How to replace a pull cord switch

Pull cord switch

Pull cord switchHow to replace a pull cord switch – Fitting or Repairing Bathroom Pull Cord Switches

This DIY guide will show you how to replace a bathroom pull cord switch. All you will need for this task is a few tools, some common sense and a new pull cord switch which you can source from Screwfix, Wickes B&Q or any other hardware store that you might have nearby.

Why do we have pull cord switches?
Here in the UK almost every bathroom will have a pull cord switch mounted to the ceiling. There are two types of pull cord switches: 6 amp model controls lights and extractor fans whilst the 45amp version is used as an isolator for electric showers. They are there to protect you from accidental electrocution. If you had a normal switch instead and you touch it with wet hands you could possibly electrocute yourself. Touching the cord with wet hands makes no difference because you are not in a direct contact with the switch.

Before you start make sure you isolate the electrical supply before attempting to replace the switch. You will typically find your fuse board or MCB panel and trip the fuse which controls all the lights.

Your pull cord switch might have 2 retaining screws that need undoing in order to get the cover off or if you can’t see any screws then you have the twist and turn model which you unscrew by rotating the whole cover anticlockwise.

Before you disconnect any wires always test the wires and make sure that they are not live – you don’t know who installed it and if it’s installed properly so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

pull cord switch replacementWhen you take the cover off take a picture so you know where the wires go. With 6 amp pull cord switch for lights, there are 2 -3 wires. in older homes, they might be the same colour or in newer homes, you will find black or brown or even blue.

Use a small flathead screwdriver to undo tightening screws and pull the wires out. Then unscrew the base unit which is mounted to the ceiling and remove the old unit.

Now you are ready to install your new pull cord switch.

Undo the screws on your new switch where the wires will go – feed the main cable through the base and screw the base into the ceiling. Now you can connect the wires – just make sure you tighten the screws properly and if the earth wire is present that you put a sleeve on it and connect it to its place on the base plate. As you can see in this picture whoever installed it they never bothered connecting the earth to its place for some reason.

Who is allowed to undertake this work?
Part P of Building regulations says that you don’t need to be a certified electrician to replace fitting such as sockets, switches and lights. Reading Handyman can replace a damaged cable on a single circuit and add additional lights and switches. Major works such as rewiring or replacement of consumer units are best left to registered electricians who will notify your local council of such work.

pull cord switch repair

This switch worked intermittently. Sometimes it would work and sometimes it wouldn’t. The problem was that contact plates were burned

Can I repair the pull cord switch?
The short answer is yes but it really is not feasible. The new switch will cost you between £1.80 -£4.00 so is it really worth the hassle? If you still want to go ahead with it then undo 3 screws that keep the spring mechanism in place and open it carefully. There are two things that can go wrong in there. The spring is getting stuck or it’s not strong enough – You can clean it and stretch it a bit and then try again or the contact plate might be burnt and oxidized so it’s not making contact any longer – in that case, you can clean burned area, put everything back together and test it.


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  1. Mile

    That was easier than I thought it’s going to be. it took me an hour to pop down to Wickes and to replace the bathroom switch. Money saved? not sure how much electricians charge for that but the total cost to me is less than £10

    • Roya Surkhabi

      I can’t do DIY but after taking the cover mine had three wires, the replacement had space for two wires but after even fixing the light didn’t turn on. Where can I purchase the one with space with three wires ? Help

  2. John Capon

    Thank you for this. I have just fixed my switch. A little lubrication it’s fine again. Very helpful. Thank you again.

  3. Jim Blake

    what is the difference in a1 as against a 2 way switch. can I use a 2 way switch instead of a 1 way switch.
    Rgds Jim Blake.


      Took of bottom half of pull cord bathroom switch. Only 2 wires both brown came out when I took bottom off. Do I need to know which cable goes in where? Or is it just a case of 1 in com and another in L1 or L2 I.e. is there a difference in these 2 wires?

      • Alex manley

        Pull cord bathroom switch renewal,only 2 wire’s , black and brown. New pull cord has L1 L2 and control and earth connections,is it ok to fit brown to L1 and black to control.