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Steve Lelinski

Bizzare Mini-Lights Problem

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I was working on my coro Marching Band this morning (the Clarinet Player,) and had a problem with one of the strings of mini-lights. I finally fixed it, but I'm perplexed as to what exactly the problem was. If anyone can help me figure it out, I'd greatly appreciate it, as it's driving me nuts.

So here's the story. I'll give you the whole set-up and process, cause who knows what's to blame for this. I have a string of 100 mini-lights. Just your basic mini-lights. Not the Stay-lit kind, or anything fancy. It was originally a string of multi-colored lights. All the bulbs were pulled, then put back in the order I needed: 18 White, 47 Red, 6 Orange... I've gone through and unwrapped all the wires, so that I can remove excess wire once the bulbs are in place. Now I'm ready to install them. Using a wire nut, I connect the wire from the plug to the 50th bulb. I plug them in and the first 50 light up. I proceed to push them in place. When I'm done, I unplug, remove the wire nut, cut that wire to length, solder, and heat shrink. I then use the wire nut to connect the 1st bulb to the 100th, which should light the second half of the sting. I plug them in, but only the first 50 light. I check the first and last bulb, cause that's usually where the problem is. Still nothing.

So here's what I tried:

  1. Pulled a bulb from the first 50, and used Light Keeper Pro on the second 50. Nothing.
  2. Went through one bulb at a time, pulled the bulb, visually inspected the bulb leads, and the connectors in the socket. Found no problems.
  3. Checked connection from bulb 1 to 100, which was good.
  4. I replaced bulb 1 and bulb 50 from the half that worked. In the past a bad bulb there has caused problems with the other half. No luck this time.
  5. Connected the wire on the 51st bulb, to the end receptacle. Plugged in another string into it. That string lit.
  6. Went through the bulbs again, this time replacing each bulb with a bulb I knew to be working. Still nothing.
  7. Replaced the fuses in the plug.
  8. Rechecked the bulbs and sockets, this time being more critical. Found one bulb with a shorter-than-usual lead, and replaced it. Found two sockets with questionable looking connectors, cut them out, and soldered in new sockets. Still nothing.
  9. Disconnected bulb 1 from bulb 100. Removed bulb 51. Using a two lead circuit tester, checked from the socket of bulb 51 to the wire connected to bulb 1. Tester lit.
  10. Reconnected the wires, and replaced the bulb. Using the circuit tester, I began checking sockets along the string. The tester lit faintly in each socket. The fact that I had current flowing at each socket I tested, indicated to me that there were no problems in the set of lights.

At this point, I couldn't think of anything else to try. I decided I'd replace this bad set of lights with another set. I undid the 1-100 connection, and cut the wire connecting the two halves. I was about to get a fresh set, when I thought to try one last thing: I stripped the wire and (carefully) pushed the bare leads into an extension cord... And they lit! I was so relieved. I soldered the wire back together between the two sets, and connected bulbs 1 & 100 with the wire nut... and they lit again. I shook the string like crazy, and jiggled the bulbs, trying to get them to go out, but I couldn't. I finished pushing the second half into the coro, shortened and soldered the wires, and it all still worked.

So what, was it a Christmas Miracle, or can anyone think of an explanation?

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I think you have a broken wire somewhere between sockets in the second 50 set. The copper is broken, but the insulation is intact. Looking at it, you probably will never see it.

When you flex the wire, things may 're-connect' making them work. Flex em the wrong way just enough and you get nothing.

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I was thinking along those lines. Or maybe that the part of the wire that I cut, striped, and soldered happened to have a break in it, which was repaired by the solder. I moved the lights around alot while trying to repair them, and never got so much as a flicker. Also shook and move them after "fixing" them, and they haven't flickered out.

The part that confuses me most, is how is it that the tester lit when I tried it in the sockets, but not any of the bulbs?

