Wednesday Mar 18th, 2020
How to Fix a Broken Doorbell
The doorbell is a small but significant part of a house: it notifies you when guests are outside, when your Amazon package has finally arrived, and let’s not forget how it signals those surprise visits from the in-laws. However, if it stops working properly, and knocking isn’t loud enough to get someone’s attention, it’s time to get out your toolbox and fix it with a relatively simple DIY project. Make sure you have a screwdriver, electrical tape, a voltage tester, wire strippers, and some spare 18-gauge wire handy before you start!
The Sound of Silence
A common reason why your doorbell might be busted is that your chimes are no longer working. An easy way to figure out if this is the case is to go to your front door and unscrew the doorbell from its mount. Once you have done that, you’ll see two wires running on the top and bottom ends of the doorbell. Using your voltage tester, touch both ends to the screws holding the wires to make sure they are running between 12 and 24 volts — this means the wires are safe to touch without turning your power off. Since doorbells run on a lower voltage (we’ll explain why and how further on), you can safely unscrew the two wires and tap them together. If you do not hear the familiar ding-dong tune, then the answer could lie in the lack of sound.
To fix this, you’ll need to open up the chime cover in your house (usually found in a common area like a front hallway) and check if the two metal rods (armatures) are stuck or jammed. Sometimes all you need to do is use rubbing alcohol and a paper towel or Q-tip to clean the dirt and grime that builds up over time, which can loosen the armatures. Make sure there are no loose wires (if there are, reconnect them to the “com”/”trans”, “front”, or “rear” slots — but label them with tape so you know which wire goes where), check if each screw slot is receiving low power with your voltage tester, and ring your doorbell. If you still don’t hear any sound, or if those armatures are still stuck fast, your chime box should be replaced.
Hot Button Issue
Let’s say that after unscrewing and unmounting your doorbell, you touch those two wires together and you do hear a sound. Great news: your chimes are working! But, that means the problem could be the doorbell button itself. This is the easiest problem to fix, as all you have to do is go to a hardware store and buy a replacement. Carefully remove the wiring from your old doorbell, and reconnect it to your new one. It doesn’t matter which wire is attached to the top or bottom of the button, so once you’re finished rewiring and screwing the doorbell to your wall, push the button and wait for the sound.
If it’s not your chime box or your button, it might be your wiring. It’s not possible to inspect everything unless you want to tear some holes in your walls to uncover hidden wires. However, if you check the wiring around your transformer, doorbell, or chime box, and find that it is frayed or broken off, you can easily replace it with spare 18-gauge wire. Turn your power off, and use your wire strippers to strip the insulation off about an inch down the line of the broken or frayed wire. Taking the new wire, twist it together with the loose end, and secure them with electrical tape. Reconnect the wire to your doorbell, chime box, or transformer, turn the power back on, and push the doorbell to listen for a sound.
Check Your Transformer
Doorbells are typically hooked up to your home’s power line, which runs on 120 volts. However, your doorbell doesn’t require that much electricity to operate, so the wiring runs through a transformer to reduce the common household voltage to anywhere between 12 to 24 volts. This is called low voltage, as described above. If your chimes are in tact, but the voltage emitting from your doorbell and/or transformer reads higher than 24 volts, then you will need to replace this device. For this, you will absolutely need to turn your power off before doing any repair work. It’s not too hard to replace a transformer: all you need to do is disconnect the wires (label them accordingly) and hook them up to the new gadget. Once everything is safe and secure, turn your power back on, check the voltage to make sure it is reading at the appropriately low levels, and test your doorbell again.
Remember: it’s always better to be safe than sorry when fiddling around with live wires! Even though your doorbell operates on a lower voltage, it’s still a good idea to cut your power supply before you start following any of the above steps. If all else fails, or if you are nervous about tinkering with any wires, call an electrician to find the root source of the problem. Or, consider switching to a wireless doorbell instead. These are typically powered by batteries, and are much easier to troubleshoot if your doorbell stops working in the future!