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Tips for Doorbell Repair

Doorbell repair is something you can easily do on your own. With simple household tools such a screwdriver and rubbing alcohol and a single dedicated piece of equipment like a circuit tester or multi-meter, you can quickly diagnose and solve the problem in a hurry. Barring major mechanical failure or significant structural damage, most doorbells can likely be fixed within a matter of minutes.

The most important thing to check first is the transformer. Typically this is a box that’s located at or near the fuse box itself, though it may also be found inside a subpanel or junction box. Its sole function is to “step down” your home’s power supply from 120V to anywhere between 6V and 16V, as doorbells require little power to run. Although it is rare for a transformer to malfunction altogether, you want to check here first just in case a dangerous 120V current is running through the button itself!

First check the wires on your transformer with the multimeter, being careful to avoid electrical shock. The easiest way to do this is to gently make contact with the terminals of your transformer using the multimeter’s probes. Next check the results you see against the transformer’s rating – if the result is within 1-2 volts of the listed rating, you’re fine. Anything more or less could mean the transformer is malfunctioning, and will have to be replaced.

If the transformer is working, the problem most like lies with the button assembly itself. The easiest way to isolate the problem here is to unscrew the assembly from the wall and gently pull it out so you can see the wires that feed it. If you don’t see any visibly faulty connections, try carefully removing both wires and touching the ends together to complete a circuit. Did you hear a doorbell? That means the button is broken. If not, try checking the voltage on the wires as they could have worn through or been breached by insulation.

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If the wires aren’t the problem, most doorbell repair comes down to the button itself. Because depressing the button completes a circuit that sounds the bell, anything that stands in the way of this current can disable the system. The contacts may have become dirty from weather or rot, so some rubbing alcohol and an emery board may be necessary to clean the surfaces. You can also try prying them up a bit ensure they make physical contact with the button when it’s depressed. Finally, clean any grit and dust from the button itself. If you still get no chime, consider simply replacing it as attractive button assemblies are available for just a few dollars at any home wares store.

If none of the above steps have worked, your final stop is the chime. Doorbells work in a fairly straightforward way; when a visitor presses the button, it completes a circuit that sends current to a spring called a solenoid, magnetizing it. The magnet propels a plunger against the bar, creating an audible tone. It’s not unusual for doorbells to come with two distinct circuits for the front and back door and usually the back door sounds only the lower of the two notes.

Any of these parts can become dirty, dusty or brittle in a way that impedes motion or sound, so you’ll want to do a thorough inspection to ensure everything is working as it should. One common issue with older doorbells is that the rubber grommets which suspend the musical bars become brittle with time, effectively dampening or silencing the vibrations altogether. Also check the contacts with the multimeter to ensure power is getting to the chime.

Replacing any malfunctioning parts is the final step of safe and responsible doorbell repair. If the bell still doesn’t work and you’ve exhausted the above options, consider contacting an electrician who may be able to offer further insight.


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