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I was thinking along those lines. Or maybe that the part of the wire that I cut, striped, and soldered happened to have a break in it, which was repaired by the solder. I moved the lights around alot while trying to repair them, and never got so much as a flicker. Also shook and move them after "fixing" them, and they haven't flickered out.

The part that confuses me most, is how is it that the tester lit when I tried it in the sockets, but not any of the bulbs?

I wonder if there wasn't just a strand or 2 of copper still connected -- or perhaps there was some internal arcing going on. Light testers are much more sensitive to current than a standard minilight would be. IE, There was enough current to light the tester, but not enough to light the bulbs.

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Ya,... just needs to get it to 1.2 jigawatts of power :)

Take the string of lights, plug them into the flux capacitor and drive to 88 MPH. Then they should work. At the very least, it'll take you back in time and you can just not buy that string this time.

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Take the string of lights, plug them into the flux capacitor and drive to 88 MPH. Then they should work. At the very least, it'll take you back in time and you can just not buy that string this time.

Post of the month. :)

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Steve, Every time I have changed a bunch of mini bulbs at a time, I have problems. So change 1 bulb at a time to make sure the string still works. Most minis aren't made to NASA standards, and handling them too much might cause loose wire connections at the sockets. Where is the "excess wire"? You have more patience than me!

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Take the string of lights, plug them into the flux capacitor and drive to 88 MPH. Then they should work. At the very least, it'll take you back in time and you can just not buy that string this time.

It could have been so much more simple than that. I bought a case of multi-colored mini lights. The first thing I did was plug each one in to make sure it worked. Our of 48 sets, half of one was bad. I then started pulling all the bulbs. Of course, I pulled the bulbs from the bad string, then tossed it in the box with the rest... Doh! I knew it would come back to haunt me at some point. I'm hoping this string was it, otherwise it's still in the pile, waiting...

Since I'm putting these strings in coro, there's "excess wire" in the wires that run the length of the string, but really only end up connecting two bulbs. Say you made a circle with the lights. The first and last bulb would wind up next to each other. There's a wire that connects them. Instead of leaving that wire as-is, and going alllll the way around the circle. I cut it, and just connect the two bulbs directly. Thus, the excess wire.

A Delorean is still my dream car...

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It could have been so much more simple than that. I bought a case of multi-colored mini lights. The first thing I did was plug each one in to make sure it worked. Our of 48 sets, half of one was bad. I then started pulling all the bulbs. Of course, I pulled the bulbs from the bad string, then tossed it in the box with the rest... Doh! I knew it would come back to haunt me at some point. I'm hoping this string was it, otherwise it's still in the pile, waiting...

Since I'm putting these strings in coro, there's "excess wire" in the wires that run the length of the string, but really only end up connecting two bulbs. Say you made a circle with the lights. The first and last bulb would wind up next to each other. There's a wire that connects them. Instead of leaving that wire as-is, and going alllll the way around the circle. I cut it, and just connect the two bulbs directly. Thus, the excess wire.

A Delorean is still my dream car...

Steve,

You are using quantities of 50? Correct? So they are wired just like a 100 string, 150, string, 200 string etc, except you remove the excess wire that runs through the length. Just like a standard 3 wire series-parallel setup. You had the two wires plain wires switched. I do it all the time when I add in bulbs in a 50 set to lengthen it. You know, add 2-3 extras, make it 53 so it will reach all the way around something when it's six inches short. You would think that the wires would be interchangeable, but they are not. One termanates in the last bulb of the 50 set, the other goes on to the next set. When I put these together, I solder the connections closest to the plug, and just twist the far one, try it and if they don't light, switch them.

Do that FIRST next time, it will save a lot of time.

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Jeff,

I'm using 100's with the end connector. If the sting is the last in a set, I remove the end connector. Every once in a while I turn a string into a 50, depending on how many I need to complete the section.

I'm certain I didn't have those wires reversed. In fact, when I finaly got the string to work, I left bulb 51 connected to the end receptacle the whole time, so I'm sure I didn't switch them back in the process.

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