Written by: David Herold — 09/26/2020

various repairing tools for a table lamp
Various tools you might need for repairing a table lamp.

Repairing a table lamp is among the easiest DIY lighting projects you can do. It can add a few years to your failing lamp, and you can also update it to match your changing style.

If you have been thinking of replacing your lamp entirely, a few minutes could be all it takes to save you the money.

In our post today, we dive deep into the most common problems and show you how to repair a table lamp.

The Anatomy Of A Table Lamp

the anatomy of a table lamp
Source: homestratosphere.com website

At its most basic form, a table lamp is a simple electrical circuit made of a bulb socket, a conductive cord, and a power plug.

Electricity travels through the brass in the plug, into the conductor’s hot wire, reaches the alloys in the bulb through the socket, and then returns via the neutral wire.

Somewhere along with the circuitry is a switch, which can complete or break the circuit.

Switches come in different forms. A pull-chain switch is a toggle switch installed in the bulb socket and actuated by a chain or string. Meanwhile, a push-through switch breaks electricity flow at the base of the socket when it is pressed.  

Some lamps have turn-knobs instead of pull and push switches. You can turn the knob to switch the lamp on and off or change the brightness. 

Besides the plug, cord, socket, switch, and bulb, a lamp can have accessories like a lampshade to soften the light. A harp to support the shade, and an insulation sleeve to secure the socket to the lamp frame.

Most lamps feature anti-slip material at the base to keep them in place and protect the table’s surface from scratches. 

Common Table Lamp Issues

If you try switching on your table lamp and is non-responsive, dim, flickering, or any other abnormality, the chances are high that it needs repairing.

The most obvious problem could be that the bulb is not receiving power. A burnt bulb is another likely scenario.

a burnt light bulb on a white background
An example of a burnt light bulb

The lamp socket might also have a blockage or damage that prevents it from completing the bulb’s connection. 

A table lamp can fail if the switch malfunctions. A switch that does not produce a clicking noise when pressed or turned is likely faulty.

If the table lamp seems intact, the problem could be a damaged power cord or a faulty plug.

Troubleshooting Table Lamp Problems & How To Fix Them

A lamp is an uncomplicated piece of technology.

With the right tools and some time on your hands, you can fix most, if not all, the standard table lamp issues yourself. Of course, a comprehensive guide such as this one will come in handy. 

Read on for a deep dive into how you can cure the common ailments that table lamps suffer from time to time.

Safety-tip:

Remember to always unplug your lamp from the power outlet before you do anything!

1. A burnt Bulb Or A Faulty Power Outlet

In any repair job, especially one where you are not exactly sure where the problem could be, it is advisable to start with the basics.

Before you reach for your electrical tool kit, confirm that the light bulb is not burned out. You can try fitting in another bulb on the lamp or plugging the bulb in question in a working socket.

Also, confirm that the power outlet you are using has power. Plug in a different device, say, your mobile phone, and see how it responds. 

testing a power outlet by charging a mobile phone
Testing the power outlet

2. A Broken Power Cord

If both the bulb and electric socket are alive and well, move on to the power cord. Inspect it for any damage. A broken cord does not have to look damaged on the outside.

For conclusive results, it is best to test continuity with a multimeter.

Tools Of Work:

  1. A set of standard star and flat-bed screwdrivers.
set of screwdrivers
One pair of star and one pair of flat screwdrivers

2. Pliers.

plier
Handy pliers.

3. Wirecutter.

wirecutter
Wirecutter.

4. Sellotape.

sellotape
A sellotape.

5. Multimeter.

a multimeter on a table
Trusty multimeter.

Detaching The Cord

To cut and fix or replace your broken power cord, you will need to detach it from the lamp’s socket, switch, or both. 

From The Bulb Socket

The power cord is usually connected to the lamp’s socket by screws. You can get to these screws by separating the socket. 

1.

Unplug your lamp from the power outlet and move it to a large, flat, and well-lit surface. Remove the bulb and the lampshade.

table lamp without a light bulb
Detaching a bulb socket from the lamp

2.

Detach the bulb socket from the lamp. Depending on your lamp, the socket may be held on by a screw or nut. Use the appropriate screwdriver or pliers to remove it.

If removing the socket is not straightforward, leave it. You can still remove the cord.

3.

Hold the socket’s base with one hand, wiggle, and pull the top with the other hand to free it. Separate the base and top far enough to see the wire terminals. 

removing a lamp socket from the base
lamp socket with screw terminals
Source: www.lamppartsrepair.com website

4.

