Diagnosing/repairing recessed lighting fixture


  #1  
Old 03-24-03, 11:43 AM
R
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Diagnosing/repairing recessed lighting fixture

I'm glad to have found this forum, as I am nearly out of ideas.

I have a recessed lighting fixture in my basement that is nonfunctional. The fixture is 24 years old and I read that sometimes the cause is a 'flattened' contact tab, and to bend it out a bit. Well I did, and the tab broke. Thus I now must either 1) replace the socket or 2) replace the entire fixture. This of course assumes that the fault is not in the wiring, in which case there's even more work to be done.

Towards this end I have a few questions:

1) The socket has two screws on either side of the bulb socket. Are these directly connected to the white & black wires that lead into the fixture? If so can i place a circuit tester on these two screws to determine whether electricity is flowing to the fixture? If the above is incorrect, how can I test to see if electricity is flowing to the fixture?

2) Can sockets in recessed fixtures generally be replaced without replacing the entire lighting fixture? Or, do i have to replace the whole thing?

3) Can recessed fixtures in a basement ceiling be replaced without cutting into the surrounding ceiling material? It seems the fixture is held in place via a series of metal tabs bent outward from the housing, so I'm not sure how I'm going to remove the fixture if indeed I need to replace the whole thing.

Thanks to all who can lend a hand.

-Randy
 
  #2  
Old 03-24-03, 07:22 PM
P Michael
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Randy, you seem to have a grip on the situation.
1) The screws could be attached to the wiring but I can't see from here what you're dealing with. You could carefully test between the shell and what remains of the center contact to see if you have juice.
2) It would be easiest to replace just the socket if you can. But is it accessable? It might be held on with a nut which is only accessible when the whole fixture is removed.
3) One of the many dis-advantages of recessed lighting cans is that they are hard to replace. If it's a retrofit can, this should be possible but you say the piece of junk is 24 years old so it probably isn't. Start thinking of drywall repair. It isn't that difficult. Also consider replacing it with something more practical like track lighting.
~Peter
 
  #3  
Old 03-25-03, 05:24 AM
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If you can't see wire under those screws they are probably mounting screws not contact screws. If you remove them the socket will probably come out. The wires are probably attached to screws on the back of the socket.
 
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Old 03-25-03, 08:11 AM
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The wiring compartment (junction box) for a can has to be accessible when the can is installed in a sheetrock ceiling. Remove the 3 screws (from inside the can) that hold the inner housing to the outer housing. The entire inner housing can then be slid down to access the wiring compartment and wiring for the can.

Preferrably, you should be able to reach into the can and loosen the wing nut that holds the socket bracket at the top of the can. The bracket can be pulled down for examination / replacement of the socket. If you have to replace the whole can, remove the inner housing and reach in and disconnect the wiring. Take the inner housing to a lighting supplier and match it up with something that will fit (same brand). Remove inner housing of new can and install it into your existing outer housing. My guess is that you should be able to replace the socket itself.

The two "rivets" in the bottom of the socket should read 120 volts between them. One rivet is attached to the socket shell and the other rivet is attached to the tab that broke out. One other thing - does your can have a thermal protector? It would be mounted inside the can and have 2 wires coming out and tied inline with the black fixture wire. If it went bad, it may not allow power to go through to the socket. If your fixture would work for a while, shut off for awhile, work for awhile, etc. then the thermal protector was probably cutting the bulb off (not a bad socket). It could be faulty or you could be using bulbs not rated for the fixture and trim (too many watts or improper style). If that is the case, then replacing the socket would get you right back to where you started.
 
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Old 03-26-03, 06:12 AM
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thanks for all the replies so far - I have not had a chance to spend more time on this yet this week, but I will let you all know what I find. Unfortunately I do not recall seeing 3 screws holding the inner housing to the outer housing - just a random series of tabs that are bent outward from the can into the ceiling space.


-Randy
 
  #6  
Old 05-21-03, 10:59 AM
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using a continuity tester, I determined that there is no electricity getting to the fixture.

Is the next step to just try to remove the fixture and determine where the break in the circuit is?

If it matters, the fixture is one of 4 controlled by a single switch.
 
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Old 05-21-03, 12:31 PM
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Please describe what you mean by a "continuity tester," because what I call a continuity tester cannot be used to determine if electricity is getting to the fixture. Are you describing a circuit tester with two probes and a little neon bulb?

If so, then tell us what two points you put this probe on to test for power.

And yes, I think the next step will be to take down the fixture. Be sure to record exactly the existing connections before you disconnect anything. And be sure to turn off the breaker (not just the wall switch) before beginning.
 
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Old 05-21-03, 12:48 PM
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Its definitely not a circuit tester w/ the neon bulb (which i have but figured would not be valid for this test). This was a Continuity tester i bought at Radio Shack. The body has a bulb which runs off a AA battery. there are two leads - one is solid, the other has an Alligator clip. The package says the primary use is to determine whether there is continuity in a circuit.

Although someone previously suggested I test using a voltmeter, I don't have one and figured the continuity tester would be OK.

I placed the solid probe on the remains of the center tab, and the alligator clip on one of the round bits that's just to the side of the center tab.... looks like the white wire is connected to the center tab, and the black wire is connected to the round bit. When i say 'round bit', its about 1cm in diameter, if not less.

I assumed the test was valid since I tried the same procedure on a recessed socket that is good, and the tester lit up - whereas on my dead fixture the tester did not light up. I ran the tests with the breaker off.

I guess I am making an assumption here that no continuity = no electricity to the socket, but I don't know what else it could be.

Definitely let me know if you think my test was invalid! I am new to home electrical repair, so I'm certainly not beyond making a mistake.
 
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Old 05-21-03, 05:47 PM
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Your test is invalid. A continuity tester is of no use here. Your previous testing appeared to work, but the results were not meaningful.

A multimeter will work, but so will a $2 neon circuit tester. First conduct the voltage test with the fixture in place. You might also consider picking up a $15 "tick" tester when you're at the store. That would allow you to determine whether the hot or neutral connection had failed.
 
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Old 05-22-03, 11:14 PM
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I do not recall seeing 3 screws holding the inner housing to the outer housing - just a random series of tabs that are bent outward from the can into the ceiling space.
Sounds like a remodel can to me. Take it out, go to HD and buy a new one for I think like $15 and replace the whole thing.
 
  #11  
Old 05-30-03, 01:41 PM
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Well, it ended up being the Thermal Protector. Fixed in about 10 mins.

Glad this one's over with....
 
 

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