Landscape Lights Not Working? Solutions To 7 Common Problems

Landscape Lights Not Working? Solutions To 7 Common Problems

These Are Some Actions You Can Take To Get Your Maryland Home Warm And Bright At Night Again
a man kneeling down next to a brick building.

We hate that your landscape lights aren’t working as they should. If you want to, you can try to find and fix the problem yourself.

In this post, you can find solutions to the 7 most common problems people have when their landscape lights aren’t working. These are the same steps we take when someone’s outdoor lights aren’t working.

It Looks Like A Patchwork Quilt Of Light And Dark!

“I just got home, it’s dark, and our landscape lights aren’t working,” says Christina.

Matt groans. “Ugh, guess I better go take a look then.” Christina sighs. “Wouldn’t it be easier to get our lighting contractor to come out and take a look? They know what they’re looking for and how to fix most problems.”

Matt nods. “That’s true, but I’d rather not spend the money on something we can probably do ourselves.” Christina’s eyebrow rises. “That’s a good p0int. It’s probably because we didn’t look up how to maintain landscape lights that this happened.”

“Yep. We can probably find some methods for how to troubleshoot landscape lights on Google,” points out Matt. Christina shrugs and nods as she gets her phone out to start Googling.

Here are the 7 problems they find and the solutions to try:


1. How To Find A Short In Outdoor Lighting

a man kneeling down next to a tree.

A short in lighting is when electricity’s going where it isn’t supposed to and nothing is slowing it down. What makes it so hard to troubleshoot is it can happen in many places at the same time. It’s a lot of time and energy to look for shorts.

You can find shorts in outdoor lighting by looking for wires that are cut, broken, frayed, are improperly connected, or are stretched by roots or rocks. We’d also look for bad, wet, corroded, or damaged sockets. We’d be checking for any areas that could be exposing wires or bulbs to moisture too.

2. Section Of Landscape Lights Not Working

a lot of lights that are on the side of a road.

It’s the worst when a section of landscape lights isn’t working. It gives off a patchwork quilt vibe (great for quilts, not for lighting).

To fix this, we’d first check the transformer to see if it’s somehow been flipped to OFF. If it has, we’d flip the switch back to ON and see if it works. If that’s not the issue, we’d turn the transformer off and start hunting for a short.

If you’ve had landscaping done recently, we’ll be looking for damaged wires, loose connections, or other problems that could’ve been caused by people disturbing the wires.

3. Landscape Lighting Timer Not Working

a house lit up at night with the lights on.

If your outdoor lights aren’t working, it could be due to your landscape lighting timer. First, we’d try resetting it by pressing the Reset, Restart, or R button in your transformer. Then we’d set it up again. If that doesn’t work then you may need a new timer.


4. Some Landscape Lights Not Working

If some of your landscape lights aren’t working there are a few options we can try.

  • For incandescent bulbs, look for breaks in the wire filament (the wires inside the glass part)
  • Look to see if the light fits properly in the socket
  • Check the socket to see if it is giving power. If it isn’t it may need replacing
  • We can also check the cable connector to see if the pins went through the insulation and into the copper strand.

5. Landscape Lights Won’t Come On

a stop sign is lit up at night.

If none of your outdoor lights are working, here’s what we can try:

  • Inspect the power outlet by plugging a phone into it to see if it’s getting electricity
  • Make sure the transformer is set to ON
  • Check the circuit breakers on the transformer for a short
    • Open the breaker box and look to see if the switches are between ON and OFF
      • If there is an indicator light and it’s red that means it’s tripped
    • Switch it OFF and then ON. If it goes back to the middle turn it OFF and, call an electrician
  • Make sure the wires entering the transformer are tight and fully inside the terminal lugs
  • Check the voltage and amperage on the transformer to make sure it’s still getting power 
    • If it isn’t the transformer may need replacing
  • If you’re using a timer or photocell, reset the clock or bypass the photocell
    • If that doesn’t work you may need a new one
  • Look for a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) and hit the reset button (see picture below)
    • Mostly found in or near bathrooms and garages, it looks like an outlet but with 2 buttons on it that say reset and test
a close up of a switch on a wall.
a close up of a white electrical outlet.

6. One Or More Lights Aren’t Bright

a light bulb sitting on top of a wooden table.

The easiest check is to see if the bulb is in the socket correctly. You may also have too many lights, which means we need to take some out or increase the voltage. Recalculating the voltage drop isn’t too difficult and may solve your problem.

We’d also check the wattage to make sure you aren’t going over what’s available.