Unscrew the exposed terminals’ screws to release the cord.

Please note that not every model will have exposed screws. This could be a problem and you would need to buy a new lamp if the cords are broken.

Our model, unfortunately, doesn’t have exposed screws but it would look something like in the photo.

 

5.

If the cord was damaged closer to the bulb socket, you can pull it through the top, expose the damaged area and cut it off.

 

 

From The Power Plug

You can opt to open up your lamp’s power plug if the cord damage is closer to the plug than the socket or is in a region that requires complete cord replacement. 

If your lamp’s plug is the closed rubbery type without any visible screws, your only option is to cut it off and replace it with another plug. 

If the plug has some screws;

  1. Use the appropriate screwdriver to loosen them.
     
  2. Once loose, lift the plug’s top cover to expose the wiring. Typically, the ribbed wire (neutral) will be connected directly to the plug while the smooth wire (hot) will connect to the plug through a fuse.
power cord copper wires exposed
The left wire is smooth and the right wire is ribbed.

3. Loosen both of the screws holding the wires in place to disconnect the cord. Our power plug cannot be unscrewed but it will look something like this: 

an opened power plug with cords exposed
Source: www.lamppartsrepair.com website

Now that the cord is free, you can pull it out and set the plug aside. 

Pro-tip:

To simplify threading a new cord through your lamp, use sellotape to join the two cables. As you pull the old cord out, the new cord will go through the lamp.

Testing For Continuity

If the damage to the cord is not obvious, use a multimeter to check its continuity.

  1. Set the multimeter on Continuity mode. Look for a diode symbol with waves propagating around it. 
testing the multimeter
Multimeter set on continuity mode.

2. Touch the multimeter probes together to test. The instrument should beep to indicate that the connection is complete. 

touching multimeter probes together for testing
Touching the probes together for testing.

3. Place one probe on one of the cord’s wires and hold it there with one hand. Use your other hand to place the other probe on the same-color wire on the other end of the cord. Note that some cords may have different colors on them.

Repeat the same with the other wires.

testing power cord wires with multimeter
Testing the wires with the multimeter probes.

4. If you do not hear a beep with one or both the cord’s wires, you can conclude that it is broken. 

Fitting A New Cord

Now that you have removed the damaged cord, it is time to fit in a new one. Your closest electrical accessories shop should have a suitable replacement.

Alternatively, you can go through your old electricals and salvage an unused power cord. Remember to test for continuity before you used a salvaged cord.  

1.

Thread the cord through the top of your lamp and pull it out from the bottom. Continue pulling until you have achieved the cord length you want.

bottom of the lamp with a visible cord
peeled copper wires

2.

Cut off the remaining piece of cord at the top of the lamp, leaving about three inches of cord exposed. Use your pliers to peel off the insulation on both ends of the cord and expose about half an inch of the copper wires.

3.

Many table lamps have a nipple and lock nut to secure the socket to the cord, and a check ring to hold the socket firmly on top of the lamp frame.

If you had removed these parts, pass the cord at the top through them. The check ring should go first, followed by the nipple, and finally, the lock nut. Turn the nut quarter-way through the nipple. About two inches of the cord should stick through the nipple.

 

screwing a lock onto a lamp nipple

4.

Pull the wires’ ends apart to separate them and tie an underwriter’s knot with them. A knot helps to protect the connection in case the cord gets pulled from the lamp.

To make the knot, form a loop using one wire, and then take the second wire and make a loop around the first. Finally, pass the second wire through the first loop.

Click the link for the video instruction.

a underwriters knot made from table lamp cables
screwing wire terminals on the socket
Source: www.ifixit.com website

5.

With the knot tied, inspect both conductors at the end of the wire. Wrap the ribbed conductor around the silver screw of the socket. Connect the other wire to the brass-colored screw. Fasten both screws and ensure the conductors are securely under the screw head.

Again, our socket doesn’t have exposed screws but it would look something like in the picture provided.

 

6.

Place the socket’s top into its base. If it had a screw to lock it in place, tighten it. Otherwise, snap it into position. Listen for a click to signal that the shell is locked correctly. The top and base should lock together to form one piece.

lamp socket pushed out of its base
light bulb attached to the socket that glows

7.

Thread the complete socket around the nipple to fit it firmly on the lamp.

With the socket reconnected correctly, turn your attention to the plug. Connect the ribbed conductor to the plug’s neutral pin and the smooth wire to the live (fused) pin. Fasten the screws back in place to grip the two wires firmly in place. 

