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Why Is My Bathroom Light Fixture Not Working?

By Dave Rongey - Summary:

How to Repair a Bathroom Light Circuit: The Most Common Problems with Bathroom Lights and How to Fix Them.

Guide to Fixing a Bathroom Light Fixture

Electrical Question: I have a 1975 townhouse, and as a single mom I find myself having to learn and do a lot of things by myself.

Bathroom Light Fixture Problem #1

  • My daughter’s bathroom has both a fan and light switch (single-pole wall switch).
  • The fan was not working so I thought I would replace the switch for the fan.
  • I had forgot to turn off the power at the electrical panel and there was just a little spark–I know, Be Careful.
  • Well now the fan works, but the light does not.
  • The two slot receptacle (15 amps, 120 volts) works, but it also affected the light in my bathroom and the GFCI receptacle.
  • I have aluminum wiring and if there is a overload it trips, but I know it is not the fuse because everything else is working.
  • I have been researching I think it has to do with the GFCI am I on the right track?

Background: Ingrid, a Homeowner from Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Bathroom Light Fixture Problem #2
Bathroom light fixture or switch have no power.

  • The receptacle next to it is energized.
  • The light(s) suddenly quit working the other night, as well as the light over the shower – no power there or it’s switch either.
  • The circuit from the breaker box (labeled ‘Bath’) energizes the working receptacle, where does the power come from for the fixtures?
  • All GFI outlets check OK.
  • No other problem areas.

This electrical wiring question came from Beki in Henderson, Nevada.

Bathroom Lights and Outlets Problem #3

My downstairs bathroom lights and outlets in the neighboring bedroom stopped working. The GFCI outlet in the bathroom still works but must be on a different circuit.

  • I had an electrician come over and he removed the wall plate for the light and fan switches and “pulled out” the switches.
    • The electrician didn’t disconnect the switches, he unscrewed them from the box and pulled them out.
    • A few minutes later without doing anything the lights started working again.
  • This was fine for several months, but now the bathroom lights and bedroom outlets stopped working again.
  • I’ve checked the circuit breakers, turned everything in the house off and then on again, but still no lights in the bathroom.
  • How can I go about troubleshooting this? Is there a special kind of electrician I need to hire?

This electrical wiring question came from Jim, in Livermore, California.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electric wiring questions Ingrid, Beki and Jim.
Ingrid, Yes I believe you are on the right track, let’s continue and get your bathroom working again.

How to Repair a Bathroom Light Problem

Application: Repair a Bathroom Light Circuit.
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced – Best performed by a Licensed Electrician.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools and Voltage Tester.
Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience, ability to work with hand tools and electrical troubleshooting skills.
Precaution: Identify the circuit, turn it OFF and then Tag it with a Note before performing any wiring or inspections or repairs.

The Most Common Problems with Bathroom Light Fixtures and How to Fix Them

  • GFCI Outlet
    • At the GFCI outlet for the bathroom press the Test button, then the Reset Button.
    • If the GFCI does not reset then the GFCI outlet may need to be replaced.
    • If the GFCI resets OK then see if the bathroom light fixture is working. If not the GFCI still may have a problem – maybe.
    • Bathroom light fixtures are not required to be protected by GFCI unless the fixture is in close proximity to the bathtub or shower.
  • GFCI Circuit Breaker
    • Some homes may have the bathroom ground fault protection provided by a GFCI Circuit Breaker which is located at the main panel or a sub panel.
    • There will be a TEST button near the switch of the circuit breaker. If the circuit breaker is tripped the switch will be in the middle position.
    • To reset the GFCI circuit breaker push the switch into the full OFF position, then push the switch into the ON position.
    • If the GFCI breaker does not reset then there may be a fault within the bathroom circuit wiring, or the GFCI circuit breaker may faulty and require replacing.
    • If the GFCI breaker resets OK then see if the bathroom light fixture is working.
    • NOTE: GFCI circuit breakers should be tested about every month to ensure proper operation and reliability.
    • ELECTRICAL TIP: A GFCI outlet in the bathroom is much more convenient than a GFCI circuit breaker located in a panel. Discuss this option with your local electrician.
  • Light Switch
    • The light switch should be tested to see if it is getting power to one of the terminals.
    • If not then the source of power needs to be identified. It’s all a process of elimination, but yes – you have to know where to start, and of course that is always at the electrical panel and identifying the circuit.
    • If the switch does have power then turn it on – is there power to the other terminal? If not then the light switch needs to be replaced.
  • Bad Light Bulbs
    • If there is power then the light bulb may be out. Believe it or not, I have been paid to discover that a customer’s light bulb was burnt out, and one time the customer’s light switch was in the off position – true story, the customer insisted that I bill him due to his oversight. So I did.
  • Problem with Light Fixture Wiring or Wire Splices

