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DO-IT-YOURSELF : Some Tips to Avoid Pushing Panic Button if Doorbell Breaks

July 10, 1993|From Associated Press

If your doorbell or chime doesn't sound, you can solve the problem.

A doorbell or chime system generally consists of a sounding device, a front and rear door push-button switch, wiring and a transformer.

This system operates on low-voltage current that is reduced by the transformer, usually to 12 to 16 volts from 120 volts.

Here's what to do if your doorbells or chimes aren't working:

Check circuit breaker or fuse

Before testing a system that won't work, check the circuit breaker or fuse in your home's main service panel. The transformer is wired to a house circuit in a junction box, often found in the basement or near the service panel.

Normally, because of the low voltage involved, you don't need to turn off the main power. But on the chance that the transformer is faulty and is sending the full 120 volts through the system, check the voltage at the push button. Here's how:

* Unscrew the plate surrounding the push button or pry open the button housing. Touch the probes of a regular household neon test lamp (rated 120 volts and available at hardware stores) to the button's terminals. If the lamp lights, the transformer is faulty and must be replaced.

* To double-check, with the power still on, test the transformer's outside terminals with a 12-volt neon test lamp (available from auto supply stores). If it does not light, replace the transformer. Be sure that the replacement provides the same voltage as the original unit.

* Shut off the main power. Remove the old transformer.

* Bolt the new transformer in place on the outside of the junction box. Using twist-on wire connectors, join the wires (white to white, black to black) inside the box. Then turn the main power back on.

Look for loose connections

If the transformer is working properly, next press the push button. If the doorbell doesn't ring, look for loose connections at the button, the transformer or the signal unit.

* Loose wires on chimes will result in sporadic ringing.

* Fix them by tightening the terminal screws. Markings indicate connectors: FR to the front door button, REAR to the rear door button (if any), and TR to the transformer.

Check the wiring

If all are secure, check the wiring for breaks.

* Disconnect the bell wiring from the push button; also from the transformer by grasping the wire by its insulation.

* Twist together the ends of the wires at the button and test the ends of the wires at the transformer with a continuity tester, available at hardware stores. If the tester lights, it means there is a complete circuit and there are no breaks in the wiring. If it doesn't light, check for broken wires.

* If you find any broken wires, strip the insulation from the ends. Twist the bare wires together in a wire connector. Reconnect the wires at the button and transformer.

Clean clappers or plungers

Still no signal? Doorbells or chimes often don't work because their clappers or plungers are dirty.

* Remove the face of the unit to expose the inner workings.

* Use a cotton swab dipped in alcohol to clean the gong and clapper of a doorbell, or the plungers of a mechanical chime unit. Don't try to clean electronic chimes.

Examine the push button

If that doesn't work, next trouble-shoot the push button.

* Place the blade of a screwdriver with an insulated handle across the button's two terminals.

* If it's difficult to do that, loosen the mounting screws and pull out the button. Disconnect the wires and touch the ends together. If the doorbell rings, the button unit is corroded or defective.

* Disconnect its wires. Gently pry up its terminals and use fine sandpaper to remove corrosion from the contact points or wires.

* Reconnect the wires and retest the button. If it works, reinstall it; if not, replace it.

Replace signal unit

If all else fails, the signal unit itself is probably faulty. Obtain a replacement and install it according to the manufacturer's directions. Be sure that the new unit is of the same type and rating as the old one.

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