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How to Replace a Pull-Chain Light Fixture

Install a new fixture safely and quickly

how to fix a pull chain fixtureFamily Handyman
Pull chain light fixtures are easy to replace when the switch wears out or breaks. We show you how to replace it safely and quickly. It'll only take about 15 minutes.

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Time
Instant!
Complexity
Simple
Cost
Under $20

Replace the bad pull-chain fixture

Photo 1: Test for hot wires

Turn off the power, remove the light bulb and unscrew the fixture from the electrical box. Pull the fixture down, but keep your hands away from the wires. Touch one voltage tester probe to the black wire, and the other to the white wire. If the voltage indicator doesn’t light up, the power is off.

Caution: Turn off power at the main panel.

Photo 2: Disconnect the wires

Loosen the terminal screws and unhook the wiring from the old fixture. If the wire ends are broken or corroded, strip off 3/4 in. of sheathing, and bend the bare wire end into a hook.

Photo 3: Connect the new fixture

Attach the black wire to the gold terminal screw on the new fixture and the white wire to the silver terminal screw. Wrap the wires clockwise so they cover at least three-quarters of the terminal screws. Firmly tighten the screws so the copper wire compresses slightly. Twist the fixture to spiral the wires into the electrical box. Screw the new fixture to the box snugly, but don’t over tighten it or the porcelain might crack.

Pull-chain light fixtures are handy for basements and storage areas—until they quit working. The internal switch mechanism can wear out, or pulling too hard on the cord can snap the chain or completely pull it out of the fixture. Replacing the broken fixture is simple and inexpensive (available at any home center or hardware store). Pull-chain fixtures are made from either plastic or porcelain, but we recommend the porcelain because it withstands heat better and lasts longer.

Before starting, flip the circuit breaker or pull the fuse to disconnect the power to the light, then test to make sure the power is off (Photo 1). Replace the broken fixture as shown in Photos 2 and 3. There may be an unused bare ground wire inside the electrical box. If it falls down while you’re replacing the fixture, wrap it in a circle and push it up as far into the electrical box as possible. Learn these 12 tips for easier electrical work at home.

CAUTION!

Aluminum wiring requires special handling. If you have aluminum wiring, call in a licensed pro who’s certified to work with it. This wiring is dull gray, not the dull orange that’s characteristic of copper.

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Voltage tester
  • Wire stripper/cutter

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • Pull-chain fixture