How to Fix Christmas Lights

Inspect the Lights

The first step is to plug in your strand of lights and look for any bulbs that are not lighting up. Make note of which bulbs are burned out so you know which ones need to be replaced.

Also inspect the wire itself. Look for any spots that are frayed or where the wiring is exposed. Any damage to the wire can cause bulbs further down the strand to not light. Make sure to note any spots where the wire needs to be repaired or covered with electrical tape.

Replace Burned Out Bulbs

Once you’ve identified which bulbs are burned out, you can start replacing them.

What You’ll Need:

  • Spare replacement bulbs (usually available where Christmas lights are sold)
  • Bulb remover tool or needle nose pliers

To Replace Bulbs:

  1. Unplug the strand of lights.
  2. Use the bulb remover tool or pliers to gently pull and remove the burned out bulb from the socket.
  3. Insert the new replacement bulb, making sure it clicks securely into the socket.
  4. Repeat the process for each burned out bulb you identified.

Always unplug the lights before removing or replacing any bulbs. Replacement C7, C9 or mini lights style bulbs can be purchased at most hardware stores and retailers that sell Christmas lights. Make sure to get the correct bulb style and wattage for your lights.

Check for Loose Bulb Connections

Sometimes bulbs can appear to be burned out when the issue is actually a loose connection in the socket.

Gently wiggle each bulb to see if any are loose. If you find any loose bulbs, remove them from the socket and reinsert by pressing the bulb firmly into the socket. Make sure it clicks into place securely.

A loose connection can prevent the bulb from making full contact and cause it to not light properly. Checking for any loose connections and reseating the bulbs can often fix dim or flickering bulbs along the strand.

Check for Loose Wire Connections

In addition to loose bulb connections, you’ll also want to check that all the wire connections between bulb sockets are secure.

Start by unplugging the lights. Beginning at the first socket, gently pull on the wires on either side of each socket, checking for any loose connections.

If you find any loose wire connections:

  1. Hold the wire connector steady and gently pull the wire out of the connector.
  2. Use needle nose pliers to clamp down the opened metal tab inside the connector. This will ensure a tighter fit.
  3. Insert the wire back into the connector and press it firmly into place. The wire should be held tightly.
  4. Check that the lights now work properly before moving on to the next socket.

Repeat this process to check for and fix any other loose wire connections. A loose connection can prevent the electricity from flowing properly down the entire strand.

Test Lights Frequently

As you work, plug in the lights occasionally to test your progress. This will allow you to see which sections are lighting up properly and identify any problem areas as you go.

If the strand has stopped working halfway down, it likely means there is a loose connection or broken wire near where the malfunctioning starts. Use the techniques above to inspect connections and wires starting from the last bulb that is lighting up correctly.

Testing frequently makes it easier to pinpoint and correct issues one section at a time. Start restringing the lights only after confirming the entire strand is illuminated.

Repair or Replace Damaged Wires

If you come across any broken, frayed or exposed wires, these can be hazardous and should be repaired or replaced.

For minor damage, cover any exposed wire with electrical tape to prevent potential shocks or shorts. Wrapping the tape around the wire a few times provides a more secure connection.

For wires that are split or completely broken, you may need to remove that section of lights or splice in a new piece of wire. Splicing wires together involves some electrical skill, so consider hiring an electrician if you are uncomfortable doing it yourself.

For major wire damage in multiple places, or lights that no longer fully illuminate even after troubleshooting, it may be time to replace the strand altogether.

Detangle and Re-Hang Lights

Once all the bulbs are working and wires repaired, the last step is to untangle the strands and re-hang them neatly.

Start by unplugging the lights and carefully unwrapping any knots or tight coils. Untwist and smooth out the wire between each bulb socket.

To prevent future tangling:

  • Wrap lights neatly around a cardboard spool when storing.
  • Consider clips or ties to keep wires orderly when hanging.
  • Hang lights neatly in parallel lines rather than randomly wrapping.

With some time and effort, even tangled, half-working strands of lights can be fixed up to work good as new. Just go through methodically, replace burned out bulbs, secure loose connections, repair wires, and detangle before re-hanging. Soon you’ll have your lights back up spreading holiday cheer.

Frequently Asked Questions About Fixing Christmas Lights

How do I know if I should fix my Christmas lights or just replace them?

If only a few bulbs are burned out and the wires are in good condition, fixing them is probably worth a try. But if there are lots of bad bulbs, damaged wires in multiple places, or the lights aren’t lighting up well even after troubleshooting, replacement may be the better option.

What precautions should I take when fixing Christmas lights?

Always unplug the lights before replacing bulbs or checking wires. Work carefully when handling bulbs and wires, and wear gloves if wires are exposed. Follow directions closely when splicing wires or be sure to hire an electrician.

Where can I buy replacement Christmas light bulbs?

Replacement C7, C9 or mini light bulbs are available at most hardware stores and retailers that sell Christmas lights. Make sure to match the type, shape and wattage to the original bulbs.

How do I prevent my Christmas lights from tangling in storage?

Wrap strands neatly around a cardboard spool or dowel when storing. Avoid tightly wrapping or coiling wires. Use plastic clips or ties labeled with the strand number to keep wires orderly.

How often should outdoor Christmas lights be replaced?

Outdoor lights are exposed to weather elements so experts recommend replacing them every 3-5 years. Look for cracked sockets, frayed cords, and excessive burned out bulbs as signs it’s time for new lights.

Can I splice in new wire if my light strand has a damaged cord?

It is possible to splice wires, but doing so requires electrical skill. Consider hiring an electrician if you are not comfortable splicing wires yourself.


With some diligence and testing, even tangled, burnt-out Christmas light strands can be revived to working order. Replace bad bulbs, secure loose connections, repair frayed wires, and neatly restring. Be safe when working with lights and consult a professional if electrical work is needed. Take care of your lights so they provide many years of holiday magic. With these tips, you’ll be on your way to fixing Christmas lights and spreading holiday cheer!