Finally, place the cover back on top and tighten the screws at the plug’s base to hold it.

With the new cord installed, test your workmanship with a bulb. If the light comes on, your work is done. 

 

A Faulty Socket Or Switch

If your cord passed the continuity test, you would not remedy the lamp’s problem by replacing the cord. So, turn your attention to the bulb socket.

A fault in a lamp socket results from a breakdown of the switch inside the socket rather than the socket itself. Either way, replacement is the only option. 

Replacing A Switched Socket

  1. Pop the socket out from its base with a wiggle. If it is fastened with a screwdriver, loosen it. 
removing a lamp socket from the base

2. Loosen the screws that hold the cord to the socket’s terminals and release the socket.

socket base, socket and the insulation on a table

3. When connecting the new socket, do not reuse the bare ends of the cord. Tiny strands of wire are likely broken. Instead, cut them off and strip the wire a fresh using pliers or a wire stripper.

power cord copper wires exposed

4. Connect the cord to the new socket. The neutral (ribbed) wire must go to the silver screw and the hot (smooth) wire to the brass screw. 

5. With the cord intact, refix the socket onto the lamp and test it with a bulb.

Replacing A Cord Switch

1.

Examine your new switch to note the wire arrangement. Some switches only require you to connect the hot wire. These have a ridge along one side for the neutral wire to run through. 

an opened power switch

2.

If your lamp has a cord switch, you need to remove it to install the new one. You can open the switch’s casing to remove the wires or use wire cutters to cut the cord on both ends of the switch.

 

3.

If you are installing a cord switch where there was not one before, split the area where you want the switch to go with a small knife. Cut through the hot wire or both the hot and neutral wires, depending on your switch.

splitting the cables for installing a cord switch

4.

With your wire cutters, strip about half an inch of insulation from the wires.

copper wires connecting each others
connecting copper wires in the power switch

5.

Match the wires to the appropriate screws. If you have only one screw, attach the hot wire. If you need to connect both wires, the hot wire will go to the brass screw and the neutral to the silver screw. 

 

 

6.

Use your fingers to wrap the exposed ends of the wires around the screws, leaving only the cord’s insulated parts exposed. Tighten the screws.

screwing wires in the switch
closing the power switch

7.

Close the switch cover and snap or screw it shut. 

 

8.

Plug your lamp in the power outlet and test the new switch.

If the switch works, you can rest proudly, knowing you fixed it all by yourself. If it does not, you may need to dismantle the lamp again and re-check the wiring.

light bulb attached to the socket that glows

Table Lamp Repair Tips & Tricks

Repairing a table lamp is not difficult. To ensure your success, however, you must keep several things in mind. 

For starters, before you dive into repair work, examine your lamp carefully. If it has not been serviced for a long time, chances are high that the cord and insulation rubbers may need replacing.

Electrical faults may have also occurred, burning the wires. In such situations, you must get new wires for the job. 

Repairing a table lamp means interacting with electrical pathways. So, while these lamps are generally safe devices, ensure you have disconnected the plug from the power outlet before you start working.

Additionally, pay close attention to how you disconnect and reconnect wires, sockets, and switches. A wiring mistake can cause significant damage. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is It Safe To Leave A Table Lamp On At Night?

Electric table lamps are generally safe devices. However, traditional incandescent lamps get significantly hot over time. A decorative lampshade with clothing that could become loose and fall on the hot bulb can create a problem. 

How Long Can A Light Bulb Stay On Safely?

It is impossible to judge precisely how long a bulb can last before it becomes unsafe. This timeline depends on various factors, including the type of bulb and the ambient temperature. 

What is well known is that the danger increases with the amount of heat a bulb emanates. LED bulbs are highly efficient at turning energy into light. They can, therefore, remain on safely for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

On the other hand, incandescent bulbs produce 90 percent heat and 10 percent light. They get hotter the longer you leave them on, and they can overheat, melt their internal components, and cause a fire. 

The risk is even higher if an incandescent bulb is covered by a lampshade, limiting air circulation. You must never leave these bulbs on for extended periods.

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Author Bio:

David Herold

David Herold

Hey there! My name is David, a Technical Writer and Content Marketing Manager specializing in IT/software (cloud services, cybersecurity, AI, Kubernetes and containers, IoT, blockchain, cryptocurrencies, programmatic advertising), engineering and FinTech topics.