How do we get a ceiling light working again?


One of the ceiling lights needs replacing. If you replace the bulb and it still does not work, see ‘Replace the bulb connector’ below.

Likely cause

There are two probable causes:

  1. The bulb has burned out.
  2. The bulb connector is corroded and not making a good connection.

What you can do

Buying a replacement bulb

Buy the correct type of replacement bulb: The original spotlights fitted were MR16 12 volt halogen bulbs. These require transformers tucked away in the ceiling space near each bulb. In time these may have been replaced by GU10 halogen or LED lights which do not require a transformer. You can tell the bulbs apart because MR16 bulbs have two push-in pins for their connection and GU10s have a chunkier, bayonet fitting. If you have LED lights that dim you will need a DIMMABLE LED. (Halogen lights all dim anyway.)

two types of lights

Also take care to match the ‘colour temperature’ of the other bulbs or they will look odd. Bulbs are usually either ‘warm white’ (about 2700K) or ‘daylight’ (3000K or above). This information should be printed on them. These are the choices you need to make:

Type MR16 / GU10 Dimmable Colour Temperature
Halogen ? n/a ?
LED ? ? ?


Replacing the bulb

  1. Get a stepladder to stand on, and someone to hold it to be really safe.
  2. Turn off the lights. To be really safe, turn off the lighting circuit at the box under the stairs.
  3. The bulbs in the original fittings are held in place in one of two ways – they varied as the houses were built. There is the:
    a) clip type – push the clip with a flat screwdriver or something similar and pull the clip downwards
    b) bayonet type – turn the holder ring itself anticlockwise to release it. These can get stiff in time and may need a little anticlockwise tap to get moving. When the bayonet lugs are lined up, it will drop down, with the bulb
  4. Replace and test the bulb before refitting the clip or ring.

If a new bulb still fails to work or lights up when it is touched, you may have the second problem, which is a corroded bulb connector.

Replace the bulb connector

The bulb connectors originally installed seem to have been susceptible to corrosion, making the connection to the bulb poor and causing it to not light up. Replacement connectors (see photo below) can be bought via the internet or at specialist electrical supplies stores, such as Edmundson Electrical, nearest is at SE1 5JT.

  1. You will need one of those little screwdrivers designed for electrical terminals.
  2. Remove the bulb, as above, and pull the wires down from the ceiling until you can hold the terminal block into which the wires of the bulb connector are wired.
  3. Unscrew the connector wires from the terminal block.
  4. Connect the wires from the new bulb connector.
  5. Fit the bulb and replace in the holder.

GU10 connector

If this doesn’t work

Each halogen light has a transformer to reduce the current to 12 volts. It is possible that it has burned out. It is in the ceiling, connnected to the bulb holder. You MUST get an electrician to check and replace it.