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Question DetailsAsked on 5/15/2017

I replaced one of the lights that run off a switch, now that one doesn't work. I thought I had the wires right.

I replaced one of the lights that run off a switch, now the other one doesn't work. I thought I had the wires connected where they were before the replacement. I never touched the switch or the other lights wiring. I'm blowing light bulbs like crazy in the light I didn't replace. Obviously the wiring I did is not right now. I'm using 14/2 wire which was there for three years with no problems. I have white with white and black with black and the grounds together. I could really use some help here. Thanks very much!

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Answered 3 years ago by Member Services


If this is low voltage lighting, which I suspect if you are blowing bulbs like crazy, then you would have to get the installation manual from the manufacturer's website or trace wiring colors/sizes/cord type - because it sounds like you may have standard household voltage connected to low-voltage bulb. Could be you swapped a household voltage black wire for a low voltage feed, for instance.

Following assumes standard household voltage system, so you have black, white, and green or bare copper ground wires. (Ground from fixtures possibly copper or silver colored steel wire or cable).

Since you did not mess with the switch, and presumably did not add additional fixtures (just replace one), the following should be the case:

1) you have black, white, ground in one sheathing (Romex or type NM or such) coming into the electrical box for the fixture you worked on, and same type black, white, ground going out of the box to continue to the second fixture which is blowing bulbs.

2) in the replaced fixture, you would twist and join the black wire from the fixture to both the incoming and outgoing blacks in a wire nut of correct size (presumably one already there was OK - tan would be normal for 3-#14's, red nut OK too)

3) ditto with the whites - twist all three whites together in a wire nut

4) if plastic electrical box, ditto with the 3 grounds. If metal box, either the ground from the fixture would go through a grounding bolt on the box or on the crossbar on the way to the wire nut, or you would have a fourth ground wire from the ground wire nut to the box ground clamp or crossbar ground screw.

If you got all those right (and they stayed together as you put the ficture on), all should be good. Here is a diagram of typical 120V light fixture wiring for multiple fixtures - note they are showing the white wire as gray:

Note in this photo, the incoming and outgoing ground wires are conencted to the metal box, then a jumper from there to the fixture - hence only two wires at the ground wire nut instead of 3 or 4.

Now - about blowing bulbs in the third fixture, I would first inspect closely to be sure you have not smoked the fixture or and bulb receptable in it with blowing multiple bulbs. If these are regular incandescent bulbs, assuming it is wired correctly I would say you are getting shorting inside the bulb receptacle and that fixture should also be replaced.

I would look in that box and fixture and check for correct color matching - it is possible the original second light was reverse wires and the second one too - would still work with most bulbs with some types of fixtures, especially older ungrounded ones. Perhaps you changed the wiring in the first fixture to correct color match, which then made the seond one reversed.

You did not say why the first fixture was replaced - could be another case of what I have seen several times recently - inverted bulb (base up) fixtures without enough air holes at the top, causing overheating of the wires leading to the bulb receptacle and eventual insulation cooking and shorting - I had one brass porch light which happened to go just as I came to the door in the evening when the sensor turned it on - was like a wirefeed welder going, throwing molten metal all over for about 15 seconds till it melted through the wires.

Can only think of three other reasons why the second fixture would be going through bulbs repeatedly - bulb wrong type for fixture (like regular rather than R type bulb in enclosed upside down can fixture), bulb wrong voltage (low voltage in line voltage fixture - some shapes/ come both ways now), or is CFL or LED bulb which is polarized and the wires are swapped so the current is trying to run through it the wrong direction and is frying the electronics in it.

If this did not help, Then Electrical would obviously be the Search the List category to find a contractor to fix it.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD


The bulbs are 50W halide which is what the fixture calls for. As mentioned before I didn't do a thing to the switch or the other fixture. I just replaces the first fixtrue from the switch and connected the wires from the switch to that fixture and connected the wires to the 2nd fixture from that one. I have whites together and blacks together and the grounds are together also.

The screwup has to be in the wiring in the replaced fixture connections because it worked perfectly for three years until I replaced the one fixture, but I don't know how to fix this. I'm pretty handy but no with electric. This is making me feel like a mental midget because I installed the fixtures myself three years ago.

Answered 3 years ago by mailman320


Short of calling an electrician, calls for process of elimination - and you would need a volt-ohm meter and a touch of knowledge in using one. Not tough to use - but you have to be darned careful about what is touching what so you do not short things out, and of course you are sometimes working with live exposed wires, so not for everyone, depending on your experience and comfort zone working with live electricity. And assuming every wire is live regardless of color till proven otherwise.

Following is what I would do to trace the problem - from what you have done already you may know that some steps do not apply.

1) Since you did not touch the wiring in light #2 (the one blowing the bulbs), then either the problem is miswiring at #1 (either during the replacement, or #2 was miswired originally and in the replacement you corrected that which might have then made #2 now mis-wired where its wire comes into box #1. Careful tracing of wires for like colors staying together, and checking there are no stray ends reaching out and touching something should eliminate that possibility. Personally, I would undo the wire connectors to #2 in box #1 and remove the bulb in #2, then check with a volt-ohm meter on #2 lead wires in box #1 for any shorts along the way in the black and white wires by doing a continuity/ohm check between them and ground wire.

2) I would then check fixture #2 to be sure there is not a short in the light socket between the two bulb connections (between the two pin sockets, or center contact and thread if possibly threaded type socket) -though I can't see that blowing bulbs - that would normally fry the fixture or trip the breaker

3) I would then reconnect the wires at box #1 and with switch on check voltage at black and white at box boxes #1 and at #2 with power on - to be sure the black is "positive" at each, not reversed. Could actually do this first if you wanted before undoing any wires, but I prefer to check continuity and for any shorts before putting live power to a dubious circuit. Certainly if this is a low voltage system, I would also be checking to make sure 120V did not get connected to the 12V wires - that is the most likely reason I can see for repetitive frying bulbs.

3) Since a halogen bulb that is going out, is there a possibility it is polarized - probably not if 120V, but if low voltage than possibly - check bulbs and/or box. Generally they are just a halogen gas with titanium filament, similar in construction to a normal incandescent bulb with a titanium filament in inert gas, but maybe some have electronics built in. Could it be bulb #2 just chose that time to die, and the replacement bulbs are being put in backwards so are frying ?

4) you do realize you cannot touch halogen bulbs with your fingers, right ? Have to handle and install with an oil-free piece of fabric to paper towel (if using kleenex, has to be plain unscented type), because any foreign substance on the bulbs causes rapid failure from overheating of the glass at the location of the oil/foreign material on it

5) If a 12V system - some systems now use a transformer built in/at the fixture rather than at the electrical box, so one for each fixture head - is there a chance the #2 fixture transformer has failed and is putting out 120V - check voltage at the pins/socket

6) if #2 bulb just chose that time to end its life, is there a possibility that the replacement bulbs are not the same as you have been using - that you got 12V halogens instead of 120V ones for instance ? There are a few pin type bulbs out there which use the same pin configuration for both 12V and 120V bulbs, so they are interchangeable.

Otherwise, Electrical would be your Search the List category to find an electrician to diagnose and fix this for you.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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