If you’re using halogen bulbs, we’d check the volts for the light fixture at the end of the grouping. If it’s less than 10 volts you’ve got a problem. Just switch to LED lights, LEDs are the best bulb for many reasons.

If it’s none of those, we’d check the connection to the power cable to ensure the pins are firmly in the copper strand.

7. Troubleshooting Your Landscape Lighting Transformer

Look at the ends of the cable to ensure the copper strands aren’t touching. If they aren’t, check the fixture connection points for shorts. You can also recalculate the wattage to ensure you’re not exceeding the transformer’s wattage (watts = amps x volts).

You May Also Like To Know

“See, we can totally do some of these on our own,” points out Matt. “Yeah, it’d be sad to pay a contractor to come out here just to flip a switch,” agrees Christina. “How about you start with some of the easier ones and I’ll keep looking up stuff on this blog about landscape lighting?” Matt nods and the couple gets to it.


47 Responses

  1. What would cause my lights to flash on and off once in awhile ? I have a 120 watt Malibu power pack

    1. Hi Rick,
      Thank you for your question! Most likely it’s a loose connection somewhere in the circuit. You’ll have to search for it or have someone else look for it. We recommend a hub system of wiring so that it is easier to troubleshoot and fix these problems when they arise.

  2. I have an outdoor timer for led landscape lighting. The timer is set but the lights will not go on. They will go on if I manually move the switch. The clock works but simply passes the turn on set point.

    1. Is this a timer that has screw tabs that you set at different intervals. If so, I have seen in the past that one tab (the on tab) is a little longer and if yo use the shorter (off tab) it does not reach the toggling area Go on ,which sets lower.

  3. I have an old 100 watt power pack. It has not been used. I am installing 8 LED lights. will the old Malibu power pack work with LED lights.

  4. I have 3 landscape lights and only one will not work. I have tried 3 new bulbs but still can’t get it to work

  5. We just installed a new landscape lighting … We have a hampton bay 120 watt transformer … We have 5 3w lumens 20 W incadenscent equivalent fixtures and ran brand ndw 12 / 2 100 ft wire. We started with the far end of the project and end of the 100 ft wire … We did not cap the end of the wire ……. The two closest lights to the transformer not lighting .. the farthest three lighting ? We checked bulbs / connections … and no luck…. Might my issue be that we didn’t capt the end of the wire ? … Any help appreciated … ? Since the lights nearest the transformer aren’t working but farthest are we are baffled?

  6. We have a vPro 2 system with 3 runs. All the lights on 2 of the runs flicker and on the 3rd they just don’t come on. Would this most likely be a wiring issue or in the transformer?

  7. We installed a new transformer Adequate for 12 path lights. The transformer burned out along with 5 lights.

  8. I have one led lamp that is half the brightness of the others on the same feed line. Have switched bulb and socket but still the same half brightness. It just started the half brightness after 3 years of good operation. Any ideas?

  9. Cvbs,
    I have a 15 light system on a300 Watt transformer covering approximately 60 feet of area. I decided to upgrade the fixtures because the older ones were plastic and constantly breaking. As I started to replace the old ones with new fixtures and halogen lights, after installing the first 7 noticed when they came on that night that the 6th and 7th lights were MUCH dimmer. Checking wattage being consumed across the total system with these new ones being halogen I found I was drawing to much. OK. I switched to LED and presto.. all are very bright and beautiful. I continued to replace the rest and when done and they came on tonight 14 of 15 are “Excellent “. The last light in the run did not turn on at all. I put in a new LED and still nothing!! Frustrating!! I will check incoming power at the fixture, connections, and also any wire breaks from the 14th to 15th light. Any other suggestions please advise.
    (Sorry for the length)?
    Thank you in advance for the help!

  10. We have a 200 watt transformer and twice in the last month we have had lights that go out and will not come back on , these are also LED lights that the bulbs cannot be replaced in, so that means a whole new fixture (Not Good !!) Could it be a problem with the transformer or the wiring and not necessarily the light itself ? The 2nd time was the other night and when we went out to check it our deck lights were on , but the lights to the landscaping in the yard only had 2 lights on so we unplugged the box , waited about 5 min and plugged it back in , another of the lights came on then …. I just cant imagine that lightening is hitting these lights over and over , but I don’t know what else it would be .

  11. I have an entire system in my backyard but the only lights which won’t come on are the 6 pathway low voltage lights. I had to replace the GFCI after a pretty bad storm two days ago. All the other lights work fine after I replaced the faulty GFCI. What should I try or what should I look for.

