fluorescent shop light puzzle

The fluorescent shop light in my garage (2 bulbs) stopped turning on via the pull-chain. For a time, the bulbs would light if I twisted them a bit, but then that stopped too. I removed one of the starters, thinking it might need replacing, and discovered that as I removed it the bulb lit. Now I'm able to light both bulbs by briefly inserting and then removing the starter for each bulb. The bulbs light as the starter is being removed. What gives? And will new starters restore normal function, or is something else wrong with this lamp?
Thanks.
Lynn Willis
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You could install new bulbs and a couple of FS-4 starters, and you'd probably be OK, but since the thing is such an antique, you'd be better off getting a new two light F32T8 shop fixture. It'll give more light and run cheaper, not to mention, start instantly

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snipped-for-privacy@iupui.edu wrote: : The fluorescent shop light in my garage (2 bulbs) stopped turning on : via the pull-chain. For a time, the bulbs would light if I twisted : them a bit, but then that stopped too. I removed one of the starters, : thinking it might need replacing, and discovered that as I removed it : the bulb lit. Now I'm able to light both bulbs by briefly inserting : and then removing the starter for each bulb. The bulbs light as the : starter is being removed. What gives? And will new starters restore : normal function, or is something else wrong with this lamp? : : Thanks. : : Lynn Willis
Just replace the starter, they're only about 50 cents or 2 for 89 cents at any hardware store. 99% chance, that will get them going again.
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And if that does not work, buy a new fixture for cheap;. Not worth replacing other parts like the ballast on an old fixture.
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Should you decide to replace the fixture, consider getting rid of the pull chain and wire it with a couple of 3-way switches - one by the door into the house and the other next to the garage door or entry door, which ever you use more often. Switches are much more convenient than a pull chain.
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snipped-for-privacy@iupui.edu wrote:

Are these 4-footers? You have 4-footers with starters?
The starters are probably bad/marginal (FS-4 for 4-footers). Or the bulbs may not be compatible with your particular starters in the cold - the starters could restart conducting. See if the starters are FS-2 - those are for shorter bulbs and normally don't work right with 4-footers.
If removing the starters allows the bulbs to light, try putting a starter back in when the bulb is lit. If the bulb goes out, the starter is probably stuck. On the other hand, the bulb's electrical characteristics may be changing as a result of the bulb being close to end-of-life. But I think it is unusual for both bulbs or both starters to be doing this simultaneously - it may be cold weather (new starters may improve this) or the ballast.
Beware that starters with stuck innards may cause the ballast to overheat. I am aware of a fire that started that way (the ballast had to be of marginal design).
Note that bad starters can be hard on bulbs and bad bulbs can be hard on starters. Your bulbs could have suffered wear from having their filaments being kept cooking by bad starters. You might need to replace both the bulbs and the starters.
I would avoid those 34 watt "energy saver F40" bulbs - they tend to be crankier and sometimes don't start as easily. They are also dimmed by cold more than true 40-watt F40.
Other factors that could affect starting: The fixture may not be properly grounded - this affects electric field distribution within bulbs that are trying to start. But if this has not happened all along or annually or whenever certain weather occurs, then lack of proper grounding is not the whole story - the rest of the story may be a thin film of slightly conductive dirt on the bulbs. That often gets worse when humidity is higher. I have heard of a few cases when cleaning the bulbs fixes things. In extreme cases (usually in coastal areas), bulbs have refused to start even with proper grounding due to a film of slightly conductive dirt on them.
I would go with the others advising to replace the whole fixture with one that has F32T8 bulbs. A 4-foot shop light with starters is so old that you will probably find such a new fixture better in a few ways.
I would avoid cheap shop lights with T12 bulbs. Many of those have "residential grade" ballasts, which are often stool specimens that often seriously underpower the bulbs and have low energy efficiency as far as ballasts go.
- Don Klipstein ( snipped-for-privacy@misty.com)
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On Sun, 17 Feb 2008 18:20:26 +0000 (UTC), snipped-for-privacy@manx.misty.com (Don Klipstein) wrote:

So then, what's in a starter that isn't in a modern light fixture now? samurai
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<<In short, fluorescent lamp troubleshooting stuff including specifics to starters>>

How about generally/usually the starter in its entirety in the case of linear fluorescents of length nominally 2 feet or longer?
Even as far back as the late 1970's, it appeared to me that something like 97% maybe 99% of 4-foot fluorescents in USA were F40 T12 (1.5 inch diameter) ones in fixtures that had "rapid start" ballasts, 2 "tubes" per ballast, and no provisions for starters that were not needed for those. Electronic ballasts that have since improved upon those (including ones for T8 [1 inch diameter] "tubes/bulbs") have had a very high rate of not requiring starters.
- Don Klipstein ( snipped-for-privacy@misty.com)
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Thanks a million for the responses.
Yep, this baby's old. My dad installed it over his workbench (now my workbench) 50 years ago or so (or maybe when they first came out with fluorescent lights, who knows?).
And yes, Don, they're 4-footers with starters. And on your advice I put the starters back in after the lights were lit, and they went out. I think I'll go get me a couple of starters and see what happens. If I can get the thing to work properly, maybe it'll be worth something on eBay in another 50 years (when MY son'll be wondering why the blame thing lights when he removes the starters...).
Maybe I'll just go get a new one.
Thanks again for the tips and the advice.
Lynn Willis
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