3-way light bulb question

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Old 04-07-12, 09:32 AM
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3-way light bulb question

I replaced the incandescent 3-way light bulbs in our bedside lamps yesterday because both of them had stopped lighting up on the lowest setting. On my way to the trash, I was passing another 3-way lamp in the living room, which I had installed a 75W-equivalent CFL in after replacing the switch guts a month or so ago.

I really don't like that exposed CFL and I really do like the light from the incandescents so I thought I would install them and enjoy that light until the main filament also burned out.

So I swapped out one and turned the lamp on -- and the bulb lit up all three settings in sequence! Hmmm, OK. So I swapped that bulb for the other "burned out" 3-way -- and it did the same thing!

Now I'm thinking that the new guts in this lamp must be the answer, and it's probably gonna be time to do that for the two bedroom lamps. But first, of course, I take the two "bad" light bulbs back upstairs to try them. I swapped them out with the new ones, one at a time, and each worked perfectly!

Bottom line, we're back to where we were three days ago. The two new bulbs are in their package in the cupboard, the CFL is in the lamp in the LR and the two old 3-ways are in the bedside lamps. Only now, everything is working as expected.

Should I, the next time one of my 3-ways quits working, try loosening and re-tightening it, or chant a mantra, or something? Any ideas?

I should mention that all four of the 3-way bulbs are identical.
 
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Old 04-09-12, 08:21 AM
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My only thought would be the ring and tab at the bottom of the socket.
 
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Old 04-09-12, 09:55 AM
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Thanks, Ray. That was one of my thoughts too, which was why I started wondering whether it might be time to replace the switch guts.

My ex and I acquired the two lamps in question in the 80s, probably, at some yard sale or salvage house or whatever. Anyway, I redid them at that time from plug to lampholder. They got different glass shades at some point after 1997, but nothing else has been changed in roughly 30 years.

What's puzzling me, though, is that the two A-21 bulbs that I replaced, because they weren't lighting up on the lowest setting or adding in on the highest setting, are now back in the lamps and everything is working fine. Both light up as expected on each setting. And I only discovered that because I decided to replace the unshielded CFL in a third lamp with one of them just because I don't really like that CFL. Makes no sense to me.

I could remove the shade and lamp from each of them and poke at the tab with a thin screwdriver, I guess, but I don't have a lot of incentive to do that when everything is working OK. Unless you or someone can think of a reason. It's not just "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's also concern that I might just mess it up and wind up having to replace the guts when I didn't really need to.

 
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Old 04-09-12, 10:03 AM
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An off the wall thought is the outer contact on the bulb base only lines up with the outer ring in the bottom of the base in some places. When you remove and screw back in the outer contact ends up in a slightly different place.
 
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Old 04-09-12, 10:40 AM
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Yeah, I guess that could be. As part of that, of course I have no idea whether I got the two bulbs back in the lamps they started in. I coulda swapped them, for all I know. I sure as heck didn't mark them, 'cause I was headed to the trash with them.

Y'know what's really driving me nutz? It's true that I don't like wasting money by replacing something that didn't need replacing. But what's really eating at me is that I'm looking at an electrical puzzle I can't solve, at least to my own satisfaction. That's it. So, I know what the itch is. And I'd still like to figure it out!
 
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