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Troubleshoot and Repair a Doorbell


Doorbells, also Called Door Chimes, are Simple to Fix; Check the Button, Transformer, and Buzzer

© 2010 by all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission

The body of a residential doorbell showing the chime

Troubleshooting and repairing a doorbell is rather simple but it’s far from intuitive. You’ll need to follow a few basic steps and have a few basic tools handy. Although models vary, this article explains how to work on a basic, generic model. Here are the tools you’ll need:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Analog or digital multimeter
  • Screwdrivers
  • Rubber grommets
  • Sandpaper
  • Q-Tips

Begin by Checking the Doorbell Button

The button is the component that sees the most human action, so it’s logical that it’s most likely to be the part to fail. It’s also somewhat exposed to the heat, cold, and elements, and in some neighborhoods far too many door-to-door salesmen hungry for a sale.

Start by opening the button assembly; you’ll most likely have to snap off or unscrew a protective cover. Next, disconnect the wiring. Simply touch the ends of the wires together to complete the circuit. If the bell rings, smooth the button contacts using sandpaper, reattach the wiring, press the button, and listen. If it doesn’t chime now, the button is shot; change it out with a new one.

If the problem isn’the button, the next step is to check the step-down transformer. It steps your 120V down to 10V-18V. As before, check the wiring to be sure you have good connections. For this step, it’s a good idea to cut the power. If wiring is secure, you’ll need to troubleshoot the transformer.

  1. Restore the power.
  2. Set your multimeter on the AC V scale in the 50-volt range.
  3. Contact the multimeter probes to the low voltage terminals on the transformer.
  4. No voltage signal? The transformer is DOA. Replace it.
  5. Try the button again.
  6. If it doesn’t work now with a new transformer, it’s time to move on to the buzzer or bell unit.

Buzzer Unit Maintenance and Cleaning

The conventional buzzer, chime, or bell unit is usually a plunger/clapper and tone bar system. It must be be clean, dust, and dirt free to operate correctly. It shouldn’t be lubricated. Common mistake. Instead, clean them carefully with cotton Q-Tips and rubbing alcohol.

Look closely; the tone bar has rubber grommets attached. These must be in good shape for the bell to sing out with the melodious sound it was engineered for. But over the course of time, the rubber materials dries out and becomes brittle. This causes the sound to be muted.

While you’re there already, take the opportunity to change these out no matter what shape they’re in. You can find the correct size at an electrical store or Home Depot.

Problems with the Chime Volume?

Sometimes homeowners just aren’t happy with the volume when guests press the button. This can happen from a variety of reasons. Perhaps the electrical contractor installed a model inappropriately sized for the home, maybe the homeowners have are hearing impaired, or the chimes just can't get through multiple closed doors.

There are solutions that don’t entail installing complete new units. One such solution is marketed under the name Extend-a-Chime. It consists of a transmitter which connects to the low voltage terminals and the unit, and plugs into any receptacle.


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© 2010 all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission.