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When my wife and I bought our house, there were two ceiling fans with multiple light fixtures (4 inside a plastic enclosure and 4 "exposed" within glass lampshades. On one of the fans, one of the lampshaded fixtures seems to be "loose", moreso with the LED bulb we have in it. It typically won't turn on when we turn on the bulb. Tightening or loosening it often causes it to work for a time, but it will semi-randomly wink out after that, presumable because it moves out of place. Running the fan on it accelerates the process, probably through vibration. It's just the one fixture. We've tried rotating the other bulbs into it, but it's just that location.

Is there something I can do without replacing the entire fan, maybe some sort of putty to increase the grip of the fixture?

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NO PUTTY!

You have a loose electrical connection and a loose mechanical connection.

Mechanical

First you need to fix the mechanical attachment mechanism. It may be a loose nut on a threaded pipe holding the individual fixture to the base. It could be some other locking mechanism, such as bolts or screws. In some fixtures, the sockets are held in by pressure fits, which are harder to repair.

In either case, you probably need to take at least the lighting unit off of the fan, and maybe the whole fan down, depending on how it is put together. Before you do anything, turn off the circuit to the fan, not just the wall switch or the remote control switch. Once the wiring is exposed, double check that all wires are not hot by using a non-contact tester.

You need to restore the original attachment method, not just a glue or putty to wedge it in place. Fan vibration will almost certainly cause a makeshift repair to break again.

Electrical

It sounds as if you have a loose wire. You need to make sure that all wires, hot neutral, and ground are all connected (in the US, these are black or red, white, and green or bare). The ground may be established by physical contacts among the metal parts, and restoring the mechanical connection may fix an intermittent ground. Sometimes a wire may be under a wire nut, but not well connected. If there is no obvious disconnected wire, remove and check wire connections under wire nuts.

Replacement

If you cannot make the physical socket stable as originally designed, you need to replace the fixture (or at least that part of it). Underwriters approval (a safety standard) is dependent on the structure as designed. If you cannot restore the mechanical structure, you probably need to replace the entire fan.

  • I think it is likely mechanical, because adjusting how tightly the bulb is in, pretty consistently fixes it for the moment. When it goes back off, I generally find that it's gone loose enough as to wiggle in the socket. As a new homeowner, this is all new ground for me, but I have the manuals, so I'll look up the circuit. – Sean Duggan Jul 13 '14 at 22:52
  • one thing to look at (with the power off!) is the pin at the bottom of the socket. sometimes it just needs to be pried up a bit so that it makes contact with the base of the bulb. – Steven Jul 14 '14 at 0:52

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