How to Repair Christmas Lights the Easy Way!

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How to Repair Christmas Lights the Easy Way!

Do you see the big smile on my face? Are you wondering why it’s there? Well, let me tell you ALL about it! By the time you are done reading this post, you will be happy too! I promise!

 It’s not just because hubby just finished hanging all the Christmas lights and everything looks so VERY pretty.   And it’s not because I just repaired SIX sets of old Christmas lights, even the kind with icicles on them, and didn’t have to buy any new ones this year, though I certainly am happy about that.

It’s not just because I bought a Christmas Light Keeper Pro for $18.99 (ouch!) though you are getting much closer.  

 It’s because this little jewel of a tool REALLY WORKS!!! Yahoo!!  Miracles really do happen and some tools actually DO what they say they do. At least this one certainly does.

I spent an agonizingly painful and frustrating four hours trying to fix one seeming endless string of Christmas lights on Saturday. This is the kind that has a main string of large lights plus many tendrils of smaller ones dangling down from it. If ONE light bulb goes guessed it..they ALL go out. Try finding the bad bulb… I just dare you! It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Discouragement threatened to overcome even ‘never say die’ do-it-yourself and ‘save your money’ me! I know…it is hard to imagine ME giving up on a project.  And to make matters worse, I just detest wasting time and that is exactly what I was doing. I finally gave up in despair and got on the internet (Thank you Lord for this resource!), and typed in “How to Repair Christmas Lights”.  I stumbled upon a rather technical article which explains everything you ever didn’t want to know about how to fix Christmas lights and a lot I’d always been curious about. 

I was fascinated to tell you the truth. But also terrified! I sure didn’t want to replace fuses?? sockets??!! or pull out bulb after bulb to test for the bad one. I knew that that was the normal way to do it, but this was crazy to attempt on a string of icicles.  You can read this truly fabulous article here. Chris Ritter is an electronics wizard!

But because I’m NOT one of those kind of people, I was all ready to throw all of the strings in the trash as NONE of them worked right and most, not at all. Then I read his comment about using a Light Keeper or Light Zapper as I call it. And that got my attention.

If you read his article you will understand completely WHY this thing works. All I can say is that it is WORTH EVERY PENNY of the $18.00 to $20.00 you will spend.  Target has it on sale right now for $13.99!

  I wasn’t able to fix all of the strings, but I was able to fix most of them. Considering what they cost, I was thrilled not to have to replace them! I need to throw out one string, but the rest should last me for a few more years.
How does it work? It’s incredibly simple. The zapper has three small camera type batteries in the head which course electricity through the line. This fuses the little wires (on the left and right) inside the light socket (called shunts) so that the current can go all the way through whether there is a light bulb in the socket or not.

Here are the basic steps I followed…

First, plug in the lights and see if any parts are dark. I had several with dark ‘parts’ on the string. This is because when one light goes out about 15-20 lights go out with it.  You may need to skip down a few more and try again.

Next, pull out the first light that is dark that is closest to the plug. Plug the light socket into the spot on the ‘zapper’ while it is still plugged in and pull the trigger 10-20 times. Sometimes my lights worked after only 3 pulls or less.  If the lights come on, your done! Now go to the next dark part of your string.

If you still have dark parts, just plug the plug into your zapper and pull the trigger several times. It will check the whole line all at once this is also helpful if your light bulb sockets are too small or large for the socket checker on the gun.

If the lights don’t come on, you can press down on the current detector and starting where the lights are working start following the line until the zapper stops beeping.

That is where one or two bulbs may be burned out.  Pull out the bulbs, try zapping again, check the bulbs to make sure they are dead or alive and replace the bad bulbs. This can fix the string in a heart beat. Can you believe it? The Light Keeper also has a light bulb checker and it works great!  Be sure to pull the tiny wires out from the sides just a bit so they will make good contact both in the checker and the fuse.

If nothing seems to work, pull open the teeny tiny little sliding door on the plug and using a tiny screw driver, remove the fuses. (I know—I didn’t ever notice the little trap doors on the sides of the plugs. Amazing!) Test them on the fuse tester on the top of the gun. If they are bad replace them. You may have to go back to step one after this, but at least now you know the problem isn’t a blown fuse. I had two strings with bad fuses. Probably due to weather or overheating.

