Potentially Dangerous
Injury may result if this procedure is not followed properly. Use caution and follow all warnings.


Having trouble with your Christmas lights? Fix them with this guide!

Before attempting any part of this repair, make sure that the lights are completely unplugged from any electrical socket.

Common Issues:

  1. Blown Fuses
  2. Defective Bulb
  3. Corroded Socket
  4. Bad Socket or Wiring
  1. Blown fuses are one of the biggest culprits of broken Christmas lights — especially if the entire chain of lights is non-functional. The good news is that they can easily be replaced!
    • Blown fuses are one of the biggest culprits of broken Christmas lights — especially if the entire chain of lights is non-functional. The good news is that they can easily be replaced!

    • With the plug in hand, slide the door marked "Open" in the direction pointed by the arrow.

    • Remove the two fuses, and inspect them by looking at them up against a bright background (such as the sky). If the fuse is good, you should see an unbroken strand of wire running between the two metal contacts.

    • Replace all blown fuses with new ones.

    My plug has no door on it. Where else could the fuse be?

    Blake Brennan - Reply

  2. If a specific section of the lights isn't working, there might be a bad bulb, or a bad connection between the bulb and the socket.
    • If a specific section of the lights isn't working, there might be a bad bulb, or a bad connection between the bulb and the socket.

      • Bulbs are generally made to not break the whole chain if the bulb burns out, but sometimes a manufacturing defect will prevent the bulbs from maintaining the electrical connection for the rest of the lights.

    • Gently grasp each bulb, and pull away from the socket. Inspect it and ensure that the two bulb copper leads are in their proper location, and not twisted or missing.

    • Continue with each non-functional bulb in the chain, up until you find the culprit(s). Replace the bulbs as necessary.

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    • You can also use a Light Keeper Pro or similar continuity testing device to pinpoint burnt out bulbs.

      • Plug in the strand of lights, and remove a bulb to connect the Light Keeper Pro to an empty socket.

      • Pull the trigger on the Light Keeper several times to bypass the bad bulb and light the whole strand, leaving the bad bulb dim.

      • Replace the bulb you used to test the strand, then remove and replace any bad bulbs. You can use the Light Keeper to test the new bulbs before you install them.

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    • Make sure the lights are completely unplugged from any electrical sockets before proceeding further.

    • Over time, the contacts inside the socket can become corroded or filled with dirt and grime. This can prevent proper contact between the bulb and the socket, which often results in no power to the bulb.

    • Use a small file or scratch brush to clean the wire contacts of the socket.

    • Once the socket is clean, insert a new bulb into the socket.

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    • Make sure the lights are completely unplugged from any electrical sockets before proceeding further.

    • If all else fails, the bulb socket may be broken beyond repair. Removing it is a cinch though, and should restore functionality to the rest of your lights!

    • Use a wire cutter to remove the defective socket from the light strand.

    What if the socket I am trying to cut out has 3 wires: 2 as shown and one slightly to the side in the same socket? Help please

    Daria Humphrey - Reply

    Christmas lights are the most frustrating thing in the world...if they don't work...don't waste your time, just go get new lights!

    sidrthomas - Reply

    this is just a bad idea all around. first, removing a series socket won't fix the problem, second, if you short the socket you change the voltage drop which the strand works off of. stay away from this.

    jrem123 - Reply

    I bought an artificial tree last year for Christmas that camevwith several strands of lights already on it. This year one strand will not work after replacing 40 lights in the one strand! Finally decided to cut the strand out since it was at the bottom of the 9’ tree & buy a new strand. Pain in the ass as it was twisted so tightly & knotted in many places it was easier to cut it out than unwrap it. On another strand I found 1 light that just keeps burning out bulb the second I replace it. Because it’s not working, allvtge bulbs in that line are not working now either. I think I will try cutting off just the 1 bad socket, hoping the bypass will light up the rest of the strand. It’s too much work to unravel this strand so I think it’s worth a shot!

    pammcgivern - Reply

    • Strip about 1/2" of insulation from both wires.

