Outdoor Lamp Replacement

Mad Phil asked me to replace the bulb in a lamp along the walkway to their garage, which turned into a bit of a circus: the bulb had shattered, leaving only the base in the socket. After clearing away the rubble, I was confronted with this:

Corroded lamp socket

Corroded lamp socket

I removed the entire lamp housing, laid it out on my workbench, and eventually resorted to jamming needle-nose pliers into the base and forcibly unscrewing it. That worked:

Corroded lamp base

Corroded lamp base

Fortunately, the aluminum lamp base had corroded against the brass socket, not the other way around, so buffing the socket with a brass wheel in a Dremel handset and polishing the base contacts brought it back to life.

Reassemble the lamp and it’s all good…


  1. #1 by jptossean on 2013-03-26 - 07:59

    Ed –
    Next time try a whittled down potato. Jam it in the broken socket and unscrew it like a surrogate bulb. I lived in a party house in college – we had a lot of knocked over lamps.


    • #2 by Ed on 2013-03-26 - 08:27

      a whittled down potato

      That’s a great idea for a broken bulb! I like it…

      This one was firmly corroded and resisted everything I tried, short of the needlenose pliers. It would have sneered at a potato, although if I’d known that trick, I’d have definitely used it along the way.

    • #3 by rkward on 2013-03-26 - 12:59

      I’ve heard that one as well just never had to try it so far. So folks might need a reminder to turn the power off or at least make sure the switch was off. Although once they hear the crackle of burning potato that should be enough ;-)

  2. #4 by Brent Crosby on 2013-03-26 - 10:18

    When we moved in here, the light in the oven did not work. So I picked up an appliance bulb and went to replace it. Of course the base was stuck. After working on it a while the old bulb eventually came out in my hand, leaving the base secure in the socket.All this is happening in the back corner of the dark oven. So I end up getting the needle-nose pliers and digging and tearing the old bulb base out of the socket.

    Pretty boring and predictable story . . . . until I put the new bulb in and it lit immediately. I had done all that digging and tearing in a live socket and never gotten a spark or shock :)

    • #5 by Ed on 2013-03-26 - 14:55

      never gotten a spark or shock :)

      The Force is strong with you…

    • #6 by Red County Pete on 2013-03-26 - 21:43

      Not lightbulbs, but I’ve had the opposite happen a few times. I thought I had the power off and did work, and got zapped. Last time, I was in a hurry and forgot to kill the breaker when I was swapping out an outlet. Other times, I ran into some creative wiring (circa 1951) in my mother’s house. Pulled the main fuse to do a kitchen light fixture after I discovered a second (live) circuit in the same box. !@%$^

      Never got hurt, maybe just good luck…

      • #7 by Ed on 2013-03-26 - 22:22

        a second (live) circuit in the same box

        Mad Phil taught me to always measure all the conductors for voltage after killing the power and before proceeding: kept me from frying my bacon a few times, he did…

  3. #8 by jim oslislo on 2013-03-27 - 08:13

    As a final confirmation that the power is off, I ground the conductors to the side of the electrical box with a screwdriver. If the power is turned off like I figure it should be, there shouldn’t be any fireworks, right?

    • #9 by Ed on 2013-03-27 - 08:23

      You probably have such confidence in your work that you don’t even squint… [grin]