How To Fix A Bathroom Light Not Working

A well-lit bathroom is akin to heaven – you can read your favourite comics with ease on your porcelain throne. Yet when a bathroom light begins to flicker, or worse yet, stops working entirely, it can be… an endeavour. Perhaps your lightbulb is burnt out – but what if it’s actually a sign of something worse? Luckily, DreamyHome is here to help.

The most common causes of a bathroom light not working are a faulty or old lightbulb, poor connection, damaged fixtures, a faulty switch, improper power or insulation, and much more.

Keep reading to learn how to fix any bathroom light easily. And follow the steps in order – they’re written to make your workload as easy as possible, dealing with simple fixes first.

Common Problems With Bathroom Lights

We’ll start with the simple fixes for simple bathroom lights first. That’s not to say that simple lights are bad – they’re just the most common. If you’ve got a recessed (can) or pull chain light, skip down below as these carry their own issues.

Bathroom Lights Not Working: Recessed (AKA Can) Lights Basic Lights

First things first – do your lights flicker or not turn on at all? Answering this will help pinpoint the problem. If it’s the former, follow the steps below.

Lights Don’t Work at All

  1. If your lighbulb is burnt out, replace it. That should always be your first step if a light suddenly just… doesn’t turn on.
  2. Is your lightbulb securely in the fixture? Unscrew and rescrew your lightbulb – tightly. This doesn’t mean manhandle it by force into place, just ensure it’s tight and snug in its home.
  3. Is the socket tab (the little metal piece in the centre) bent or flat? If so, you’ll want to bend it back in place (with the power off). I recommend a flathead screwdriver or similar tool.
  4. How do the wire connections look? Firstly, turn all power off at the breaker. Examine the wire connections at the switch, breaker, and light fixtures – are they frayed or obiously out of place? If so, call an electrician to take a look. Sure, you could do it yourself, but you may make things worse and pros exist for a good reason.

Flickering (Basic) Lights

If your light is flickering, however, check the following:

  1. Examine your switch contacts. Do you hear abnormal sounds, such as sizzling or crackling near your switch? If so – replace them, they’re dying or dead.
  2. Again, examine your wire connections. If the switch or breaker have loose or frayed wires, that could be the cause. If electricity can’t easily pass through the circuit, you’ll get flickering lights. This is where you call an electrician to confirm and fix the problem.
  3. Check your light bulb socket. This is less common, though still a possiblity. Consider replacing your light socket if you’ve had it for a while and haven’t done so previously. This is especially likely if you’re in an old home that hasn’t seen modern renovations.

Bathroom Lights Not Working: Recessed (AKA Can) Lights

If your lights are recessed into the ceiling of your home, there are a few additional issues that could pop up. Go through this list and see if any of the problems seem to be the cause.

If your light is either flickering or turning on and off by itself, it could be due to the safety precautions placed in recessed light fixtures. If they get too hot, they’re designed to turn off to prevent fires – which can lead to mysteriously non-functioning lights.

  1. Do your lights have the proper wattage? Check the wattage rating of your light fixtures and lightulbs. If the bulb is too high in wattage needs, it could cause flickering or burnt out lights. Consider replacing it with a lower-wattage lightbulb.
  2. How does the insulation around your light fixtures look? Remember that safety function we mentioned above? This is where that comes into play. If insulation is packed too tight, you could find that this safety switch activates itself regularly. This is because the insulation will prevent air circulation and heat dissipation from the bulb.
  3. How does your limit switch look? If everything above seems in order, check the limit switch itself, or replace the fixture entirely. As this is an involved process, I recommend calling an electrician to confirm the problem before you spend money on a fix that may or may not work.

Bathroom Lights Not Working: Integral Switches and Pull Chains

If your bathroom lights are activated with an internal switch, such as a pull chain, check out the following steps to troubleshoot. And remember – always turn off the power to electronics you’re working on before beginning.

Anyway – here’s the checklist:

  1. Check your lightbulb. If the lightbulb isburnt out, replace it and test. If your lightbulb is just loosely secured, tighten and ensure the bulb is snugly in place in the light fixture.
  2. Check your lightbulb’s socket tab. It the tab has flattened or bent, try to bend it back into place with a screwdriver once the power is off. This is important, as a bent tab will prevent electricity from easily making it to your lights.
  3. Check the wire connections. You’ll need an ohm or continuity tester here, so if you don’t have one (or don’t know how to use it) call an electrician. Otherwise, ensure that your circuit is getting consistent power – if not, you may need to replace the wiring in your bathroom.
    1. Alternatively, you may need to replace your light fixture. If the fixture or its wiring appears burnt or overly loose – it’s time for a new light fixture.

Final Thoughts

If your bathroom lights are flickering or have stopped working entirely, there are a great number of things to check. Begin by determining what type of lights you have, and then go to the above list that matches your needs.

Whether you have a pull chain, recessed, or standard lightbulb, there are a few common issues to check. Always begin by simply replacing your lightbulb. If you’ve already replaced your lightbulb, check that the tab in your light fixture isn’t bent or damaged. Bend damaged tabs back into place with a flathead screwdriver or similar tool. Other common issues are damaged or old light fixtures and switches or old mechanics such as an ancient pull-chain switch.

However you have your lights set up, it’s important to know your limits. Electronics and wiring can be dangerous to work with for untrained newbies. So never, ever let yourself feel ashamed about calling professionals for help. They have the tools and training to safely fix your lights and wiring – and more importantly, they’ll likely do it faster than you ever could. And if you’re looking to upgrade your shower, consider checking out our guide on electric showers – you deserve an extra-nice shower in your well-lit bathroom.

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About the Author Harry Thompson

Involved in home renovations throughout his life, Harry is an expert in everything to do with home and garden DIY. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking and tending to his garden.