Ballast Gone Ballistic?

Fluorescent lighting is cool, soft lighting that works well in kitchens and utility rooms. If you’ve ever had one of these lights turn itself on and off, you may have a bad ballast. Sometimes it will seep a tar-like substance into the cover of your light. Either way, it is time to change the ballast.

Power Down
The first step in any electrical repair is to turn off the power to the circuit that you will be working on. Be sure to double check the circuit after turning off the breaker or fuse. By using a tick-tracer to verify it is off, you’ll be at ease to accomplish this moderate task.

Uncover the Cover
Remove the lens cover from the light. Some fixtures have a clear plastic lens that wraps around the outside of the fixture. By grabbing the outer edge, gently pull the cover away from the fixture and down. In the case of a fixture with a lid, there will be two locking clasps that just pull down in order for the lens to swing down.

Remove the Bulbs
In order to have ample room to access the ballast, remove the bulbs. To do this, grab a bulb and twist it 90° until you see the bulb’s contacts. Gently pull down on the bulb and remove it from the fixture. Repeat the process for the remaining bulbs.

Remove the Center Ballast Cover

Now you’ll notice a white cover plate, usually in the center of the fixture. On either side of the cover there will be two indented grooves that catch in a slot in the fixture. To remove this cover, simply squeeze the cover and pull down. Sometimes these can require a breakfast of Wheaties to force the cover off.

The Ballast Exposed
Once the cover is off, the ballast will be visible. Notice that there is a black and a white wire connected to the ballast. These are the feed to the ballast. At one end of the ballast there are two red wires and two blue wires. At the other end, there are two yellow wires. These will all need to be cut in order to remove the defective ballast.

Remove the Ballast
Ballasts are held in place by two grooves and a locking nut. Remove the nut with a wrench while holding on to the ballast. Be careful not to drop the ballast on your head! Once removed, check to see that you have the right replacement ballast before proceeding.

Readying the Wires
Take wire strippers and strip about half an inch of insulation off of the red, blue, black and white wires. You’ll need to have eight wires nuts ready to install the new ballast.