Flickering lightbulbs are annoying, yes, but the greatest problem they pose is that they might be dangerous, particularly if they’re the result of a stripped wire. A flickering bulb means that electricity is not flowing consistently throughout the circuit, and this article presents a step-by-step process for checking the various places that something could go wrong. If at any step you have fixed the problem with the light socket, then you can stop: there is no need to proceed.

REMEMBER: Working with electricity is incredibly dangerous. If you have any doubts, contact an electrician.

To get through all of the steps, you’ll need:

  • Patience
  • A flat-head screwdriver
  • An electrical cord
  • Time

Step 1: Check the Lightbulb
The explanation for a flickering light bulb that’s easiest to fix is a loose bulb. So start there: turn the light off, and tighten the bulb. Then test it out. If the bulb is no longer flickering, then you’ve solved your problem the easy way.

Step 2: See If the Circuit Is Overloaded
If you have too many cords going into one outlet, the circuit may be overloaded. To test this, unplug the light from this socket and plug it into one with a lower workload.

Step 3: Check the Contact
Unplug the light or, if the light cannot be unplugged, turn it off at the fuse box. Then, unscrew the lightbulb, and inspect the metal contact at the base of the socket. It will be a copper tab in the middle of the base. This tab should be making contact with the point at the bottom of the lightbulb, and if that contact isn’t secure, the light bulb will flicker.

Step 4: Raise the Contact
Take your flathead screwdriver and pry the tab so that it’s about 1/8 of an inch about the bottom of the socket. AGAIN: ensure that the light is disconnected from its power source before you do this. Return the bulb to the socket, plug the light back in, and test it out.

Step 5: Clean the Socket
With the power still disconnected, ensure that the inside of the socket and contact are clean and free of rust. Then, return power and screw in the lightbulb to test it.

Step 6: Check the Cord
If your light is still flickering, the problem may be with the power cord. Unplug it, and check it carefully for damage and frays. If you find one, that means you need to make a new cord. Remove the damaged cord and thread the new one to replace it. Strip the end to expose the wires beneath the insulation, and attach them to the screws in the socket.

NOTE: It is important that you should never use electrical tape to attempt to repair a frayed wire, as this is a fire hazard.

Step 7: Check the Light Switch
A worn out switch or light socket is the likely culprit if all of these fixes have failed. If this is the case, the repairs should be left to a professional. Call an electrician and tell them what the problem is, and they’ll take care of the rest.