Having an outdoor light that refuses to turn on can be incredibly frustrating. As soon as it starts getting dark, you realize that stubborn light is still off, leaving part of your yard or driveway shrouded in darkness. No matter how many times you flip the switch or change the bulb, it just won't come on. But don't despair - with a few troubleshooting tips, you can get to the bottom of the issue and get that outdoor light working again.

Inspect the Light Fixture

The first thing to do is inspect the actual light fixture. Climb up and take a close look at the entire fixture to see if you notice anything amiss.

Check for Loose Wires

Shake the light fixture gently to see if it feels loose or any wires jiggle free. Loose wiring connections can interrupt the flow of electricity and prevent the light from powering on. If you spot any loose wires, turn off the power at the circuit breaker before attempting to reconnect them.

Look for Corrosion

Examine closely for any signs of corrosion on the wiring or contacts within the light fixture. Corrosion can build up from moisture or dirt and needs to be cleaned off for the light to get power. Turn off the power before using sandpaper or steel wool to gently clean off corrosion.

Test the Light Bulb

Don't forget to check the obvious - try screwing in a brand new light bulb! Old bulbs can burn out after time. Test with a bulb you know works to rule that out as the culprit.

Check the Power Source

If the light fixture itself seems fine, the issue could be with the power supply. Work your way down the electrical path to isolate the problem.

Inspect the Circuit Breaker

Flip the circuit breaker controlling your outdoor lighting off and on to reset the connection. Circuit breakers can trip, cutting power to the light. If the breaker isn't tripped, it still may need resetting.

Check the Light Switch

The switch could have a broken connection. Turn the switch off and on a few times firmly. If that doesn't work, unscrew the switch plate and inspect the wiring for any loose connections. Reset solidly if needed.

Test the Wiring

You may have a severed wire in the electrical path preventing power from reaching the light. Check along the entire wire run from fixture to switch looking for any damaged spots in the insulation. Also verify wires are securely connected at every junction.

Hire an Electrician

If you've checked all points along the electrical path and haven't found the issue, it may be time to call in a professional electrician. They have the tools and knowledge to accurately diagnose and repair electrical problems.

Consider a Light Fixture Upgrade

If your outdoor light is old, the fixture itself may just be malfunctioning. Replacing an old, faulty light fixture with a new one can often provide a simple and permanent fix.

Choose an Energy Efficient Fixture

When selecting a replacement fixture, look for an ENERGY STAR rated model. These energy efficient options cost less to operate long-term.

Select a Durable Housing Material

Outdoor fixtures are exposed to the elements, so pick a sturdy housing material like aluminum or rust-resistant steel. Also look for fixtures touting weatherproofing.

Install a Light with a Built-In Photocell

Photocell lights automatically turn on at dusk and off at dawn, providing hands-free convenience. No more futzing with switches to activate your outdoor light each evening!


That annoying outdoor light refusing to turn on can be quickly remedied once you methodically troubleshoot the likely culprits. Inspect the fixture, starting with the bulb. Then work backwards along the electrical path, checking the power source from the switch to breaker. If no issues are found, a replacement fixture may be the easiest solution for a frustratingly dark outdoor space. With a bit of diligence, you can soon shed light on the problem and get your outdoor space bright again!