Replacing Ceiling Fan Light Pull String

A man works on a ceiling fan light.
  • 2-3 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 20-80
What You'll Need
Pull switch assembly
Ladder or stepstool
2 #14 to #22 AWG Wire nuts
Diagonal wire cutters
Wire stripper

Replacing a pull string on a ceiling fan light is a home wiring repair a do-it-yourselfer can do. It requires about 15 to 30 minutes of your time, costs less than $20 and is a rewarding project. All of the parts you need are available at any store that sells ceiling fans.

Step 1 - Take Safety Precautions

Safety precautions are critical to the success of your project and always come first with every job do-it-yourselfers tackle. You'll be working with a fixture that's above your head, resulting in sore arms, shoulders, and possibly a sore back. It also means working with electricity, a potential killer.

As with any other project involving electricity, be safe. Before doing anything else on this project, turn off the power to the ceiling fan at the circuit breaker.

Step 2 - Remove The Light Fixture

Once the power is off and the ladder or step stool is in place, the existing pull switch can be accessed. First, remove the retaining nut from the pull switch assembly in place and discard it. This will prevent the light fixture from falling to the floor later.

Remove the glass shades and light bulbs, and set them out of the way. Use a screwdriver to remove the three or four screws holding the light fixture to the fan and set them aside. Carefully pull down on the light fixture to expose the wires. Slide the old pull switch out of its hole and set the light fixture aside. The old pull switch should now be hanging below the ceiling fan.

Step 3 - Remove Existing Pull Switch Assembly

In most ceiling fans, the pull switch assembly wires will be crimped to the other wires in the light fixture. If this is the case, use the diagonal wire cutters to cut each wire close to the existing pull switch assembly. This will leave room to work with the remaining wire. Discard the old pull switch assembly.

Step 4 - Install The New Pull Switch Assembly

Use the wire stripper to strip ¼-inch of insulation from the end of the wires you cut in the previous step. Remove the insulation from the end of the new pull switch assembly’s wires. You do not need to use the wire stripper here. The wires will have been scored by the manufacturer so that you can pull the insulation off.

Connect the wires of the new pull switch assembly to the wires you just stripped. Hold the black ceiling fan wire in one hand. With the other hand, place the black pull switch wire in the first hand.

Still holding both wires in the first hand, twist the two bare wires together. This will join the two wires with enough strength so that if you need to let go for a moment, you can. Holding both wires in the first hand, use a wire nut to join the two wires together. Repeat this process for the white wires.

Step 5 - Reassemble

Retrieve the light fixture. Insert the pull switch assembly into its hole. Screw the retaining nut onto the pull switch assembly. Fold the wires and stuff the wire nuts into the fixture so it can close.

Push the light fixture back into place, and replace the screws that hold it there. Restore the glass shades and the light bulbs. Finally, restore the power at the circuit breaker.

Note: Normally, wires are connected black to black and white to white. However, not all pull switch assemblies are built with a white wire and a black wire. Some are built with two black wires. Do not let this alarm you. When this occurs, one of the wires will have a dashed line to indicate the hot wire.