Why your light switch is not working and how to fix it
Why your light switch is not working

share this article

subscribe for monthly electrical tips

Why your light switch is not working and how to fix it

Do you have a light switch not working or otherwise not working properly? 

Whether it’s not turning the light on, making a popping noise, or crackling when you flip your switch it’s a sign that something is wrong.

If you’ve tried replacing the bulbs, here’s a few things to check when your light switch is not working.

The light switch is tripping the circuit breaker

If your light fixture doesn’t turn on when you flip your light switch and you hear a pop, go check your circuit breaker or fuse box. 

If you’ve got a blown fuse or the circuit breaker is tripped, you’ve got a short somewhere overloading the circuit the light switch is on. That could mean something is wrong with the wiring leading to the switch or a problem with the switch itself. 

If you’re hearing popping or sizzling coming from the switch itself or smell burning that’s another sign the wiring could be the issue.

The safest thing to do in this case is to call an electrician.

However, you can check some things for yourself if you desire. 

First, shut off the power to the circuit the switch is on. To be safe, we recommend using a multimeter to test if the power is truly off. 

If you’re not sure which circuit the switch is on, cut off all power or have an electrician do the work. 

After the power is off, remove the light switch’s cover to inspect the terminal screws. Check each terminal screw to ensure its tightness. If any wires are loose, reseat them and tighten the terminal screws.

Then, replace everything and switch the power back on. If the switch works, that might have been the fix! Just keep an eye out for any other odd behavior.

If there are no loose wires or screws, look to see if the “live” wire (the one delivering power) is touching either of the other two wires. 

The live wire will be the black one.

If it is touching, if the wires look frayed, or if you see burn marks or melted plastic, you’ll have to call an electrician to step in for the fix. 

Light switch itself is broken

In some cases, this is fairly quick to diagnose. 

Inside your light switch there is a toggle that connects the contacts. Sometimes, this can become loose and not make the connection between contacts. 

You’ll be able to tell if this is the case because your plastic level piece will feel very loose.

If that’s not it, there could still be a problem with the switch itself if no other fixes seem to work.

Older switches can have worn connectors or deteriorated wiring inside and simply need replaced. 

Again, it’s safer to have an electrician do this work. However, if you’re confident that you can do it on your own here’s how it’s done:

Shut off the power to the circuit the light switch is on before doing anything else. Test it with a multimeter to be certain.

Then, remove the faceplate and unscrew the switch.

Take the ground wire – it’ll either be a bare copper wire or encased in green plastic – and connect it to the green screw on the new switch.

Then connect the remaining wires to the other screws on the new switch. 

In most cases, your switch will be a single-pole switch (simply turns one thing on and off) and it doesn’t matter which wire goes to which screw. 

You will be able to tell which type of switch you have by how many screw terminals the switch has.

Single-pole switches have two screw terminals on one side of the switch and a third, green grounding screw terminal connected to the metal strap. 

However, if you have a three-way switch (it also controls another appliance like a fan) have three screw terminals and a ground screw.

Three-way switches also will not have on/off markings like single-pole switches do.

If you do have a three-way switch and all you need to do is replace it, you can simply label the live wire connected to the common screw before removing it from the old light switch.

You’ll know which wire is the ground because it’ll be bare or green and the other two wires can be attached to either remaining screw.

After you replace everything, test it all out. If it works, congrats! If not, it could be a sign of a larger, potentially dangerous problem and require a certified electrician to diagnose.

leave a message

have questions or want to hire a master?

home bar lighting example

4 home bar lighting examples

If you’re looking at building a home bar – or upgrading your current space – you’ve likely been looking at the different options available for ...
Benefits of installing a new electrical panel

Benefits of installing a new electrical panel

If you know you have an old fuse box or circuit breaker but are having a hard time deciding if the benefits of installing a ...
Home theater lighting ideas

Proper home theater lighting for the best experience

You might not think of your home theater’s lighting as one of the most important decisions when it comes to configuring your own little cinema, ...