I have a child at home who has learning difficulties. Sometimes she jumps up and down on the floor. Recently this has caused the downstairs living room light to flicker. Upstairs under the floorboards I found a connector block with the three wires from the living room light switch going in one side and obviously three wires leaving the other side. Oddly the bare earths were just twisted loosely together underneath. Now I may not be a qualified electrician, but it's obvious that twisted wires isn't what you are supposed to do, so I replaced this with a six connector block strip and connected the wires back up properly. The light then worked correctly. The other day it started flickering again and after going out shopping for a few hours I returned and the light no longer worked.

In the switch on the wall the two incoming wires are live in the off position and the single outgoing is zero volts...with the switch in the on position all wires are live. At the light itself both pins are live when switched on.

is this caused by a broken neutral or by possibly something else, if so any pointers would be helpful. All other lights work without fault and live testing was done with a screwdriver as I do not have a test meter...a bulb will light between live and earth in the circuit.

  • As Michael mentions, wiring diagrams and photos are helpful. See our faq if you're low on rep.
    – BMitch
    Oct 17, 2012 at 2:59
  • What does this mean, " live testing was done with a screwdriver "?
    – Tester101
    Oct 17, 2012 at 16:46
  • 7
    There are electrical testing screwdrivers with a neon light that lights up if you touch them to a live wire...hopefully he means one of those, and not "tested to see if there were sparks".
    – Grant
    Oct 20, 2012 at 0:21
  • Fixing the bare wires (ground) wouldn't have actually changed anything. It was just a happy coincidence that the problem stopped for a while. Sep 4, 2013 at 22:31
  • Ray how did you fix the problem?
    – Vincent
    Feb 20, 2018 at 20:32

5 Answers 5


Flickering is caused by a bad connection somewhere. It could be the bulb or socket that is bad (you did try a new bulb, right?), or it could be a bad connection anywhere along the line: at the fixture, switch, any electrical box along the way or a fault in a cable (staple, screw, etc.). It could be the hot or neutral that is bad. A sign of the neutral being open is other lights getting brighter or dimmer. While the ground not being well connected would not cause the flickering, it might be a sign of other bad connections along the way.

You will need to visually and physically inspect all of the connections with the power turned off. Wiggle wires, look for ones that pull out of connections. Look for nicks or otherwise degrading wires. Check the wire insulation too. Look for heavily oxidizes wires or connections.

You need to get yourself a non-contact voltage tester! You shouldn't be testing live circuits with a screw driver, that's a going to get you killed.

NC voltage tester
(source: homedepot.com)

Call an electrician if you are unfamiliar with electrical work.

  • +1 - don't test circuits with a screwdriver! Nothing good can come of that! Oct 19, 2012 at 2:46

I don't know how much experience you have with electrical equipment but I'm sure you know that mains power can easily kill and if you don't know what you are doing, please seek professional help (from an Electrician). I would not suggest using a screwdriver for any kind of electrical testing.

In order for us to better answer your question, some pictures or illustrations would be helpful. If the problem originated from vibration then it is likely you just have a loose connection somewhere. However, when you say both pins at the light are live then it leads me to believe that the ground pin is misconnected.


This may be a simple fix. Light fixtures that are subject to vibration can fail because the center contact in the fixture has moved away from the bulb. I have been called to replace fixtures that all was needed (with the power off) is to lift the center contact about 1/8" and replace the lamp. This failure is more common with vibration because the lamp is hot pushing on the contact when bounced it slowly moves away and no longer makes good contact. Try prying the contact up to make better contact and see if that solves the flickering.


Turned out some unwise person had used the backplate of a ceiling rose under the bedroom floor run the wires into that, then took the feed on through the ceiling into the downstairs hall light.

In addition they had not secured the backplate to anything, so it was left to bounce around. I replaced this awful connector and secured the replacement box to the joist, thereafter no more problems.


I am an electrical home inspector. In my opinion the first thing is to look for double drops in the main box. (Two wires on one breaker is a double drop). This can overload the circuit and cause flickering and a lot of other problems. If there are no double drops you need to test voltage. It may be something from the meter; if you are not getting proper voltage call the power company and have them check voltage and grounding.

  • 3
    How could two wires on one breaker "overload the circuit?" And why would that cause the lights to flicker? Sep 4, 2013 at 22:32

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