How to Fix a Doorbell

A doorbell is an essential part of any home. It allows you to alert people inside when you arrive and need to gain entry. However, doorbells can malfunction over time and need repairs. Fortunately, troubleshooting and fixing a doorbell is usually a straightforward process that most homeowners can tackle themselves.

Getting Started with Doorbell Repairs

Before beginning doorbell repairs, you’ll need to gather a few tools and supplies:

  • Screwdrivers – Both flathead and Phillips head screwdrivers in various sizes. You’ll need these for removing screws and disassembling the doorbell.
  • Needlenose pliers – Helpful for reaching into tight spaces and bending wires.
  • Wire strippers – To strip away old insulation on wires.
  • Electrical tape – For insulating and securing wires.
  • Voltmeter – Used to test for power to the doorbell and chime.
  • Spare doorbell button – Handy to have for testing.
  • Chime tube or solid-state replacement – If the chime unit needs replacement.

You’ll also want to turn off the power to the doorbell at the main electrical panel before beginning work. This will prevent risk of shock.

With your tools assembled and the power off, you can start investigating the issue.

Troubleshooting the Doorbell to Find the Problem

The first step in any doorbell repair is troubleshooting to isolate the issue. Here are some of the most common doorbell problems and likely causes:

Doorbell Not Ringing at All

If the doorbell button does nothing when pushed, there are a few possible issues:

  • Power loss – Check the breaker or fuse powering the doorbell. If tripped or blown, reset or replace.
  • Faulty transformer – The transformer converts high-voltage power to low voltage for the doorbell. Test with a multimeter and replace if needed.
  • Broken wire – Inspect all doorbell wires for damage or disconnects. Repair any severed wires.
  • Bad button – Bypass the button with a jumper wire. If chime rings, the button is faulty.
  • Faulty chime unit – If power is present but chime doesn’t function, the unit needs replacement.

Doorbell Rings But Makes No Sound

If the button makes the doorbell ring electrically but you hear no audible sound, this indicates an issue with the chime unit itself. Some possibilities include:

  • Loose or disconnected wire – Open up the chime box and ensure all wires are securely connected.
  • Broken or jammed chime bar or striker – Mechanical problem with chime bar not ringing out when struck. May need adjustment or replacement.
  • Faulty circuitry in electronic chimes – Solid-state chimes can malfunction. Time for a new unit.

Doorbell Buzzes or Rings Intermittently

An intermittent doorbell that works sometimes but not others is most likely due to a loose wire connection.

  • Corroded wires – Clean wires with sandpaper or steel wool to improve contact.
  • Wires not tightly fastened – Ensure all wires are securely screwed into terminals.

Doorbell Rings Continuously

If your doorbell won’t stop ringing, it’s usually an issue with the button being stuck closed.

  • Jammed button plunger – Try spraying lubricant or tap the button gently to free up the plunger mechanism.
  • Faulty switch – If that fails, the button switch will need replacement.

Once you’ve diagnosed the specific problem, you can move on to repairs.

Replacing the Doorbell Button

The doorbell button takes the most abuse of any component. If your troublesshooting points to a faulty button as the issue, replacing this part should restore normal operation. Here are the steps:

Remove the Old Doorbell Button

  1. Turn off power to the doorbell at the main electrical panel.
  2. Remove the button mounting screws. These may require some force if corroded.
  3. Carefully pull the doorbell button assembly away from the wall. The attached wires should disconnect.
  4. If wires don’t have enough slack, unscrew wires from the button terminals first.
  5. Take note of which wires connect to each screw terminal. Often brass screws indicate the transformer wire.

Install the New Doorbell Button

  1. Cross-check wiring connections against the old doorbell setup. Connect wires to the proper terminals.
  2. Secure the button assembly back to the wall with the mounting screws.
  3. Turn power back on and test the doorbell. Verify button presses activate the chime.
  4. If the doorbell works, you can caulk around the button to seal it from outdoor elements.

With the button replaced, your doorbell should now ring reliably again. Be sure to get an outdoor-rated button designed to withstand your climate.

Troubleshooting and Replacing the Doorbell Transformer

The transformer is the unsung hero of the doorbell system. This small device converts your 120-volt AC house current into a low voltage output, usually 16-24 volts to power the doorbell. If this component fails, the doorbell will be dead in the water.

