Fixing a Dimmer Switch That Won’t Turn on Lights

So your dimmer switch won’t turn on your lights. But don’t let that leave you in the dark. You’ll find 5 steps in this article that will help you to reset the perfect tone to your evening.

To fix a dimmer switch that won’t turn on lights do this

  1. Check the circuit breaker
  2. Replace the bulbs
  3. Clean the connections
  4. Replace the switch
  5. Check the wiring

There’s nothing like the chilled vibe that comes with mood lighting. If your dimmer switch is playing up, read on to take a closer look at these 5 steps and fix it.

5 Steps to Fix a Dimmer Switch

Spending an evening under a piercing, full-beam LED light is no way to relax. That’s why we all love our dimmer switches. They can change the feel of any room with just the flick of your wrist.

But what can you do if your dimmer switch is no longer working? Coming up you’ll see 5 steps that will help you restore mood lighting to your home again.

Step #1 Check the Circuit Breaker

Your dimmer switch problem could be a lot simpler to mend than you think. That’s why I’ll start the ball rolling with some of the easiest ways you can go about fixing your dimmer lights.

The first thing you’ll need to check is your circuit breaker. Here’s what you should do.

  1. Turn the lights on at the dimmer switch
  2. Check the circuit breaker. If the breaker has tripped*, pull it back into the ON position. If the fuse has blown in the circuit breaker, replace it. 

*TIP: If the circuit breaker continues to trip every time you turn the dimmer switch on, there may be a more serious problem. You will need to call an electrician to have it checked over.

circuit breaker
Check the circuit breaker after turning on the dimmer switch

Step #2 Replace the Bulbs

So you have confirmed that there isn’t a problem with your circuit breaker. But what about your bulbs?

If you cannot get your dimmer switch to turn on a light, that could be because the bulb has blown. Bulbs, especially LEDs, can last us longer now than ever before (between 40,000 and 50,000 hours). So remembering the last time we changed a bulb might prove a little tricky.

Here’s what you can do to check and see if your bulb is the problem.

  1. Remove* the bulb from your dimmer light
  2. Screw the bulb into a light fixture that you know is working properly
  3. Test the bulb in this light fixture. If the light bulb turns on, jump to the next section. If the bulb doesn’t turn on, put a new bulb into your dimmer light.
  4. Test the dimmer switch. If the bulb turns on, you have fixed the problem. If it doesn’t, move on to the next section.

*TIP: While removing or inserting light bulbs, ensure that you have turned the power off at the circuit breaker.

changing lightbulb
Change the light bulb in your light fixture

Step #3 Clean the Connections

Sometimes all you need to do to fix a light is to clean its connections. Because, let’s be honest, cleaning behind a light bulb is not something that we do on a regular basis. (Or ever for that matter.) So it’s reasonable to believe that it might be a little dusty and dirty up there.

To give your light fixture’s connections a little TLC, here’s what you can do. For this job, you’ll just need a working bulb and an air compressor.

  1. Remove the bulb from the dimmer light
  2. Use compressed air to clean the socket of the dimmer light and rid it of dust and grime
  3. Put the bulb back into the dimmer light
  4. Test the light fixture

Step #4 Replace the Switch

Ok, so we’ve gone through all of the easy steps such as checking the circuit breaker and changing the bulbs. But what can you do if your dimmer switch still isn’t working? If your dimmer continues to play up, it might be time for you to replace the switch altogether.

A dimmer switch typically lasts about 15 years. But some can go for much longer. Even still, there are instances where your dimmer switch might give up the ghost long before its due date. Here are some reasons why this could happen.

  • Overvoltage. The dimmer switch is overloaded because too many bulbs are connected to it. This makes it wear out faster.
  • Voltage surges. Sudden surges of power (such as after a power cut) can damage the device. This happens because the dimmer suddenly receives more power than it can handle.

If your dimmer switch refuses to turn your light bulbs on then it might be time for you to change the switch. To do so, follow these steps. To complete them, you’ll just need a new dimmer switch kit and a screwdriver.

  1. Turn the power off at the circuit breaker
  2. Remove the dimmer switch dial. (If your switch doesn’t have a dial, move on to step 4).
  3. Unscrew the dial from the cover plate.
  4. Remove the screws from the cover plate. Then pull the plate away from the wall.
  5. Remove the screws from the old dimmer switch. Then pull the switch away from the wall.
  6. Remove the wire nuts to completely disconnect the switch
  7. Attach the wires to the new switch and then cap them using the wire nuts
  8. Push the wires back into the box
  9. Push the new switch flush against the wall. Use a screwdriver to tighten the screws
  10. Return the cover plate to the wall. Replace the screws.
  11. Attach the dimmer switch dial to the new dimmer switch
  12. Turn the circuit breaker back on
  13. Test the switch

Do you fancy watching some of these steps in action? Then why not take a look at this handy video tutorial?

Step #5 Check the Wiring

The last thing to do to fix your dimmer switch is to check the wiring. If the wiring is faulty, then this will cause the dimmer to stop working properly.

But, of course, new wiring is an expensive and fiddly job. So we’re not going to start pulling out electrical wires just for the fun of it. So, how can you be sure that there is something up with the wiring of your dimmer switch? If something is wrong with the wiring, you might be able to tell by simply touching the switch. Does it feel hot? Not warm, but hot?

If the switch feels hot to touch, you could have any of the following problems.

  • High voltage. The switch is receiving a voltage that is higher than it can handle.
  • Melting plastic components. The heat of the switch could cause the plastic wiring to melt.
  • Loose wiring. If the wiring is loose, the electrical current will not run properly.

If your dimmer switch feels hot, you will need to call an electrician. They will be able to check the wiring over and make sure your dimmer switch is connected in a way that is safe for you to use.

electrical outlet
You may need to get your wiring checked by an electrician


Does your dimmer switch seem to be on strike? Has it stopped turning your lights on? Spending the evening in the dark is inconvenient and annoying. That’s why I am sure that the 5 steps in this article have got you on the road to fixing your dimmer switch and restoring a chilled vibe to your home.

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Have a great day!