I just don't want to shower in the dark.
June 6, 2006 1:45 AM   Subscribe

Homerepairfilter: a light bulb blows out. The glass and metal part separate. How do I get the metal part out so I can replace the bulb?

If it makes any difference, this is in a fixture on my bathroom ceiling, which makes for a lot of standing precariously on a step ladder and reaching above my head. There is also not a lot of light in there; I wish I knew why I don't own a flashlight.

My google skills are totally failing me here.
posted by Famous to Home & Garden (21 answers total)
Best answer: Cut a large-ish potato in half and stick it over the metal part. You should then be able to twist it out like normal.

Might want to shut off power to the fixture at the fusebox first.
posted by sharkweek at 1:53 AM on June 6, 2006

Best answer: Is the glass *completely* separate? If there are shards still connected to the metal bit, you'll want to take a potato (or an unripe pear, or what have you), stick it onto the shards, and use it to twist the bulb out.

If there is nothing in your lightsocket but the metal screw bit, then I don't know...

On preview, what sharkweek said.
posted by scarylarry at 1:55 AM on June 6, 2006

Best answer: Make sure the power is off.

Check again to be doubly sure the power is off.

(the potato was referenced here until preview)

You can also use needlenosed pliers to grip the edge of the base, but a tater is easier.
posted by buggzzee23 at 1:57 AM on June 6, 2006

Response by poster: Does the potato trick work even when the glass is completely separate? I had heard of it for broken lightbulbs but the metal seems so flush with the fixture itself. Hm.

Now I can't decide what would be more complicated -- driving somewhere to get a potato or just calling my [slightly unhelpful] landlord and letting them deal with it.
posted by Famous at 2:08 AM on June 6, 2006

if the metal is totally flush, you'll probably have to go buggzzee's needlenose plier route.
posted by sharkweek at 2:14 AM on June 6, 2006

Best answer: i use the needlenose pliers, but combine them with a vacuum cleaner hose (pliers in right hand, hose in left), vacuum cleaner running to capture the small bits of glass that invariably fall out when you use the pliers.

best of luck!
posted by gage at 2:20 AM on June 6, 2006

i use the needlenose pliers, but combine them with a vacuum cleaner hose (pliers in right hand, hose in left), vacuum cleaner running to capture the small bits of glass that invariably fall out when you use the pliers.

I like the vacuum cleaner tip, it sounds much better than my method: Picking up little bits of glass in my bare feet.
posted by buggzzee23 at 2:29 AM on June 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Although it's a great idea, it seems as if my weak girl arms can't get the metal to move an inch using pliers. I think it has something to do with it being way over my head and to the left. I guess I'm stuck calling the landlord (I was hoping to avoid that because it might take them a few days to even show up, and in the meantime my windowless bathroom will be very dark).

Valiant effort though, Mefites! There are a lot of good answers here. Thanks bunches.
posted by Famous at 2:49 AM on June 6, 2006

Spray a little lubricant in there to help loosen up the socket and make it easier on your weak girl arms. ;)
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 3:24 AM on June 6, 2006

I have seen some types of bulbs (perhaps not screwed in completely) actually weld their tip to the light socket -- typically smaller bulbs with a solder tip. In this case, I have had some luck grabbing as much of the metal part as I can with the needlenose pliers (again, make sure the power is off) and twisting the pliers counter-clockwise. This will tend to cause the metal part to collapse in on itself initially and eventually break loose and turn.

As an added bonus, the twisting motion is easier to do than actually trying to turn the broken bulb.
posted by Mr Stickfigure at 3:40 AM on June 6, 2006

You can also use the pliers to bend up an edge to get a grip on the base, or outright mangle the thing enough that it just comes out, or is at least easier to turn. Pay attention and think about how you mangle it, though, so you don't just wedge it in there.

As said by others, make sure the power is out at the switch and breaker.