  12. i have the same 3 lights work .it’s low voltage led lghts would like to chk connections. what are the connections.

  13. My bulb wattage is under transformer capacity. My lights go on for 10 minutes then all lights go out. I hit reset button and they come on for 10 minutes then go out???? Any idea why??

  14. Why would my landscape lights go on and off on a very regular basis. Like every other second they turn off and then right back on and back off and so on.
    This a very steady pace, pretty much the exact timing for on and off sequence.

  15. I have 1 portfolio light that has turned blue the other 7 are still white. What caused this?

  16. I am trying to replace a Hampton Bay low voltage led light. I get a clean 12 volts on the wire, but when I clamp the light in using the snap 9n connector the light does not come on. Any ideas?

  17. I have a set of lights that seem to work better right after it rains but not on dry days. This a portion of a string of lights.

  18. My lighting was working great until the last month. Now one of my lights comes on during the day instead of evening. I’ve changed nothing but have no clue as to why its now different than the others.
    What do I check?

  19. I have a portfolio outdoor transformer
    The lights will come on in the ON or R setting
    For dawn/dusk but then they turn off
    What could be the cause? They are clearly getting power and then turn off.

  20. My lights aren’t coming on when dark but coming in in daylight. It’s like the system is reversed. What could be causing this?

  21. I have a 300 watt transformer with LED lights adding up to less than 150 watts off a 20 amp GFCI. It hit with nothing else on it.
    Are a few months it started to pop the gfci every week or two with more frequency Over time. Replaced gfci and it started again after 1-2 months. Replaced transformer and put old one up front. Neither popped its own breaker.
    The front (old) one is not on a gfci and works great. The one in the back has started to pop the gfci again after several months. It has never rained on the transformer and the wire are good and not touching. Not one change in lights or wiring..
    Why would it work for months then pop the gfci breaker? And run great after resetting the breaker for a week or more?

  22. I have a transformer that Will stay in the on position on the switch for a few seconds and then abruptly turn its self off. What’s happening?

  23. I have two sets of landscape lighting plugged into a timer. One set comes on for a couple of hours, then goes off for a couple of hours, then back on again until timer goes to off. Why?

  24. I have an old transformer which you can hear is working. I just installed it and added (3)11 watt led lights and it won’t come on? Any ideas? I checked the connections and have use wire clamps to keep from pulling apart. They all looked good!

  25. I have lights that just go out. I go out, tap the fixture, and the bulb lights up. It seems to occur in both the back set and front. They are on separate transformers. I have 12 in the back and 15 in the front.

  26. I had outdoor landscaping lights installed in the yard and they all worked for a while and then most of them started to fail. The contractor would come back and replace and they would work for a while and then stop working. Some have worked for the whole time.
    Why and what should I do?

  27. I have a pinnacle 300W transformer and it is displaying a dash “-” what would cause this and how do I fix it?

  28. My portfolio transformer has an LED display to set the number of hours desired to be on. The numbers rotate through 1-9 very quickly and never stop. Any ideas anyone?

  29. my landscape lights will not shut off. I have to unplug them to turn off. is the Transformer bad and need to replace?

    1. I am having the same problem. Transformer is about 5 years old. Can’t figure it out. Only way to shut lights off is to unplug.

  30. I have been using it for several years with no problem, but now they lights don’t come on and there is an “E” in the display. Error? I have unplugged and plugged it back in and they come on for 1/2 second and the off, back to “E” Can you help?

  31. I had landscape lighting professionally installed by a company called VITEX. Soon after moving in I noticed the auto eye was keeping the lights on all day VITEX offered no help, I bought a new auto sensor rom them and installed it myself, and like before they worked for a short while and now are in all the time again??

  32. My Malibu lights have a photo sensor cell. which has worked great for the last 7 years or so. Recently though the lights stopped turning off at daytime. In other words the lights are on 24 hours per day. Will a new photo sensor cell solve the problem?

  33. My outdoor lights are not working for a couple of days and I have been thinking to fix it. Thanks for reminding to check and see if the bulb is in the socket correctly. I would try to talk to a professional to help me fix my outdoor lights. Thanks again for all the tips!

  34. I have a Vista CT600RP transformer.
    Stopped working by itself.
    If I unplug then replug it it works fine for on days cycle,, on and off with photocell. Next night nothing.
    If I unplug and replug it works great again for one more day/night cycle. Photo cell works and circuit breakers are on.. ??? Is there a relay somewhere that goes bad??