Why Is My Bathroom Light Fixture Not Working?
By Dave Rongey - Summary:
How Can I Fix a Bathroom Light and Exhaust Fan that Stopped Working? The Most Common Problems with Bathroom Light Fixtures and How to Fix Them.
Guide to Fixing a Bathroom Light Fixture
Bathroom Light Fixture Problem #1
- I have a 1975 townhouse, and as a single mom I find myself having to learn and do a lot of things by myself.
- 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 lights 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.
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
- A GFCI Outlet is Tripped Off
- 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.
- A GFCI Circuit Breaker is Tripped Off
- 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.
- Bad 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.
- Burned Out 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.
- Separate 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
- Yellow or Red Wire Connectors
- Scotch 3M
- Type-NM Cable
- GFCI Outlet
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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Consult your Local Building Department about Permits and Inspections for all projects.
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