Has Your Shop Window Lost Its Glow? Here’s How To Troubleshoot A Malfunctioning Neon Sign

Neon signs have come to symbolize businesses that are open and inviting to late-night customers, but a faulty sign can give visitors the impression that your company is also in disrepair. Here are a few ways to troubleshoot your neon sign and restore your shop front to its full dignity.

Rooting Out Electrical Problems

When a neon sign malfunctions, the most basic possible cause is an issue with the voltage being delivered to the various neon tubes. To detect any potential electrical problems, you have to start from the ground up, and you'll need a multimeter. You can get one from your local hardware or home improvement store, and they make for a good investment when it comes to avoiding appliance repair fees.

First, test the power outlet to make sure it's delivering current at a steady rate and normal power level. Then, unplug the sign from its transformer and use your multimeter to test the power output. If the output is too low or too high, you may need to adjust the transformer settings.

When power delivery is irregular, or the transformer has no settings controls, it means the part needs to be replaced. It's a cheap fix, so attempting to repair a transformer will just waste your time. Not to mention, amateur repairs can also put you at risk for later electrical fires.

If the sign's transformer is fine, visually inspect the wires for any damage or fraying, which could lead to power loss or uneven current in the neon tubes. You should also look at the wire connections on each light to make sure none are corroded or loose. If you can't find anything wrong, unplug the sign and give its connections a thorough cleaning, just to be safe.

Diagnosing Dim Bulbs

Because neon lights are usually connected sequentially, one failed or dim bulb can cause others to appear broken. Before you can address a dim or broken bulb, you need to test others individually to find out which ones are really the problem. Use your multimeter to check each bulb for conductivity, and single out any that do not carry a current.

With your problem bulbs singled out, give them a close visual inspection for loose or corroded contacts that you may have missed during your electrical problem check. If you don't see anything wrong with the contacts, give the bulbs themselves a look. Specifically, check them over for cracks or chips in the glass body, which could indicate a gas leak.

Handling Neon Leaks

Leaky bulbs will fill with air as the neon escapes, causing them to no longer hold a charge or glow. It is possible to break open a leaking bulb and refill it with neon gas, but this can be expensive. You'll have to take the light to a professional technician and have the gas refilled and the leak patched. Though the light will work fine afterward, any bulb that has been patched once is more likely to leak again in the future. Generally a patch is only ideal for very large, expensive, or intricate neon bulbs, which might cost more to replace.

If your neon sign is small, simple, or features a standard design, it will most likely be prudent to simply replace the bulb. Once you find a supplier and order the new bulb, you can place it yourself with a little electrical know-how. The process of disconnecting the old bulb and connecting the new one should only take a few minutes. 

Neon signs can be intimidating to work with, but even an amateur can repair them with the right tools. Until your sign's parts are all in working order, be sure to leave it unplugged temporarily. That way, you won't have to worry about creating new problems while you're working on the old one.

Click here for more info about repairing different types of signs you might use for your business.