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This morning, whenever I tried to turn on my bathroom light, it would flicker, then die. From what I understand, the most likely culprit here is a loose connection somewhere.

When I took my switch out of the wall, I noticed that the ground wire was not connected to anything. I thought I'd reattach the wire by looping it clockwise under one of the screws coming out of the side, but I'm... less sure about that now that I'm getting a good look at things - I think those are used to secure the black cable and create contact.

Switch

When I took it off, the ground wire was just kinda chillin in the box, not really connected to anything. The box is covered in paint (or maybe just primer?), but even still, it doesn't feel like metal, so I don't understand how anything would be grounded.

Box

The white neutral cables are all kinda tied together. The two black hot cables on the right side are connected via a nut, and the resulting cable out of that is what feeds the switch. The cable on the left is what heads up to the light in the bathroom (the light switch is outside the door - don't ask).

Once I get the flickering fixed, is it safe to put it all back in there with the ground wire just kinda... hangin' out? I don't see any way to attach it to this switch.

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Someone was lazy and used the backstabs which are notorious for working loose over time. That would be your issue.

Use a screwdriver to take out the blacks stabbed in the back and instead connect those on the screws. That should fix your issue.

The ground wire should be connected only to a green screw or the connection marked as ground if present. But it doesn't look like yours has one. If you are worried you can replace the switch with a new one that will have the green ground screw.

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  • That's all the info I needed! I think I'll replace the switch now that I understand this type of switch isn't a very good quality one. Thanks! – Kulahan Jul 31 '20 at 22:37
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    @Kulahan it's not that the switch isn't "good quality", it's that switches weren't required to be grounded, so there was no ground screw provided. You don't indicate how old the house or switch are, but if it was installed in the 50s or 60s, it may well be a "better quality" switch than one you'd get today. If you look closely in the back of the box, you can see that there are at least 2 ground wires twisted together - that carries the ground from on to another - all ground wires should be connected in the box if they aren't currently. – FreeMan Aug 1 '20 at 16:07
  • Ah, that makes sense. The apartment is a bit newer than that (80s, iirc), but good to know either way. Also, thanks very much for the info on connecting all ground wires! I'll take it apart this evening and ensure they're all twisted together. – Kulahan Aug 3 '20 at 20:17
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Do not connect the ground wire to the side screws. These are just the same connections as the back-stabs that the wires are pushed into.

There should be a green screw, probably on the top or bottom of the switch. That is the ground connection. If there isn't one, you should probably replace the switch.

Also, you should avoid using the back-stabs in the first place. They tend to fail over time and may actually be the cause of your flickering. You should remove the wires from the stab holes (if you cannot get them free, you may have to cut them flush and re-strip. Make a J-hook out of the wire ends and secure them under the side screws.

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