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How To Determine If Your Light Switch Works Or Not

August 2, 2006

Q: how do you know if a light switch is broken? I’ve been installing a light fixture. Wires in the fixture appear to be correctly wired. However, it does not work. I have a Leviton switch which is flickering. A working one in another room does not flicker. Therefore, I think it is a switch issue. I’ve taken the meter to the wires going into and out of the switch. All appear dead. This leads me to think the switch is broken. How else can I test to see what is broken? (Hopefully, not the wiring)

A: The first thing I would check is to see if voltage is present at the switch. If not check your breaker or fuse. Check between each of the wires on the switch and your neutral or ground.

If voltage is present, check voltage across your switch terminals with the switch in the “on” position. Measuring across each screw on the switch should give you 0 volts. If this is the case your switch is good. You can also disconnect the wires from the switch and check continuity across the switch terminals. There is no continuity with the switch off and there is continuity with the switch on.

You can also measure across each screw terminal with the switch in the “off” position; this should give you 120 volts. If you get 0 volts your light bulb is bad.


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3 Responses to “How To Determine If Your Light Switch Works Or Not”

  1. How to Test if Your Light Switch Works or Not ~ Lockergnome’s Doing It on August 2nd, 2006 5:35 pm

    […] This one hits close to home because we just had a ceiling light stop working in my house (and no, new lightbulbs didn’t fix the problem). The house is 80 years old, so there could be one of several things wrong, but I was leaning toward a defective dimmer switch. Gilchrist Electric offers some good advice on how to test the light switch to see if it’s broken. Some knowledge of voltage testing required. electrical wiring, home improvement […]

  2. Steve on October 1st, 2006 8:44 pm

    OK…my problem sounds similar to this one but different. I have an older home of 80 years. One day an outlet goes out as well as a hall light and bathroom light. Each light is on its own switch. All are on the same circuit. Other lights refrigerator on the circuit still have power. Circuit breakers were fine. light bulbs were fine. Voltage to both switches from terminal screw to outlet box were 43 volts when when switch is on and 0 volts when switch is off. Any ideas?

  3. Administrator on October 2nd, 2006 12:09 pm

    Hey Steve,

    Thank you for your question.

    I believe that you may have an open neutral. To solve this, I recommend hiring a qualified electrician. This could be from a loose connection or possibly a bad switch. Electricians used to switch the neutral wire in older homes.