    • Wall mounted and ceiling mounted light fixtures may produce a lot of heat from the light bulbs that can lead to damaged wire insulation, bad wire splices, and burnt wire connections.
    • Bathroom light fixture(s) should be unfastened so the wiring and wire splice connections may be inspected.
    • Faulty connections or wiring should be repaired using approved electrical parts of the same circuit ratings.
    • Make sure the light bulbs of the fixture are the appropriate size to prevent overheating and further damage.
  • Light Circuit
    • Many bathroom outlets may be wired with a separate circuit and may not branch to the light and exhaust fan.
    • If the switch does have power then turn it on – is there power to the other terminal?
    • If not then the light switch needs to be replaced.

NOTE: Electrical problems like this are best discovered when using a voltage tester.

  • Examples of Electrical Parts and Brands for this Repair Application

    • GFCI Outlet
      • Leviton WR899 20Amp 125Volt SmartLock Pro
    • Single Pole Switch 15amp 120 volt
      • Leviton 5601
      • Legrand
    • Yellow or Red Wire Connectors
      • NSI
      • Ideal
      • Scotch 3M
    • Type-NM Cable
      • Southwire

More Information
More detailed information can be found here in the electrical troubleshooting area here in this website. Just click the Troubleshooting Electrical Wiring link below.

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33 Responses to “Why Is My Bathroom Light Fixture Not Working?”
  1. Tran says:

    Hi my bathroom has four heat lamps with an exhaust fan and a light in the middle.
    They have separate switches: 2 heat light switches, 1 light switch, and 1 fan switch.
    3 of the heat lamps did not work for a while but one is still working. The light and the fan is also still working.
    This morning I turn on the heat lamp and it started to flicker and makes funny noises. I turn off the heat and use the light instead. I then try the heat lamp again and still flicker and makes funny noises then die. I then turn on the light and the light started to flicker then also die. I turn on the fan switch and it still work. I change the bulb on the light and it still not working. I try the same light bulb in the other bathroom and it work. Could this be the fuse. Please help.

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Tran,
      From what you have described this is not a fuse problem unless you have an older style Edison based time delay fuse.
      It would be good to know if this is a new installation or not, and more details about the installation would be helpful. However heat lamps typically pull a higher watt load, in some cases 250watts each, so conceivable there could be a 1000watt load just with the heat lamps alone. Therefore attention should be given to the circuit which provides power to these devices to make sure there is not an overloaded condition. Attention should focus on the wiring methods, and the electrical connections to each light fixture, as well as the switches. Standard light switches that are used for a heat lamp tend to produce an arc between the internal contacts of the switch, and over time the switch may stop working. If you have one switch that controls two heat lamps there may be a potential load of 500 watts just for that individual switch, and that will definitely stress the switch and cause it to wear out in short order.
      Specific details about this project are unknown, however it is rare to have 4 heat lamps in one area like this, therefore careful consideration should be given to all applicable electrical codes and building codes concerning this project for overall safety.

      I hope this helps,

  2. Leeanna Jackson says:

    I changed the bathroom vent and then the bathroom lights stopped working but the rest of the lights are working. What is the problem?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Leeanna,
      The wiring should be checked where the connections were made while replacing the bathroom vent. One or more of the wires that lead to the bathroom lights may not have been connected as they were before. Repeat the steps of replacing the bathroom vent and making up any wire connections. Examine all of the wiring to discover what was left out. It may be that one of the wires is not fully inside a wire connector all the way.
      Be Safe and Turn Off the Circuit During the Work.
      I hope this helps,

  3. Jola says:

    The light on the wall above the mirror flashed and buzzed few times and then went off. I bought new bulbs and replaced them but the light is still not working. There is a triple switch and everything else is working accept the light fixture on the wall.

