Outdoor light fixtures will often at some point need repairs or need to be replaced. Globes can get broken, wiring can come loose and the fixture can become so weathered that there's no hope of repair. Outdoor lights are often found on front and back porches, back patios, garage entrances or on the gable end above the garage entrance. If you cannot afford replacement, paint or new globes can often give these fixtures a face-lift without replacing them.
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Shut Off Power
If you've replaced your light bulbs with known working bulbs and your fixture still does not work, it's possible that the wiring has come loose in the fixture. Turn off the power at the junction box to the light fixture. You'll be able to tell if the power is off to that fixture by using an outlet tester on the same wall that the fixture is attached to. On the interior side of the wall, plug the ends of the outlet tester into an electrical outlet to see if any power is registering; if not, you should be fine.
Remove the retaining covers holding the light to the exterior wall. Slide the light off of the anchor screws—this will expose the wiring. Look to see if either the black hot wires or the white neutral wires have come apart. If this has happened, you'll need to put them back together. Place the end of the wire on the light next to the end of the wire in the wall; slide the wire nut over both wire ends and twist the wire nut. Make sure that you only connect same-color wires. Always remember: black on black and white on white.
Check your light switch for loose wires or replace it. Once you've checked the bulbs and the wiring on the light and the fixture still doesn't work, it's most likely a faulty light switch. Turn the power back off and remove the switch-plate cover.
Remove the retaining screws for the switch and pull it out of the wall. There will be a black wire and a red or white wire. Each wire is attached to a separate screw on each side of the switch.
Use a voltage tester to make sure that there's no power going to either wire before you touch the screws with a screwdriver. Take note of which screw the wires are on. If the black wire is attached to the left screw, that's where it will be attached to a new switch. The red or white wire will attach to the opposite screw. Hook each wire to the appropriate screw and tighten with your screwdriver. Set the switch back in place.
If your exterior light fixture has a broken globe, it can easily be replaced. Remove what's left of the old globe and measure the threaded portion or top of the globe. This is the size that you need the threaded portion of the new globe to be. One size does not fit all.
Metal light fixtures can be painted to look new again. Use steel wool to sand off rusted areas and wipe off all sanding dust. Use a high-quality, oil-based exterior primer for metal; allow to dry the recommended amount of time for the product. Apply two coats of high-quality, oil-based exterior paint for metal.
Take a picture of your light switch before you remove the wires from the screws if you are afraid that you will forget where the wires go.
Based in Oklahoma City, Debbie Tolle has been working in the home-improvement industry since 2001 and writing since 1998. Tolle holds a Master of Science in psychology from Eastern Illinois University and is also a Cisco-certified network associate (CCNA) and a Microsoft-certified systems engineer (MCSE).