I have a lamp that has a label on it saying that it's a 3-way. However, with a 3-way bulb in it I only get on/off just like it's a regular 1-way lamp. Wondering if the label is wrong on the lamp (bought it new, so I know it wasn't repaired) or if maybe it's broken somehow. Can I visually tell from the socket if it really is a 3-way or a mislabeled 1-way?


1 Answer 1


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I borrowed this image from Wikipedia.

1-is the primary contact all bulbs have

2-is the secondary contact for 3-way bulbs


  • Well, OK. It's a 3-way... Grabbed light bulbs from other 3-way fixtures and I've determined that only 3-way CFLs work right in that fixture. Incandescent 3-ways all do not (they all act like 1-ways) in that fixture (but they work as 3-ways in my others). Weird. Must be differences in manufacturing. Unfortunately CFL 3-ways are way too tall and stick above the glare shield... Jan 13, 2018 at 22:54
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    You may be able to re-bend contact 1 or 2 so that they both make contact with the appropriate place on the bottom of the bulb. It’s also pretty easy to replace sockets, which are readily available in your favorite big box store.
    – Tyson
    Jan 13, 2018 at 23:00
  • Looking at the Wikipedia article and the on/off/on/off pattern, apparently it's the middle that's not making contact. If I put in a 1-way bulb I get a off/off/on/on pattern. I'll disconnect the circuit and see if I can just bend the center tab up a little... Jan 13, 2018 at 23:07
  • ...and fixed! Many thanks! The center contact in the socket was apparently just smashed down. It's very flexible and it was easy to (while the circuit was disconnected for safety) pry it back up with a pick. My size appropriate 3-way incandescent now works as a 3-way! Jan 13, 2018 at 23:13
  • @BrianKnoblauch incandescent yikes. GE makes a fabulous LED 3-way in sizes as large as 150 "watts". Not cheap, but will pay for itself in a year's power savings, and the last "bulb" you'll ever buy. Jan 14, 2018 at 0:29

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