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Jola,
      If the light fixture flashed and buzzed then I suspect there is a problem with a light socket or the electrical wiring of the light fixture. Loose or faulty wiring connections may be the cause of this problem, however some electrical troubleshooting will be necessary.
      IMPORTANT: The circuit of the light fixture should be turned off before inspections or repairs are performed.
      An inspection of the light fixture electrical wiring will be necessary to reveal the problem so specific repairs can be made.
      I Hope this helps,

  4. Cassie says:

    This morning the lights and fans in all 3 bathrooms don’t work. They worked last night. No circuit breakers blown and I tested and reset the GFCI but still no lights. The electrical outlets in all 3 bathrooms work, just not the lights.

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Cassie,
      Troubleshooting a Bathroom Light Fixture Problem
      There is a good possibility that the lights and fans are not on the GFCI circuit of the bathrooms. The 15 and 20 amp circuit breakers should be double checked to see if one is tripped, but may appear to be in the ON position. Switching a breaker into the OFF position and then back ON will ensure a reset.
      I hope this helps,

  5. louise says:

    I’m having a problem when l use my top bathroom and hallway light. When I switch on my hallway light my bathroom light has to be on at the same time and will not go off until you turn the hallway off.

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Louise,
      The power source to the hallway light is being controlled by the bathroom light switch, therefore the electrical wiring for the hallway light has to be changed. The power source to the hallway light should be from a non-switched power source. This change will correct the problem that you are experiencing with your bathroom and hallway light.
      I hope this helps,

  6. Nick B says:

    Last night i turned on the light switch in the bathroom, there was a huge blue spark/flash from where the lights above the mirror are, and now the power in the whole bathroom doesn’t work, i checked the breaker box, nothing was tripped, i turned off and back on all the breaker switches anyway, but no change. I originally thought the bulb just burnt out until my wife told me the next morning that the bathroom fan wouldn’t turn on either, and i don’t think the bathroom is even on a separate breaker from the bedroom (its an ensuite bathroom of the master bedroom) and i still have power in the bedroom as well as the rest of the house, im at a loss… Any suggestions?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Nick,
      The first thing I would do is check the bathroom GFCI outlet to see if it needs to be reset.If the GFCI outlet is OK then the circuit for the bathroom lights should be identified and turned off, then the light fixture should be removed so the wiring can be inspected to reveal the cause of the loss of power, which may be a burnt wiring splice or a faulty connection which normally supplies power to the exhaust fan.

  7. Eddie says:

    The switch for my bathroom fan has decided not to work properly. Has 4 preset times on it (10/20/30/60 mins), and upon pressing a button to turn it on it just clicks over, and over….HELP!

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Eddie,
      If the bathroom time switch or occupancy sensor has been existing for a while and operating fine but has now begun to malfunction then it is possible that the time switch is now faulty and needs to be replaced.
      If this is a new time switch or occupancy sensor that has just been installed then the wiring connections should be compared with the installation instructions which came with the switch. The electrical wiring of the bathroom circuit should be verified and identified using a voltage tester to make sure the circuit wiring meets the requirements for the time switch to operate properly.

  8. Don says:

    My dining room light fixture worked fine then it stopped working. I replaced the bulbs but that still didn’t work. I was puzzled so I checked the power by my power stick which says there was no power. I even tried replacing the light but that did not work either so I gave up. Then my daughter used the hair drier and blew the breaker. I reset the circuit breaker and now my bathroom is dead and there are no lights or plugs working. What is going on? I replaced the breaker but nothing. Please help.

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Don,
      I suspect there is a problem with the circuit wiring, and the problem may be found at a connection or splice up inside one of the junction boxes of a light fixture, very possibly in the bathroom. The light fixtures that are not working would be a good place to begin checking with the circuit turned off. The problem with the circuit is best identified and repaired by a qualified electrician.