Be careful about replacing lights from one set to another. This doesn’t really work if the lights aren’t exact replacements. Sometimes the voltage for the bulb is different which causes it not to shine as bright as the others and will eventually make the bulb blower sooner than necessary. I guess I bought enough at the same time, because I was able to ‘cannibalize’ off of a pretty bad set to repair the more complete strings.  Mr. Ritter suggests always buying one extra string with each type you buy so you will have an exact match and can keep the rest going for several years. This is very smart!

Sunday afternoon, I spent a couple of hours fixing all eight sets and was thrilled to find out that even after we hung up lines, and I noticed a dark spot or a bulb that was out, I could just repair the light..even right on the Christmas tree.  This little jewel of a tool is going to keep us ALL happy this Christmas!  I know, $20.00 is a lot of money..but buying new sets of lights is more expensive.
I’ve decided that no homemaker is properly equipped until she has one of these babies! Mr. Ritter said they cost $5.00 at Michaels but that was in 2005.  Our Michaels store doesn’t carry them any more. But Walgreens, Wal-Mart, and Target do carry them. Target had the best price..two dollars cheaper than Wal-mart.  Or you can order one online here. 

Here is a great demo from Youtube that shows how to do everything. There was no point in me doing the whole thing when Zachary Broyles did it so well. :o)

This should be your FIRST CHRISTMAS PRESENT of the year. You deserve it!! 

Now, I can truly say, have a great time hanging your Christmas lights this week, because I know you won’t be pulling your hair out in needless frustration. If your MAN does this job..then buy it for him and he will LOVE you for it!
Happy Homemaking!


Natasha in Oz said...

Well, you can bet your bottom dollar we won't get that amazing product until next year over here in Australia! It looks amazing.

I am so happy that it worked for you and I loved seeing all the shots of your smiling face in the post. That is worth the $$$ for me!

Best wishes,

Breathing In Grace said...

Ms. Donna, that is amazing. Wish I had known about that little gadget when my mother-in-law was living...she would spend hours trying to fix strands of lights. Thanks for the info!!! HAPPY decorating to you and your family! We haven't even begun!! :(

Laura said...

Dear Donna,
I have to say it...I could just see you with your own DYI show!...This zapper sounds wonderful! I can't tell you how frustrated we've been when lights won't work. I've never seen these before (could be because we don't watch tv...)but they look pretty handy!
Sweet blessings on your day,

Caroline said...

Hey Miss Donna, thanks for your sweet comments. I haven't been visiting and commenting around as much with thanksgiving. Wow, you have been busy! The lights look great! We don't hang lights but will file this one away as hubby isthinking about doing it in the future. We're making a christmas centerpiece (hopefully today, if the goose doesn't dawdle too much!!) and then we do the rest of our decorating after his birthday on the 9th. :) And we've been going to see the lights in central park in college station, always fun!

Needled Mom said...

This is probably my most important tool in the house at this time of the year. It is worth every penny that I paid for it years ago and I recommend it to everyone. Glad that you shared it on your blog.

Donna said...

You guys are too sweet! You are really making me smile!! I do love doing it myself but I'll have to retire from homeschooling before I get to do a DIY show. Sure would love it.

Dear Natasha, I'm so SORRY you can't get one of these! Thanks for the sweet comment. (Though I am embarrassed..about the smiling face.) I couldn't help it though--I am grinning about this. I hate getting stuck in a 'bottle-neck' when I'm on a roll. :o)

Kelly said...

Well no wonder you have a huge smile on your face! What an awesome find you have discovered! I can't believe how easy it is to find things on the internet! Yay! Thankfully all of our lights worked this year... and thankfully again we found the lost box of family Christmas ornaments that no-one could find! Again - Yay!
Thanks for sharing your gadget find.
Big hugs and many blessings to you.

meg said...

Yup, you are a better woman than I. I'd toss 'em and head to Wal-Mart!

Jill said...

Great post! I must admit my husband loves to do the lights and even likes fixing them, lol. He let's me do the other decorations and the tree we do as a family. :-)
Have a great week!

“There's nothing half so pleasant as coming home again.” ~ Margaret Sangster

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