If you use some kind of oil product to lubricate the socket, use it sparingly and clean it up well, else when you turn on the electricity it might ignite.
posted by loquacious at 3:42 AM on June 6, 2006

you may want to wear some protective eyewear especially if you're going to be on a ladder looking up at a socket that may still have glass shards in it.
posted by softlord at 5:14 AM on June 6, 2006

I use a tea-towel and my finger.
posted by cogat at 5:51 AM on June 6, 2006

Make sure the power is off. Wrap some duct tape sticky-side-out around your finger. Make sure the power is off. Stick your finger in the socket and twist (your finger). Don't forget to make sure the power is off.
posted by ChromeDome at 6:17 AM on June 6, 2006

Happened to me (the entire glass part separated from the metal base because the previous tenants thought it was a *great* idea to put a 100 watt bulb in a 40 watt fixture with ZERO ventilation). I just took out the fuse (important!) and used needle nose pliers to turn and mash the metal base. It came out after about 30 seconds of effort. No serious muscles or grease required, trust me. :-)

If the solder on the bulb base is welding to the socket you probably are using bulbs rated at too high a wattage. Most places really don't need 100 watt bulbs at all.
posted by shepd at 6:49 AM on June 6, 2006

Best answer: I've used needle nose pliers *INSIDE* the metal base to turn it when I couldn't get a grip any other way because the metal base was flush against the socket and below the edge.

Close the pliers, stick them into the base, then spread them out against the inside. Pull them apart to wedge them against the sides and turn.

ABSOLUTELY MAKE SURE THE POWER IS OFF. If you don't, and you touch the pliers to the the contact at the bottom of the metal base, you'll make funny gibbering noises and jerk spastically until you either drop the pliers or fall off the ladder.

Or so I've heard...
posted by de void at 6:59 AM on June 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Everything everyone else said but Instead of using a vaccum cleaner hose when you use the pliers, my mom uses this one umbrella that is designated as the "catch things from the ceiling" umbrella (like dust bunnies from the ceiling fan, etc.) She just holds it upside down and it catches all the little stuff. Then she take it outside to clean it out. It works at our house. It makes my mom look like a confused Mary Poppins too. ha ha

Oh and wear glasses. You prolly don't need me to remind you to TURN OFF THE POWER do you? Nah. good luck. :-)
posted by FeistyFerret at 8:15 AM on June 6, 2006

Response by poster: So FWIW I went to work on it with some pliers and think I only managed to make it worse... so if I do have to call in the landlord I'm not entirely sure what I'll say... any advice on that?

Also, this is caused by using too high a wattage? This bulb has been in since before I moved in, and it was 100W. So I shouldn't replace it with 100W I guess. :)
posted by Famous at 8:57 AM on June 6, 2006

Also, this is caused by using too high a wattage?

No, this is caused by using cheap bulbs that die like this. I have the same problem all the time (but worse, because the bulbs are recessed) The socket should have a rating marked on the inside.

Using too high a wattage would result in the wiring leading to the bulb heating up and possibly catching on fire.
posted by atrazine at 10:03 AM on June 6, 2006

Well.. I don't think too high a wattage bulb is likely to fry home wiring, which is usually rated for at least 13 Amps (1560 watts...). The ratings usually give the maximum temperature rating the fixture can handle. Going over it overheats the fixture and it can catch fire, tarnish, or otherwise do things it isn't meant to. I'm assuming in the case of mine the extra heat heated up the bulb too much, expanding the metal base faster than it expanded the glass, until they were no longer attached. Or it could be that the glue or whatever attaches the bulb to the base went bad from the heat. Either way, it was hotter than hell when it went out (hotter than any other bulb I've replaced just after it's gone dead).
posted by shepd at 10:08 AM on June 6, 2006

Response by poster: So, I did end up calling my landlord and when the maintenance guy showed up he ended up tearing the fixture to pieces trying to get the metal thingie out, so it looks like I'm getting a whole new fixture.

But I have learned so much about light bulbs now. :)
posted by Famous at 11:58 AM on June 6, 2006

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