LED Christmas Light Repair

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Introduction: LED Christmas Light Repair

Christmas lights are a real nuisance to repair.  The hard part is finding the bulb that is burnt out and most people do this by trial and error.  If you have a string of LED lights that are of the non-replaceable type you may think all is lost.  But don't be too hasty.  What if you could find the problem LED and then repair the string.  Let me illuminate the solution.

You will need some tools that most people who tinker with electricity will have.

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Step 1: WARNING

The following involves working with electricity.  Electricity can kill you if you don't know what you are doing.  So if you are not qualified to repair devices that require electricity then don't attempt the following repair.  If you do follow these instructions then you take full responsibility for getting electrocuted  - which as mentioned previously can kill you - or for any other risks associated with the activity outlined in this set of instructions.

For example, if you burn yourself with the soldering iron that is your fault.  If you get lead poisoning from eating the lead solder this is you fault.  If you burn down your house because you did not insulate your repair properly this is your fault.  If your spouse whacks you with the rolling pin because you destroyed his/her Christmas lights guess what - your fault.

Step 2: Tools and Materials Required

The tools needed are:
Voltage Detector (see picture for example)
Soldering Iron
Solder
Heat Shrink Tube
Wire Cutters
Wire Strippers

Step 3: Circuit Explanation

I am working with a 70 light string which consists of two parallel circuits that have 35 lights each in series.  When one of the LED's fails the circuit breaks which affect all the other lights (half of them) that are in the same series circuit.

Another factor to consider is the current limit of an LED.  LED's do not like a lot of current so besides the LED there is also a current limiting resistor in each light.  For this repair we are actually going to bypass the faulty light.  This will increase the current that goes through the remaining lights because we have eliminated part of the resistance.  However, taking one light out should not increase the current enough to damage the remaining LED's in same circuit.  There is of course a limit.  Bypassing any more that two lights in the same series circuit will likely increase the current enough to put the remaining LED lights in jeopardy which will definitely destroy the entire half of the light string.

Step 4: Detection

The fist step is to find the LED that is no longer working.  The non working LED will obviously be in the string half that is not working.

With the lights plugged in, use the voltage detector to check the live voltage wire between each light, starting at the end that plugs into the wall outlet. There should be voltage detected at the live wire going into the first light.  Then check the wire that goes from the first light to second light.  This is assuming that the first half of the light string is not working.  If it is the second then start at light 36 for a 70 light string.

Keep checking for voltage between the lights.  As soon as you find a wire between the lights that no longer has voltage detected the light prior is likely the light that is fault.  As an example, if there is voltage on the wire between light 6 and light 7, but there is not voltage between light 7 and light 8, then light 7 is likely the problem.

Just to make sure test for voltage between the next set of lights just to make sure.  There should be no voltage detected.

Step 5: Verification - DO NOT ATTEMPT

I did this to prove a concept.  It is not part of the instructions.  You could get electrocuted.

When I was sure of the LED that was faulty I unplugged the lights from the electrical source and then put a sewing pin through the wires going into the LED to bypass the light in question.

After making sure the pin was not touching anything conductive I plugged the lights back in and the light string half that did not work before now worked except for the light I bypassed with the pin.  This proved I found the faulty LED.

I then unplugged the lights and began the repair.

Step 6: Repair

At this point I cut the wires going into the faulty LED, put on my heat shrink tube (2 tubes), soldered the wires, and shrunk the tube.

Step 7: Conclusion

With the faulty LED light removed the light string half that did not work is now working minus 1 light.

As I mentioned earlier the removal of a light will increase the current and LED's do not like high current.

I measure the current in the light string half that was not faulty and it was 9mA.  Measuring the current in the light string half with the one light removed the current was 12mA.  The general upper limit for LED's is 20mA so the current level is still reasonable even with the one light removed.

I am happy to say the lights are still working fine after two weeks.

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    61 Discussions

    0
    FamilyF4
    FamilyF4

    13 hours ago

    Note! Outdoor lights can end up with water in the outer globe! This, combined with the tinned steel (!!) LED leads, can cause the leads to corrode over their year of storage. I've needed to replace 8 LED's in a single string. The strings need to be dried before storage.

    20200106_104442.jpg
    0
    jeffkics
    jeffkics

    Question 6 days ago

    I have a 60ft string of white LED Christmas lights and a small section of the lights are dimmer than the others. Approximately 30ft are good and bright then about 10ft are dim and then the other 20ft are good again.

    All the bulbs are working and are very consistent in brightness including the ones that are dimmer.

    Any ideas on fixing them, would like to fix instead of replacing the whole thing.

    Thank you

    0
    noteabaggersplz
    noteabaggersplz

    5 years ago on Step 7

    When you say LED, are you referring to the newest strings of lights out there, or just the lower wattage mini lights that have been available for a long time? For someone who went through 2 of 5 semesters of Digital Electronics Tech 10 years ago, I have forgotten just about everything. I saw a video a while back that said some lights have a third wire, and that wire can be snipped out without any problem.

    0
    knowhereman1.
    knowhereman1.

