How to Troubleshoot a Lamp Socket

Did you buy a lamp at a yard sale only to discover later that it didn’t work? If so, don’t give up hope just yet. Based on my experience, lamp problems may be solved quickly, easily and for surprisingly little money. In most instances, the problem lies somewhere in the lamp’s socket area. Here’s how to determine what’s wrong:


In order to troubleshoot your lamp’s socket, you’ll need to purchase a voltmeter ($20), a Phillips screwdriver and a flat-head screwdriver ($20).

Troubleshoot the Exposed Portion of the Lamp’s Socket

Start by leaving the lamp unplugged and removing its shade. Next, remove the light bulb and peer down into the lamp’s socket. You should see a little brass tab. When the light bulb is inserted into the lamp’s socket, that little tab makes contact with the bottom of the bulb. If the bottom of the light bulb is unable to make sufficient contact with the brass tab, the light bulb will not light up.

Inspect the tab for dirt or other items that may be breaking the connection. Remove any debris. Problems could also arise if the tab is pressed too far down into the socket. As such, it is also a good idea to take a screwdriver and gently raise the brass tab up just a bit. Once that is done, reinstall the light bulb and plug the lamp back in. Check to see if what you have done thus far has corrected the problem. If the lamp still doesn’t work, unplug it and remove the light bulb.

Troubleshoot the Interior Portion of the Lamp’s Socket

The next step in the troubleshooting process should be to remove the lamp socket’s outer shell and examine the socket’s internal parts. Removing the lamp socket’s outer shell is easy. Simply look for the word “press” embossed onto the outer shell. Once you’ve located the word, press down on it and remove the socket at an angle. Then, use your screwdriver to remove the terminal wires.

Once the lamp socket is free from the lamp’s base, you’ll need to take out your voltmeter. Attach the voltmeter’s alligator clip to the metal portion of the socket’s screw shell. Then touch the neutral terminal screw with the voltmeter’s probe. If the voltmeter lights up, it means that the lamp’s problem lies elsewhere.

Proceed by attaching the voltmeter’s alligator clip to the hot terminal screw. Next, with the alligator clip still in place, touch the brass tab located inside the socket with the voltmeter’s probe. It is the same brass tab that you checked for debris earlier in the troubleshooting process. Keeping the clip and probe in place, turn the socket’s switch on. If the lamp has several settings, try all switch positions.

If the voltmeter only lights up when the switch is in certain positions, that means that the switch is faulty and needs to be replaced. If the voltmeter does not light up at all, it means that the lamp’s socket is faulty and will need to be replaced. If the voltmeter lights up the entire time, the lamp’s electrical problem exists somewhere within the lamp’s cord or plug. In that event, you may want to try replacing the lamp’s cord and plug. A replacement lamp cord with a plug already attached tends to sell for $5 through most hardware or lighting retailers. Instructions for replacing a lamp cord are available online.

Source: Personal Experience

Killeen Gonzalez has a history of completing DIY home improvement projects with her family.

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