How to Troubleshoot a Yard Light

Trying to locate a problem on an electrical circuit can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. There's nothing worse than thinking your only problem is a burned-out light bulb and discovering that it can be much more than that. The hardest part of troubleshooting is to know where to start looking for the problem. It's always best to start at the beginning of your circuit and work your way down the line.

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Electrical troubleshooting is like trying to solve a puzzle.

Step 1

Check the breaker panel and verify that the circuit breaker is on. If off, turn it on and check your yard light. If the yard light still does not turn on, move onto the next step.

Step 2

Remove the breaker panel cover to expose the breaker and the wiring. Use a two-pronged electrical tester and touch one prong to the screw located at the rear of the breaker and the other prong to any metal on the panel. If your tester does not light up, check for loose wiring and retest. If the tester still does not light up, replace your breaker. If your tester lights up, replace the cover on the breaker panel and move to the next step.

Step 3

Locate the junction box on your structure that supplies the power to the yard light. If your yard light connects through a receptacle in the junction box, plug your tester into the receptacle as if you were plugging in a lamp. If the tester does not light up, remove the outlet cover. Check for loose wiring on the receptacle and re-insert the tester into the receptacle. If the tester still does not light up, replace the receptacle. If your yard light connects through the junction box without a receptacle, remove the junction box cover to access the wiring and check for loose wiring. Insert one prong of your tester into the wire connector holding the black wires together and the other prong of your tester into the connector holding the green or bare copper wires together. If the tester does not light up, there could be an issue with the wiring between the breaker and the junction box and it would need to be replaced. If the tester lights up, move onto the next step.

Step 4

Access the wiring at the base of your yard light. Insert one prong of the tester into the wire connector holding the black wires together and the other prong into the wire connector holding the green and bare copper wires together. If the tester does not light up, there can be an issue in the wiring between the structure junction box and the base of the yard light and the wiring would need to be replaced. If the tester lights up, move onto the next step.

Step 5

Access the wiring at the top of your yard light, between the post and the light fixture. Insert one prong of the tester into the wire connector holding the black wires together and the other prong into the wire connector holding the green wires together. If the tester does not light, there is an issue with the wiring between the base and the top of the yard lamp and the wiring could need to be replaced. If there is a photo-sensor between the base of your yard light and your light fixture and the tester does not light up, the photo-sensor may need to be replaced.

Step 6

Test the light fixture. Place one prong of the tester inside the light socket and touch the other prong to any metal on the light fixture. If the tester fails to light, replace the socket.


Cecilia Harsch

Cecilia Harsch has been writing professionally since 2009. She writes mainly home improvement, health and travel articles for various online publications. She has several years of experience in the home-improvement industry, focusing on gardening, and a background in group exercise instruction. Harsch received her Certified Nurses Assistant license in 2004. She attended Tarrant County College and studied English composition.