    • Twist the wires together and insert them into the twist-on wire connector. Turn the connector several times until the cap feels secure, and you can tug on it without it falling off.

    • After testing the lights and making sure the bad socket fixed the problem, consider putting in some silicone sealant (or museum wax) into the cap in order to keep moisture out and prevent the wires from corroding.

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To reassemble your device, follow these instructions in reverse order.

23 other people completed this guide.

Geoff Wacker

Member since: 09/30/2013

71,865 Reputation

84 Guides authored


Good article, but like almost every other instructional topic on fixing busted Christmas Lights there are no instructions on how to actually get those little darn fuses replaced. What I mean is its easy enough to get the male electric cord plug compartment door open and the old fuses out, but getting the new Christmas light fuses to fit into the slots in many cords I've had is d@m near impossible. I have searched high and low throughout the internet and never found a video or article or any other webpage reference to issues getting the replacement fuses to properly seat into the fuse compartment slots. If someone could write about this subject and provide solid instruction on the best tools and methods to get those pesky little fuses to fit into the slots it would be a gem of a resource for those that do not want to throw strings of christmas lights away simply because the new fuses are so difficult to get to fit into the fuse slots in the electrical plug of the christmas light string.

Shawn - Reply

I use paper clips to pry on one end and change them like batteries

Autumn Ruby -

My preferred tool is a small flathead screwdriver, such an eyeglass screwdriver. Use the flathead to push open the fuse panel in the plug, being mindful to hold the plug in a way that you won’t be injured if the screwdriver slips. That means holding the plug behind where you’re applying pressure with the screwdriver, and always pushing away from yourself rather than toward yourself. Holding the plug in a vise or with pliers also protects your hands.

Then pry up the fuse from the end, like you’re using a crowbar. Never apply pressure to the glass part of a fuse. To insert, push the fuse into the metal clips as far as you can by hand, then apply pressure with the flathead screwdriver to seat the fuse. ALWAYS push on the metal caps, and never push on the glass.

These are my preferred methods with everyday tools. If there are specialized tools for small light-strand fuses, a google search will yield info on those.

Max Power -

Agreed. If someone could help with this, I would be grateful. The rest of the task is a breeze, but removing the old fuses is hard and I am having no success getting the new ones in!

Mary - Reply

Mary/Shawn - this video explained it well for me:


If you have the right tool aka a micro-sized screwdriver with a flat head, it was easy.

Hope this helps.


Danny Sullivan -

a metal nail file and a pair of hemostats...the tip the of nail file at the tip of the metal fuse picks it up and hemostats gently lift them out...insertion of new ones should slant and press in...

kathrynlacaze -

I agree with Shawn, the main information of a gudie like this should be the replacement of the fuses. To cut and short an broken socket is not so hard at all.

Here in Germany we have nearly all old lights replaced with LED. It saves a lot of energy and it will not break for years.

TheLOD2010 - Reply

In the picture when you cut the wire it was the last part of the lights. My lights are faulty in the middle and I don't know where to cut. Also mine are multicolored so they have 3 wires so which wires would I cut? I can't just throw out half of my lights because I cut the strand in half

musicalwhovian25 - Reply

If you're in the middle of a strand, it's pretty much the same: only cut the two wires that do into the socket that refuses to work and then attach them together with wire connectors. Don't cut any other wires!

Kate Bollons -

can you easily find a blown bulb? if so how. if not how.

bobe nye - Reply

How stupid do you have to be to post this as it is a really dangerous way to fix your failing Christmas lights. The best way to fix it is to replace the bulb instead of chop the old one out and twist the cables together. All that is going to happen is either you are going to get an electric shock or push the voltage up of each lamp meaning they will burn out even quicker. If this procedure is done wrong all it will cause is electrocution or cause an electrical fire. A little common sense would prevail before posting this up!

paulcobbett - Reply

Reading this carefully, you'll see the author clearly state that cutting out a socket is a measure to be taken only if nothing else works: "If all else fails, the bulb socket may be broken beyond repair." The way he suggests is pretty good. Using crimp tool connections might be a little better, but both should be plenty safe. Adding electrical tape to hold the wire connector in place might be a good addition to this part of the instructions.

