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How to Test a Light Socket

To test a light socket, you’ll need to determine if there’s a complete circuit allowing the socket to receive electricity. Electrons must flow in an uninterrupted path from the power source and back to it, for the socket to work. Therefore, testing the socket is the next step after you realize a burnt-out bulb or tripped breaker isn’t the problem.

You will need a non-contact voltage tester to check whether there’s a fault in the light socket. We’ll detail the steps to follow to determine whether it’s functioning properly.

Testing the Socket While It’s On

To test a powered light socket, turn the power to the fixture on. Remove the mounting screws and lower the socket, then set the voltage tester to read AC voltage (at a value that’s the lowest to but greater than 120 VAC). Touch one probe to the hot screw terminal (attached to the black wire) and touch the other probe to the ground screw (attached to the bare copper wire or metal electrical box).

For an individual light bulb holder, touch one probe to the brass power contact tab at the bottom of the socket. The probe should be centered and not touch the contact and sidewall at once. Touch the other probe to the silver shell where the bulb threads into, without touching a power source at the same time. Don’t let the probes contact one another.

How to Read the Test Meter

If the meter on the voltage tester reads 120V, the socket and the circuit are working. But if no reading shows, the light socket isn’t receiving power and the neutral wiring is likely faulty. You’ll need to further evaluate the problem by turning off the breaker and taking the socket apart, so you can check the wires connected to it.

Testing a Light Socket with the Breaker Off

Switch off the circuit breaker to the socket. Then test the socket by attaching the continuity tester clip to the hot screw terminal (black wire) and touching the probe to the socket’s metal tab. If the tester doesn’t respond, the socket must be replaced.

However, you can continue testing the socket by clipping the continuity tester to the neutral metal screw terminal (this is the white wire lead). Then touch the probe to the socket threads. The tester should show a reading. If not, then there’s no question you need to replace the light socket.

Diagnosing the Problem

When a light socket is not working, it can be hard to determine the source of the issue. There could be damage to the socket itself or a flaw in the wires and cables leading to the socket. If the meter doesn’t pick up current from the brass and silver tabs on the back of the socket, you may have a wiring problem. Wires could be corroded, stripped, or frayed. It is unsafe to perform wiring work without electrical experience, so the best option now is to have an electrician diagnose the problem and make the appropriate repairs.

Contact Black Hills Home Services

We have trained, licensed, and bonded electrical technicians who can quickly determine why your light socket isn’t working. Our team can fix the problem no matter how big or small it is. Using the highest-quality materials and equipment, they’re able to complete repairs right every time. To request service by an electrician in Olympia, WA, call 888-445-0585 today.

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