How to Add a Pull-chain Socket to a Lamp

A table lamp with a malfunctioning socket may be difficult to turn on or off. Replace that old socket with a new pull-chain socket to revitalize the lamp. The socket replacement job also comes in handy when you want to switch out the thumbscrew-style socket with a pull-chain version for added convenience.

Electric lamp and book on bedside
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How to Add a Pull-chain Socket to a Lamp

Removing the Old Socket

Lamp sockets are designed to be easily replaceable, even by someone with little electrical repair experience. Unplug the lamp and remove the shade, harp and bulb if any of these are still on the lamp. Make sure the bulb is cool before removing it. Squeeze and tug gently on the top piece of the socket, rocking it back and forth to take it off of its base. If you're unable to do this easily, use a slot screwdriver to pry the top part away from the base. Remove the cardboard liner piece as well. Loosen the screws inside the base that hold the wires in place, then pull the wires off the screws. If one wire or screw is a different color, note which wire goes where. Generally, the silver screw holds the neutral portion of the wire, which traces down to the wider end of the plug at the end of the cord.

Removing the Socket Base

If the socket base is still in good shape, feel free to reuse it. Otherwise, loosen the set screw beneath the socket base, then twist the base to remove it from the threaded lamp rod. Pliers may be required for a stubborn base.

Reassembling the Socket

Place a new pull-chain socket base of the same thread size as the old onto the lamp rod, twisting until it's secure. Using wire cutters, trim the old wires to make new, fresh ends. Cut 1/4-inch of the covering off of each strand of wire using wire strippers, then attach each wire to its respective screw. Tighten the screws.

Place the cardboard liner and the new top shell of the socket in place on the base. Tighten the socket base's set screw. Test the lamp by inserting a bulb in the socket, plugging it in and pulling the chain. Reattach the harp and shade, if using these, and your lamp is ready to use again.

Special Precautions

Never work on the lamp while it's still plugged in. If any part of the lamp cord has exposed wire or if the cord is extremely old and brittle, replace the cord as well. Complete lamp-wiring or lamp-making kits offer all that's needed to rewire the lamp, including the socket. Make sure to pick a kit that includes a pull-chain-style socket.