How to Fix a Three-Way Touch Lamp

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Three-way touch lamps are a fun and convenient alternative to traditional switch lamps. Sometimes, the mechanism within touch lamps stops working. Because these lamps usually include a dimmer control switch, the easiest way to fix them is to troubleshoot that piece. It is also possible to use an external dimmer switch.


How Touch Lamps Work

Touch lamps work because the human body functions as a link in the circuit. The body is warmer than the air, has resistance and has radio reception. As such, it's possible to control the brightness of a lamp just by touching it.

Additionally, touch-sensitive lamps rely on the body's capacitance, which means its ability hold electrons. When you touch a lamp controlled this way, you are allowing the circuit more electrons.


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It is possible to purchase an apparatus that will convert a traditional lamp to a touch lamp. Typically, you can find these at home improvement stores. Follow manufacturer installation instructions for best results.

Troubleshooting the Lamp

Over time, the touch sensors in a three-way touch lamp may fail. Usually, you can find a control box containing the dimmer switch at the base of the lamp. These are available for purchase and replacement, but it's advisable to photograph the way its wires are connected to the lamp before you disconnect it. This way, when you purchase a new control box, you will be able to reattach the wires in the same manner that they were connected before. These boxes are sold at home improvement and hardware stores.


Unplug the lamp, remove the light bulb and carefully turn the lamp on its side to gain access to the base. Remove any panel housing, the control box and dimmer switch. This may require the use of a screwdriver. Next, photograph the wire arrangement and remove the dimmer switch.

Replace the control box with the new one you have purchased. Connect the wires in the same way they were before. You can use an orange wire nut to twist the wires together so that they will fit more neatly into the box. Replace the control box and its cover. Put a light bulb in the lamp and plug it back in. Finally, touch the lamp to turn it on and be sure it is working.

Alternative Methods

There are workarounds to repairing a lamp in the above manner. You can also use dimmer sockets that screw into the lamp's light bulb socket. Once you have screwed in the socket, you can add a light bulb. In addition, there are dimmer sockets that plug into the wall. Once you plug your lamp into these sockets, it will operate like a touch lamp.