How to Diagnose Christmas Light Problems


Because of the year-long storage of Christmas lights, it's common to encounter problems when trying to unpack and re-hang the lights. Improper storage, pests and animals, moisture and old age can cause Christmas lights that worked fine last season to have problems. You may not have to throw the whole string of lights away if you can diagnose and fix the problem. There are a few common Christmas light problems and fixes that you can try to diagnose and implement first.

Things You'll Need

  • Outlet
  • Replacement Lights
  • Electrical Tape
  • Masking Tape
  • Plug your lights into the outlet to determine if all of the lights are out, or if only some are out. Most strands of lights will not work if one single light is out, but there are many on the market now that will. If some of the lights come on and only a few don't, mark the ones that do not come on with a piece of masking tape. Unplug the lights and replace only the marked ones.

  • Check each light individually. If none of your lights come on when you plug your string in, you may need to check each light individually. First look over the strand of lights for any that look like they may be blown or burned out. Mark those with masking tape and try replacing those first. If your lights do not show any signs of burning out, start at the beginning and replace each light with a replacement bulb to see if the strand lights up. If it doesn't, return the original light to the strand and move to the next. Be sure to unplug the light in between bulb changes to prevent shock or injury.

  • Examine the cord. Your light may have a damaged cord. If this is the case, with the lights unplugged, try moving any frayed wires back into the sheathing to complete the broken circuits and cover the area with electrical tape. If you have a significant enough fray in your wires, it is safer to replace that strand. Frayed lights can generate heat that can cause tree and house fires. If the damage is minimal and the lights are only for occasional or onetime use, you may be OK.

  • Check your outlet and plug. This may seem like common sense, but your lights may not be working if your plug is not working or your plug is blown. Some plugs work on a light switch. Believe it or not, this is a common occurrence when testing lights. Check the lights in more than one plug or plug something else into the outlet first to make sure it's working. Also check the plug end of your lights. If it is excessively bent, corroded or broken off, your lights will need to be replaced.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always check your lights before putting them up to avoid hassles later.
  • Never use lights with frayed or damaged cords, as this could lead to a fire.

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