Signs of a faulty transformer include:

  • No power at all to the doorbell
  • Doorbell rings weakly or inconsistently
  • Burning electrical smell from the chime box
  • Visible corrosion on the transformer casing or wires

Replacing the transformer involves basic wiring work:

Test the Transformer

  1. Shut off power to the doorbell circuit.
  2. Open the chime box and locate the transformer. Follow its wires.
  3. Disconnect the wires noting polarity – usually black to Trans/Common and white or red to the front button.
  4. With a multimeter on the Low Voltage AC setting, measure across the transformer terminals screws.
  5. A good transformer will output 16-24 volts. Little or no output indicates failure.

Install a New Transformer

  1. Obtain an identical replacement transformer matched to your voltage needs.
  2. Disconnect and remove the old transformer.
  3. Install the new transformer using the same wire polarity as the old one.
  4. Power on and test the doorbell. Measure output voltage again to confirm proper operation.

With a functioning transformer powering your system again, the doorbell should perform reliably. Be sure to match transformer voltage and wire colors exactly during replacement.

Fixing Loose Doorbell Wires

Loose, disconnected, or damaged wires are one of the most common causes of doorbell problems. If your doorbell works intermittently or only when wiggled, wire issues are likely to blame. Fixing this only requires basic wiring skills.

Inspect Wires for Damage

  1. Shut off doorbell power before inspecting wires.
  2. Follow wires from the button to the transformer and chime unit.
  3. Look for any spots where insulation is cracked or missing. These can short and need repair.
  4. Check for corrosion on any terminals or places where wires are joined.

Clean Corroded Wire Connections

  1. Lightly sand corroded areas on wires to expose fresh metal.
  2. Clean terminal screws and contacts in chime unit and button assembly.
  3. Reconnect wires to ensure a clean metal-to-metal connection.

Tighten Loose Wire Connections

  1. Remove any old/corroded screws from the chime and terminal blocks.
  2. If wires are loose in the terminals, wrap them around new screw tightly.
  3. Use pliers to twist wires together before reconnecting them.
  4. Secure wires neatly with electrical tape. No bare wire should be exposed.

Splice Any Broken Wires

  1. If a doorbell wire is severed, strip back insulation on each side.
  2. Twist conductors from both sides together tightly with pliers.
  3. Cover the exposed splice with shrink tubing or electrical tape.

With all wires reconnected properly, the circuit will now have consistent contact. Try out the doorbell to verify normal operation before turning power back on.

Adjusting or Replacing the Mechanical Chime Unit

The chime box houses the part of the doorbell that actually makes the ringing sound. Mechanical chimes have metal bars or tubes that strike to create a bell noise when powered on. Issues like improper striking or no sound can often be fixed by adjusting the mechanical chime assembly.

Open the Chime Box

  1. Shut off electricity to the doorbell as a precaution.
  2. Remove cover plate screws or pry off the cover.
  3. Inspect for loose wire connections as well while you have access.

Diagnose Mechanical Issues

  1. Look for any signs of corrosion or rust on chime bars/tubes and strikers.
  2. Check that wires are properly connected to chime bar terminals.
  3. Make sure rubber grommets around striker bolts are in good shape.

Adjust Striker/Chime Bar Position

  1. Loosen screws holding striker bar or solenoid assembly.
  2. Adjust so that bar/rod hits chime tubes squarely in center.
  3. Tighten hardware once properly positioned.

Replace Rusty or Damaged Parts

  1. If rust is severe, replace bad chime tubes/bars or strikers as needed.
  2. Make sure to connect any replacement parts properly. Color match wires.
  3. Test ring with button push and power on before reassembling.

With some adjustments to the mechanical chime parts, you can often get it ringing clearly again. Heavy corrosion may necessitate full chime replacement, however.

Replacing a Faulty Electronic Chime Unit

Many modern doorbells use electronic chimes rather than mechanical designs. These contain circuit boards and a speaker to play doorbell sounds when activated. Malfunctions are common after years of use. Here’s how to swap out a failed electronic chime unit:

Remove Old Chime

  1. Shut off power and disconnect wires from the chime terminals. Take photos to remember wiring.
  2. Remove screws holding the chime to the wall or junction box.
  3. Detach the speaker portion if it is separate from the circuit board.
  4. Discard the old chime but keep screws and wiring.

Install New Electronic Chime

  1. Position the new chime unit and fasten using the same screws.
  2. Reconnect wires to terminals according to your photos or any wiring diagram.
  3. Attach the speaker portion if it is a separate piece.
  4. Restore power and test with button pushes. Select volume as desired.

Be sure to get a replacement electronic chime that matches the style and voltage of the old one. Proper wiring is important for polarity-sensitive solid-state units.

