Why are my Christmas lights not working?

November 2, 2019

More than likely your lights are not working for one of the following reasons:

  1. The wiring is damaged. This is especially true if only a section of your lights has gone out and none of the bulbs are missing. This can be caused by aging, tugging too hard during installation or storing, or by chewing animals. See our post about: squirrels and opossums.
  2. The fuse is blown. If your set of lights go out during installation or shortly after plugging in, take a look at how many lights are strung in series and reduce the number of light strings in series so they don’t add up to more than 210 watts, then check the fuse.

    In most sets of Christmas lights, there is a little door in the male plug that can be slid back to reveal a fuse (or two in some cases). Use a small screwdriver to slide the door back, gently pry out the fuse and check to see if it’s been blown. The little wire in the middle of the glass cylinder will be broken.

    Replace the fuse and this may very well solve your problem unless the blown fuse was caused by a wiring problem.
  3. A bulb might be unseated or missing. In most strings of Christmas twinkle lights, if a bulb burns out the rest will stay lit. If a bulb is half-unseated or a bulb is removed, then the rest of bulbs in that circuit will go out.

    Without removing and reinserting the bulbs, check to see if a bulb is missing from its socket. If you find a missing bulb, replace it and your light string should work unless there is an issue with the wiring harness.

Troubleshooting Steps

  1. Check for visible damage to the wiring harness.
  2. Check the fuses,
  3. Check the bulbs.

Have tips on how you’ve fixed your lights? Share them in the comments below.

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Shellie Gardner
Aside from throwing dinner parties that feature at least two kinds of cheese dip, Shellie's passions include travel, Mid-Century Modern furnishings and finding the perfect street taco. Has been known to snort laugh champagne.

4 thoughts on “Why are my Christmas lights not working?”

  1. On my single strand of outdoor lights, which were working, now the first bulb on the stand works but not the rest. I’ve switched bulbs and it’s the same results. Only the first bulb is lit. No blown fuses, no broken bulbs, and like I mentioned, the whole strand was working yesterday.

    1. That is an unusual and frustrating problem. It is possible that your light string has been damaged and may need to be replaced. It could have possibly been chewed or damaged by something around or next to it.

      Without actually holding and seeing the light string it is hard to provide an exact diagnosis.

      We can’t give out electrical advice but I would strongly encourage you not to plug in that set of lights under the conditions you’ve described.

  2. My lights on my tree is not coming on what could be the problem

    1. That is a hard problem to diagnose without seeing your tree. Your first steps would be to check the fuses in the plugs of the lights, then do a quick check to see if any bulbs have come out of or partly out of their sockets.

      Also, look for any physical damage that might have happened to the lights while they were in storage. If you do see any damage to the wire, do not plug in the lights again until you have replaced the lights.

      Hope these suggestions give you a place to start.

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