type, slide-lever, button, and dimmer switches. Inspect the switch and its parts to see if a toggle lever or slide is stuck, loose, or otherwise not operating as it should. If one fixture or appliance isn’t working, most likely it’s a single-pole switch, but if lights or outlets in multiple locations aren’t working, you may have a three-way or four-way switch (this is important to know in case it needs to be replaced).

If a switch feels warm or hot, looks scorched, or makes a buzzing sound, turn off the circuit breaker and call an electrician to replace the switch.

Step 2: Looked for Tripped GFCI Outlets

The problem may be that there’s no power to the circuit. Look for the circuit breaker for the switch in the main electrical panel. If it is in the “On” position, look for any tripped GFCI outlets connected to the affected switch. Resetting the outlet may fix the problem.

Step 3: Inspect the Outlet or Bulb

Assuming you’ve ruled out a switch problem, check whether any bulbs have burnt out. Changing a bulb is easy and does not warrant spending time replacing a wall switch. If it’s not the bulb, then inspect the lamp or appliance. If it’s unplugged, place the plug back in the socket to see if it’s working. However, the problem could be with the fixture or appliance if it’s still not working properly.

Step 4: Check the Connections and Wires Inside the Switch

Turn off the breaker, unscrew the switch plate cover, and examine the inside of the switch box. Look for loose wire connections. If a wire is loose or pulls away, reattach it to the terminal screw, then tighten it with a screwdriver. Replace the switch and turn on the breaker to test whether it’s working.

To get a better look at the switch, unscrew it and use insulated pliers to remove it from the electrical box, being careful not to touch the terminals. Next, use a voltage tester on the terminals by touching one lead to the green screw and the other to the brass terminal. If there’s no reading, the switch needs to be repaired or replaced.

Step 5: Test the Black Wires

If these aren’t loose, disconnect them from the switch and create a bypass. Use pliers to twist the black wires together and attach them to a wire connector before turning on the breaker. When you restore power to the circuit and the light goes on, you have a faulty switch that needs to be replaced. However, if the light stays off or flickers, there may be a loose connection elsewhere in the circuit.

Contact Express Electrical Services

If an electrical switch isn’t working and you can’t fix it, hire an electrician. Express Electrical Services is available 24/7 to address emergencies throughout Southern California. Our trained technicians provide all types of electrical repair and installation and help with home safety and home automation. To receive prompt service, submit your request online or call 323-727-7799.