Home Repair: Troubleshooting A Not Ringing Doorbell

Got a doorbell that isn't working? Use the hints in this article to find out what's wrong and fix it.

Got a doorbell that doesn't work? You can find out what's wrong with it by performing a few easy tests. You'll need screwdrivers (slot and Phillips), perhaps a pair of needle nose pliers and, if you have a voltmeter, it will come in handy but you may not need it. A doorbell has five components. First is the button that you push to ring the bell, this is called the bell push. Then there is the transformer that converts the 110 Volt household electricity to a safer 20 Volts or less for the doorbell. Next is the bell or chime unit itself, this is the part that actually makes the noise. And last is the wire that connects them all. Any of these parts could be the source of your problem and the instructions that follow will allow you to identify the culprit.

Let's define exactly what we mean by "The doorbell doesn't work". When you push the button, is there no sound at all? Have someone push the button while you stand close to the bell and listen. A buzzing sound means that the unit is trying to work but may have low voltage or some sort of mechanical problem requiring lubrication. No sound at all means that some component has failed. Now we're ready to start troubleshooting but first, a safety note. Although the doorbell operates on less than 20 Volts and is somewhat safer than the 110 Volt electricity that powers most household appliances, it is electricity and should be respected. Locate the circuit breaker or fuse that supplies the doorbell and turn it off before you begin. If you are sure that your unit is a low voltage unit, you can work with the power on. If you're unsure, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Now you need to remove the bell push. If you have more than one, say front door and back door, remove all of them. These are usually held to the doorframe by two screws. Removing the screws should allow you to pull the bell push gently away from the doorframe. You should see two wires connected to the back of the push. Are they both connected securely? If either wire is loose or disconnected, this could be the source of your problem. Reconnect the wires, turn on the electricity and carefully push the button. If the doorbell rings, pat yourself on the back, reattach the bell push and take a well-deserved break. If not, continue to the next paragraph.

Turn off the power and disconnect one of the wires. If you have more than one bell push, disconnect a wire on each of them. Turn the power back on and holding your screwdriver or pliers by the insulated handle, carefully touch the bare end of the loose wire to the bare end of the other wire. If the doorbell rings, the problem is a defective bell push. If you have more than one, replacing all of them is probably wise but you can replace one and then retest the system to see if others need replacing. Bell pushes can be purchased at most hardware and builder supply stores. Just pick one you like, attach the wires and screw it to the doorframe. Then move on to your next project. If the doorbell didn't ring, turn off the power, reinstall the bell push(es) and move to the bell unit itself.

If the bell unit has a cover, remove it. You should see two or three screw terminals with wires attached. They may be marked "˜F' or "˜Front', "˜T' or "˜Trans' and "˜R' or "˜Rear'. Remove the wires to the front bell push (F) and the rear (R). With the power on, touch the F wire to the terminal marked F. If the doorbell rings, the wire is defective. Repeat this test with the R wire. If the doorbell didn't ring during either of the tests, locate the set of wires that will be twisted together somewhere inside the unit. There will be one wire going to the transformer and one wire for each of the bell pushes. Disconnect these wires and locate the one that goes to the transformer. With the power on, touch it to the terminal marked F. If the doorbell rings, one of the bell push wires is defective.

If the doorbell still hasn't rung, you will need a voltmeter. Set the meter for AC voltage 20 Volts or greater and measure between the two transformer wires. No reading or a low reading indicates a defective transformer or defective wires from the transformer to the doorbell unit. You can determine which by locating the transformer and measuring the voltage at its output terminals. If the transformer and wires are okay, then the doorbell unit should be replaced. Unless you are comfortable working with electricity, replacing the transformer should be done by a professional. If you have found defective wires, it may be easier to install one of the new wireless doorbells. The bell push actually contains a battery powered transmitter that sends a signal to the doorbell when the button is pushed. Replacing the wiring can be difficult and expensive which makes this alternative very attractive.

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