Many ceiling fans and some ceiling light fixtures use pull chains to operate the unit. Most commonly found in ceiling fans, these chains can break down and stop working. Unfortunately, the only practical way to resolve this issue is to replace the chain. But with a little preparation and the right tools, an experienced do-it-yourselfer can handle this task.
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Selecting a Replacement Chain
It's important to replace an old chain with something that's as close as possible in terms of size. This is not only for aesthetic reasons. A close replacement will also be a better fit for your existing fixture and its accessories.
Before you head out and pick up a replacement pull chain, take some well-lit, clear photographs of your current model. Jot down approximate measurements for both length and diameter as well.
Most large home improvement stores will carry a wide assortment of pull chains from which to choose. Take your image and measurements with you to select the closest model possible.
Safety First: Shut Off the Power and Test
Before you swap out the pull chain, shut off the power to the fixture at your main panel, then make sure the power is off by testing with a voltage tester.
Once that's done, you can access the wires. First, remove the light bulb if you're working on a ceiling light fixture. Then, use a screwdriver to loosen and remove the fixture from its electrical box.
Gently pull the fixture down without touching the wires. With a voltage tester, touch one end of the probe to the black wire and the other to the white wire. If the tester lights up, the power is not shut off. If it doesn't, you're safe to proceed.
Replacing Your Fixture’s Pull Chain
Once you're assured that the power is off, remove all covers and accessories from the unit, including all light bulbs, to permit unrestricted access to the fixture itself.
Next, remove the end cap by turning it counterclockwise and pulling it over the chain to remove it from the fixture. Locate the wire connections from the pull chain switch to the unit. Disconnect these wires and pull out the switch.
Replace the old switch with a new pull chain switch, then place the end cap back onto the light fixture.
Carefully reattach the wires from the switch to the light, remembering to pair black to black and ground to ground. Wrap electrician's tape around the exposed wire ends and push them back into the fixture.
Reattach the end cap, then replace any bulbs and coverings. Turn the power back on to test the new pull chain switch.
Annie Sisk is a freelance writer who lives in upstate New York. She has written extensively for publications and websites in the home repair and decor fields, among other topics. A homebody by nature, Annie particularly enjoys Scandinavian and French Country design, and learning how complicated things are put together.