    Reply 5 years ago on Step 7

    LED, Light Emitting Diode as opposed to incandescent mini lights. They're lower wattage than mini lights which are lower wattage than C7 and C9 incandescent bulbs which get hot to the touch. Although the same troubleshooting method can be used for either LED or mini incandescent, since they use series circuits. When a mini light shunt fails or a bulb becomes loose, you have to find the faulty bulb the same way. As for snipping out a third wire... don't. A typical string uses 3 wires and they're all necessary (the hot wire that carries the 120v to the next series circuit and socket at the end of the string, one that daisy chains the bulbs for the series circuit and the return or neutral wire). Remember to replace bulbs with the same voltage rating, 3.5v for strings with multiples of 35 lights and 2.5v for multiples of 50.

    0
    kenfillups
    kenfillups

    Reply 22 days ago

    Good info. Thanks.

    0
    knowhereman1.
    knowhereman1.

    5 years ago on Step 7

    Another tip: You might expect to find the spot where you lose voltage as you move further from the plug. But you might have it at the far end and loose it as you move towards the plug. It depends upon how you connected the non-polarized plug.

    0
    kenfillups
    kenfillups

    Reply 22 days ago

    Good point. Try to find the neutal line that only attaches to the last light in the string segment and make sure its plug prong goes in the neutral side of the outlet receptacle. It will take a bit of studying of the string and its plug if it is not a polarized plug.

    0
    kenfillups
    kenfillups

    Tip 22 days ago

    I have a bit of confusion. I thought leds were direct current devices. Light when current flows in forward bias direction and not in reverse. Yet you are successfully using an ac detector to find the open led. OR does the string of leds and their resistors self rectify the ac line current when the string is working, but when open the ac is detectable?

    0
    collinsgp
    collinsgp

    Question 4 weeks ago on Step 7

    I have been changing colours in LED strings to illuminate a wire angel and all went well until I changed a string to Blue, bulbs started burning out. I started with all White LEDs on 8 strings of 35 and replaced some with Yellow and Amber and all was fine, but not the blue. Could the resistance be different in the blue bulbs? My angel is supposed to have Blue wings, Amber trumpet, Yellow halo and the rest White. What is going wrong?

    0
    KyleD79
    KyleD79

    Answer 22 days ago

    We have 40,000+ LEDs in our Christmas display. Out of all the colors blue is the number one color I change followed by purple. We rarely change any other colors, with white, yellow, and red being the least changed colors

    0
    DaleD44
    DaleD44

    Question 1 year ago on Step 7

    In the example, when the faulty led was found, it was not replaced, it was "cut out" and bypassed. Can't one simply put in a "good" led to fix the problem?

    0
    kaizenbob
    kaizenbob

    Answer 4 weeks ago

    The string of lights I had did not have "replaceable" bulbs.

    0
    resry
    resry

    Question 4 weeks ago

    I have 3 strings of lights hooked together. The last string and half of the previous string are working but the first string that is plugged in and half the second string are not working. Cant figure this one out.

    0
    kaizenbob
    kaizenbob

    Answer 4 weeks ago

    A string of lights typically has two parallel circuits and the power is carried through from one end to the other. So it sounds like you have at least two bad bulbs in the string that doesn't work (at least one in each parallel/half) of the string, and at least one bad bulb in the half of the other string.

    0
    BillW191
    BillW191

    1 year ago

    On my string the voltage between the LED and the common is 3V. The Voltage detector spec for the ones is see on line are between 50v to 1000v or 12v to 1000v. How can I use the detector? Is there something I am missing?

    0
    Half Lit
    Half Lit

    2 years ago

    I am looking for a new conclusion. The 2nd half of my 50 light C7 led string is not lit. My voltage detector indicates power right to the last bulb and the next plugged into it works. Thoughts??

    0
    davidpmc
    davidpmc

    2 years ago

    A little off the subject, but someone mentioned scouting and I thought I'd expound on that just a little bit. There's WAY more to scouting than campfires and singing Kym-Ba-Ya (although there's that too). A lot of life's lessons are taught in scouting, and practical things like how to fix a broken wire or how to do one of those McGyver projects where you make do with what you've got to make or do something practical. It's these kinds of activities that give scouts a heads up in the adult world which some of them are about to enter.

    0
    AllenW41
    AllenW41

    3 years ago

    I accidentally came across a solution to finding which are bad and which are good LED's in a string. I think so, but, check it out and comment.

    Plug in the LED string. It doesn't matter if it or the section in question lights or not. Now, examine in a darkened room or dark shade. There will be a faint (and I mean FAINT) blue glow--a tiny dot--in every good LED. Bad LED's will have no faint blue dot of light. Let me emphasize the words 'faint' and 'tiny' again.

    Let me know if this proves out to you. For me, no-blue-glow correlated with LED's that were bad. In each case, one leg of the LED had broken off (seems like a sucky material design mistake.) My strings were two quality strings of 100 lights purchased at Costco, and they made it through last season. Winding on a spool for storage probably disturbed the delicate LED leads. I was only able to repair one of those strings where I was able to find the one (1) bad LED and the whole thing LIT! The other had far too many bad LED's--far more than I had replacements for.

    If this proves out, all that I humbly ask is that it forever be known as The Allen Whitlock Method. :-) (Book available on Amazon.)

    0
    dave705
    dave705

    Reply 3 years ago

    We just repaired a string that was half out with this method - one bulb did not have the FAINT TINY GLOW (TM) you described and we replaced that bulb and the string sprang back to life. Thanks!!! (with lots of extra exclamation points)

    0
    LisaF138
    LisaF138

    Reply 3 years ago

    we tried this on 2 sections that were out, we found no blue glow anywhere. Maybe it doesn't apply to colored C6 lights......