The fundamental problem is that these lights have gotten cheaper and lower quality as the years have passed, so working on them only gets more frustrating. If you ever find an older strand at a second-hand store, one with more space between the lights, you'll find it's much easier to use and is much more durable.

Kate Bollons -

I agree with Kate, the author of this article made it very clear that you only cut the bulb socket out if it totally failed. Cutting 1 or 2 bulb sockets out on a 50, 75, 100, or whatever lightstring, won't make a big enough difference for the rest of the bulbs to burn out faster. Most homes see quite a bit of voltage fluctuations anyways, that's why it is always a good idea to use surge protector in your home. But before you throw away your older Christmas lights because of a couple bad socket, and fill up our landfills even more, repairing them is for sure a good and safe idea, unless one is really a halfwit.

Eva Mills -

That’s pretty rude to call someone stupid. Personally I am grateful to the author that he took his time to post this. Also by making the repair it doesn’t “push the voltage up to each lamp.” if anything the current goes up to a very negligible amount since there is one less bulb in the series.

JR Bird -

I see that someone doesn’t know much about electricity. A bulb is not a resistor or capacitor so it will make no difference in the voltage. As someone with a degree in electronic engineering, cutting a bulb out is no big deal. Make sure its not plugged in. If you use a wire nut or wing nut wrap it in electrical tape. I would recommend using a different connector if your capable that will provide a more secure and safe connection. I also probably would not do this with outside lights unless proper precautions are taken, even then i still wouldn’t do it for outsude lights. It just takes some common sense and ingenuity.

mo Tom -

Did you create an account just to give a wrong answer? :)

“I see that someone doesn’t know much about electricity. A bulb is not a resistor or capacitor…”

The coil of tungsten in an incandescent bulb IS the resistor, that is how the heat and light are created.

Mark Midyette -

Great info. Hopefully this will help me not throw all my lights away in the future, haha.

LaserCat2600 - Reply

Hmmm, a light bulb (incandescent) is not a resistor? Interesting. So what causes the filament to get hot and give off light? Yes, it is resistive and will drop voltage. (The junction in an LED bulb will as well. )

Eva is right however, the extra voltage is not significant .

Seems “someone with a degree in electronic engineering” needs to go back to the books.

Skyln - Reply

A light bulb (incandescent) is not a resistor? Ridiculous. How’s does it dicipate power and generate light. Of course it will drop voltage.

Skyln - Reply

I have an issue where my set of LED lights will light up when plugged directly into an extension chord. However, when I plug that same set of LED lights into another strand that is currently lit, it will not work. I changed the fuses in the male ends of the lights but it did not help. All of the bulbs have to be good because the strand lights when I plug it into the extension chord but not when I plug it into the existing lit set of lights. Any help would be much appreciated.

John - Reply

Something to think about.

1) it works when plugged into the source.

2)it does not work when you plug into another set of lights.

It may be that the set of lights you are plugging into has a bad connector.

Try swapping the order the lights are ran.

Ken Johnson -

Just finished watching and reading thru the posts and have a quick question. Does the Lite Keeper work with LED Strands/bulbs. and If someone could explain the 3rd wire, as I too have this configuration. I have a prelit tree and am trouble shooting on the tree.. strands are wound into the tree, so not EASILY possible to remove and lay on floor or counter to see whole string.

thanks for the help. Mike

Mike Moran - Reply

These were excellent instructions! So helpful!

Thank you!

K Dews - Reply

Outdoor string lights! The squirrels cut several strands. There are two, three and four strands on the same strand.

I need to put them back together but i don't understand how.

Noreen D Edwards - Reply

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