My ceiling fan has 3 light bulb sockets of roughly candelabra bulb size E12 enter image description here

For many years the lights have been unreliable even with new bulbs, frequently flickering on and off spontaneously or when I try to adjust and reset the bulb position.

The socket base contact and the bulb base both show signs of arcing or corrosion damage on some of them enter image description here

Although others seem fine enter image description here

Is this normal? Do I have the wrong bulb type or size? Are the sockets faulty? Can this be repaired both on the bulb and in the socket?

I'm using 40W 120V candelabra bulbs which are burning hot to the touch after just a minute or few of turning the light on.

Given the size of the socket / bulb base, there isn't much room to manoeuvre any tool or cleaning pad inside the socket, or do I need to replace the sockets? I'm not sure the lamp fixture is easy to disassemble, there is very little room to reach tools inside the metal housing.

  • Every incandescent light bulb is burning hot after a few seconds of being on. It's one of the features of an incandescent bulb - they're fantastically good at turning electricity into heat. They also generate light as a side effect. (Just kidding - sort of.) That's one of the reasons that everyone is converting to CFL or LED bulbs - much more of the electricity goes into making light and relatively little becomes heat (though LEDs can get quite hot, too).
    – FreeMan
    Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 19:35
  • Also, yes, unfortunately, having the sockets come loose does seem to be somewhat "normal" on cheaper ceiling fans (like the ones I've purchased and installed in my house).
    – FreeMan
    Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 19:38

3 Answers 3


This happens all the time where arcing eats the solder on the bottom of the lamp. The lamp flickers or will not light.

An easy fix is with the power off use a screw driver or even a kitchen knife to lift the tab in the center of the socket. It is usually a brass tab that is folded. Don’t go crazy only a 1/10 of an inch is normally needed maybe slightly more to make good connections. I have done this 100’s of times and suggested this fix on this site as an accepted answer.

40w bulb should be hot it is using 40w. I have a soldering iron that is 40w and it gets up to 850f but is much smaller the bulb dissipates the heat over it’s entire surface.

If the brass flag breaks when you lift it the socket can be replaced the sizes are hard to mix up and lamps for a miniature lamp will not fit a standard fixture. The main difference is how they mount all but 2 of this style that I have replaced were screw on and they had a set screw to keep them from twisting.

  • I should have mentioned if the tab is eroded from arcing the socket will need to be replaced. The photo was fuzzy and I could not tell.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 17:35

Sockets of that type are readily available as lamp components, sold by competent hardware stores and lighting supply stores.

Don't continue running it - that's a mistake given that you know it's defective. Swap the socket for a good one.

Most likely the entire luminaire is an accessory that attaches to the fan hub, so it could come off and be serviced on a bench, or taken in to a lighting supply to be repaired. Note the ventilation holes at the top of the bulb housing; use them to see inside, or if necessary send down a screwdriver. Don't be surprised if the socket is screwed down onto a "hickey" (threaded hollow tube about 1/2" diameter, common in lamp construction).

If the bulb is getting excessively hot, it may be a cheap foreign job, or it may be an obsolete type called an "incandescent" which is basically an electric campfire that also makes some light. Getting modern bulbs should take care of that.

  • Pssst... based on the pics included, I'd definitely say those are campfire style incandescents... ;)
    – FreeMan
    Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 19:37

shut off power get some fine steel wool and jam it down there with a wood dowel and do your best to scrub out the sockets to get them as shiny as possible and make sure to remove the steel wood completely so there are no stray fibers, then install LED bulbs which do not draw that much power or generate as much heat and then cross your fingers.

  • Are you kidding steel wool, I would given a + for scotch bight , 1 strand of steel wool will trip a breaker quite easily. You did state to clean but this is the wrong material. Usually lifting the tab is what is needed.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 17:12
  • You are right that scotch brite is not conductive so it would be less likely a stray strand would cause trouble. But it's not abrasive enough for bad carbonization which is why I suggested steel wool. The real problem here is mounting the socket upside down in a steel container that concentrates heat. The solder gets hot and soft and deforms away and that starts the arcing. It's just a poor design and a poor choice to use the smaller sockets by the manufacturer and even if he replaced the sockets the problem will happen again with incandescent bulbs. LEDs would be better in that fixture. Commented Dec 16, 2020 at 12:28
  • Ted, scotch brite will score glass it is as effective or better than steel wool in red , green is about equal and white is the least aggressive. This is all I use to clean up large contactors and safety disconnects.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Dec 16, 2020 at 14:10

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