  9. Hi Dave says:

    Hi Dave,

    Last night my bathroom light and fan wouldn’t go on. It’s a single switch that operates the light fixture and ceiling fan. They won’t go on. The electrical outlet works as I plugged my electric shaver in and it does work. I checked the circuit breakers and the test button and it seems to be fine. Any suggestions?

    Thanks Dave

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Al,
      I would start by testing for power at the switch, then up at the light and fan. If the light is separate from the fan and there is no power to the switch then pull the fixture and check the splice connections. Ceiling fixtures can produce heat which may break down wire insulation and create bad connections.

  10. Brian says:

    Went upstairs and bathroom fans in 2 bathrooms not working. Lights not working in one of those bathrooms. Circuit box does not show anything tripped. None of the GFI’s show tripped, but I reset anyway. No results. Any ideas, and I am not electrical inclined.

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Brian,
      You could double check the circuit breakers, sometimes they appear to be ON but may be tripped, however if that is so then the cause needs to be identified. Ceiling fixtures with junction boxes may develop lose or burnt wire connections due to hot light bulbs, this would require careful examination of the fixture and wiring, then appropriate repairs of the affected wiring.

      • Brian says:

        First off, thank you so much for the quick reply! After reading a few items on-line about the GFI’s, late last night I reset the GFI outlet in the garage, and that did the trick. I was surprised that the upstairs fans were tied into that GFI outlet. Aside from that, again, thank you for quick response! I have now bookmarked your site.

  11. Jason says:

    When my wife turned on a hairdryer the power went out in that room and one other in the house (both are bathrooms). I checked all breakers and non were kicked, i checked all breakers for continuity and voltage all tested fine, checked all gfi outlets in the house non were tripped but reset them anyway, looked at all outlets, fans, and light fixtures for loose wires and all were fine. Still no power in either room. What else could it be?

  12. krose17 says:

    My husband and i are having a really difficult time trying to get the bathroom light and fan working. We had to replace the old receptacle with a gfi, however the light and fan weren’t working at all anyway. So the light on the gfi is on but when we turn the light switch on (there are two switches)it flashes on and then trips the breaker box. Also, there are two lights in the bathroom, one over the sink, one over the toilet and also a exhaust fan. I am so exhausted because we have to get this done before the inspector comes back and i cannot afford an electrician. I also looked at the main power box, it shows the bathroom runs off a 15 amp breaker. I am just telling you what i know, can you please help!

  13. KENNETH GWYNNE says:

    My bathroom light stopped working last week and all the hall light went out as well but I managed to sort that out be tightening the block connector within the bathroom switch witch had 3 black wires going to it. I replaced the bathroom switch but still doesn’t work. I then borrowed a testing machine and there seems to be no power going to the switch. Can you help

  14. Jeff Cooke says:

    Ok, Well I am having a problem. I have a bathroom light and a bedroom ceiling fan/light not working. They are on the same circuit. The breaker is on and I have power to the switch in the bathroom. I also have power to the light fixture but the light still does not come on. I have disconnected the bathroom light and attached another light and nothing. I also changed the light switch with no results. I am getting 125.1 at the switch and at the light fixture. I am not sure what to do next. Can you help?


  15. Allan Jarvis says:

    Hi Dave. I am having the same problem like birdie, but I did replace the light switch to no avail. I checked all three switches for current and the other two both have power. The light has none. I replaced the switch (3-wire)120V wit the same style that I removed. 2 wires on the side and one in the back.Any ideas?Perhaps I bought a faulty light switch. Any suggestions will help. Thanks, Allan

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Allan, have you checked to see if your neutral wire is good? It is very possible that the connection for the neutral has been lost at a junction within the circuit.

  16. Birdie says:

    I am having a problem with the light in my bathroom. The light switch has three separate switches: one for the exhaust fan, one for the light that is part of the exhaust fan, and one for a light above the sink. The light that is part of the exhaust fan is not working. I have replaced the bulb (actually twice just to make sure) and it is still not working. However, the exhaust fan and light above the sink are working. i also checked the fuse box downstairs, and that was fine. I’m stumped…what do you think the problem could be?


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