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General: Removing the Base of a Broken Light Bulb

Eventually, everyone has to deal with the problem of removing the base of a broken bulb. Bulbs break for several reasons, but the most common is over-tightening. Sometimes the heat from a bulb causes the adhesive to fail, resulting in the bulb separating from its base. Regardless of the reason, broken bulbs can be a pain to remove unless you know the technique.

Since you are dealing with glass and sharp edges, some protection is in order. Wear gloves, eye protection, and, if the offending bulb is in a ceiling fixture, cover the floor to catch the debris or glass particles. Also TURN OFF THE POWER TO THE LIGHT FIXTURE. If you aren’t certain whether power is off or not, turn off all breakers.

My technique is to use needle-nosed pliers, and I first insert the tip of the pliers into the socket and spread the jaws apart, while turning them counter-clockwise. If this method fails to work, I use a small flat screwdriver to pry the bulb base away from the socket to create a way to grab the base with the pliers. Once again turn counter-clockwise. If the base moves, but stops, back up and try again. Continue until the bulb base is removed. Be careful not to put so much pressure that you damage the fixture.

Once you are ready to install the new bulb, make certain you do not over-tighten. Screw in the new bulb until it makes contact with the center button. Turn on the light. If the bulb lights, you’re done. If you need to tighten more, do so carefully and only until sufficient contact is made to light the bulb. Minimum tightening will make removal much easier and avoid breaking future bulbs.


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