Outdoor outlets and lighting can sometimes malfunction and stop working properly. As a homeowner, you may be tempted to call an electrician right away to troubleshoot and fix any wiring issues. However, many common outdoor electrical problems can often be diagnosed and repaired safely without professional help. This guide will walk you through the steps to troubleshoot and fix the most common outdoor outlet and lighting wiring issues on your own.

Safety Precautions When Working with Outdoor Electrical Wiring

Before getting started, it is crucial to take proper safety precautions when working with outdoor electrical systems to avoid potential shock or electrocution hazards:

Following basic electrical safety tips will allow you to troubleshoot and repair outdoor wiring issues safely and effectively.

Troubleshooting Non-Working Outdoor Outlets

Outdoor outlets that stop working are often caused by simple issues you can troubleshoot yourself:

Check for Tripped GFCI Outlet

Many outdoor outlets are connected to GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets. GFCIs have a reset button that trips easily to prevent shocks. Check nearby garages, bathrooms, or basements for a tripped GFCI reset button. Simply press the "Reset" button to restore power.

Test for Power at the Outlet

Use a non-contact voltage tester to see if the outlet is getting any power. No power means there could be:

Check for Broken, Disconnected, or Corroded Wires

Remove the outlet cover and visually inspect the wiring. Look for any damaged or cut wires, loose connections, or green/white corrosion on the wires. Clean connections or splice any damaged wires.

Replace Faulty GFCI or Outlet

If power is flowing to the outlet but it still doesn't work, the GFCI outlet or standard receptacle is likely defective. Swap it out for a new GFCI or outdoor outlet.

Double checking these issues first before calling an electrician can resolve many basic outdoor outlet problems quickly and easily.

Fixing Common Outdoor Lighting Wiring Problems

Outdoor lighting fixtures can develop wiring issues over time as well. Start troubleshooting with these steps:

Check the Light Bulb

Burned out light bulbs are the most common cause of outdoor lighting failures. Replace bulbs first before investigating other wiring problems.

Inspect Power Connections

Remove the fixture cover and check that all wiring is intact with tight, corrosion-free connections. Any loose, disconnected, or damaged wires can cause lights to malfunction.

Test for Voltage at the Fixture

Use a voltage tester to see if power is actually reaching the outdoor light. No power suggests an issue with the circuit breaker, GFCI, switch, or wiring connections along the path.

Clean Fixture Contacts

Over time, light fixture threads and contacts can corrode. Clean contacts with steel wool and spray with electrical contact cleaner to improve connections.

Check Motion Sensors

For motion sensor lights, ensure sensors are clean and lenses are not obstructed. Adjust motion sensitivities as needed. Also replace batteries in wireless fixtures as needed.

Replace Defective Fixture

If fixture wiring is intact but bulbs still won't illuminate, the light fixture itself likely needs replacement due to internal defects. Install a new outdoor-rated fixture.

Ruling out these common issues first can help you get your outdoor lighting running again without calling an electrician.

When to Call a Professional Electrician

While many basic DIY repairs can get your outdoor outlets and lighting working again, there are certain situations where you should hire a licensed electrician:

Electrical work can be hazardous if proper precautions are not taken. Professionals have the proper training and knowledge to safely handle complex electrical wiring projects and work on live circuits. They can also properly install new outdoor outlets and lighting up to electrical code standards. Consider calling an electrician for any major upgrades or complex repairs needed.


Troubleshooting basic outdoor electrical issues like tripped breakers, loose connections, and worn fixtures is well within the DIY capabilities of many homeowners. Paying close attention to electrical safety and systematically diagnosing problems before attempting repairs allows you to fix many common outdoor outlet and lighting issues yourself, saving the cost of an electrician. However, for large or confusing wiring projects, the expertise of a licensed electrician is advised. With the right precautions and a methodical approach, you can tackle simple outdoor electrical wiring repairs and keep your exterior outlets and lighting running smoothly.