Fixing a Stuck Doorbell Button

If your doorbell is constantly ringing or buzzing without anyone pushing the button, chances are the button mechanism is stuck closed. This creates a constant circuit and activates the chime indefinitely. Fortunately, this problem can often be fixed without replacing the whole button.

Attempt to Unstick the Plunger

  1. Spray lubricant like WD-40 into the edges around the button plunger.
  2. Push the plunger in and out several times to try freeing it up.
  3. Tap the button gently with a hammer if the plunger is still sticky.

Adjust or Replace Internal Switch

  1. Remove the button from the wall to access the back side.
  2. Look for a small internal plunger switch. Bend or adjust slightly if sticky.
  3. If the internal switch is damaged, carefully de-solder it and replace with an identical new part.
  4. Test operation before re-mounting the button. It should click cleanly on/off.
  5. Seal up any gaps once working properly to keep outdoor elements out of the button.

Taking the button apart to access the internal switch will often get a stuck mechanism operating normally again. Just take care not to damage any other components while doing repairs.

Installing a New Wireless Doorbell System

If your old wired doorbell is giving you grief no matter what you try, it may be time to replace the whole setup. A wireless system is an easy DIY upgrade. Here’s how to install one:

Select Wireless Components

  1. Choose a doorbell button kit with transmitters and receivers. Opt for weather-resistant components.
  2. Make sure the chime unit will work with your existing wiring setup.
  3. Consider adding wireless remotes or additional buttons for convenience.

Mount the Button and Receiver

  1. Attach the wireless button assembly near your existing wired button location.
  2. Place the wireless receiver inside near the chime unit. Test positioning until button presses transmit.
  3. Adhere the receiver and attach the battery pack according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Remove your old wired doorbell button to avoid confusion.

Program and Finish Installation

  1. Sync the transmitter and receiver per the wireless system directions. Program any remote or extra buttons as well.
  2. Connect the receiver to your existing doorbell wires and chime.
  3. Activate front button and remotes to ensure proper chime operation.
  4. Make any needed volume adjustments and close up the chime box.

With a few simple steps, you can upgrade to a convenient wireless system. Look for weatherproof components and extended range to maximize performance.

DIY Doorbell Repairs – Summary

While doorbell issues can be a nuisance, the good news is that many problems can be solved with basic tools and wiring skills. Remember these troubleshooting tips:

  • Test for broken circuits or wire connections causing power loss
  • Measure transformer low voltage output and replace if faulty
  • Inspect for worn mechanical chime parts needing adjustment
  • Check for sticky or broken switches in the button assembly
  • Thoroughly clean all corroded contacts and connections
  • Verify that chime wires are properly connected
  • Replace any visibly damaged or rusted components
  • Upgrade to wireless for an easy, maintenance-free doorbell

With some diligent testing and a few inexpensive replacements parts, you can often get your doorbell ringing like new again. Just be sure to always power down the circuit before performing any repairs.

Frequently Asked Questions About Fixing Doorbells

What tools do I need to repair a doorbell?

Basic tools like screwdrivers, pliers, wire strippers, and a voltmeter are essential for most repairs. You may also need replacements parts like buttons, transformers, or chime units.

Why does my doorbell randomly stop working?

Intermittent operation is most often due to loose wire connections. Inspect wires for corrosion and tighten all screws. Faulty transformers or buttons can also be to blame.

How do I know if my doorbell transformer is bad?

Use a multimeter to test transformer output voltage. Little or no voltage indicates it needs replacement. Match transformer voltage and wiring when installing the new one.

Why won’t my electronic chime ring?

If the chime powers on but doesn’t produce sound, it likely has an internal fault. Switching to an identical replacement electronic chime will often restore normal operation.

How do I stop my doorbell from ringing continuously?

A doorbell that constantly rings without pushing the button is being stuck closed. Try lubricating or tapping the button to unstick it. If that fails, replace the internal button switch.

Why does my doorbell only work when I wiggle the wires?

Loose wire connections are most likely the culprit. Tighten all chime box screws, clean corrosion from wires, and reconnect any severed circuits.

Should I call an electrician for doorbell issues?

Most homeowners can tackle repairs themselves. But if dealing with house wiring makes you uneasy, hiring a pro electrician for doorbell issues is a safe bet.


Troubleshooting common problems and performing repairs on doorbells is usually a manageable DIY project. With some basic tools, replacement parts, and testing, you can often get your doorbell working like new without the need to call an electrician. Just be sure to take proper safety precautions when dealing with electrical circuits. While doorbells seem simple on the surface, they still require care and good wiring practices during repairs. With some perseverance and electrical know-how, you’ll have your doorbell ringing clearly again in no time.