Avoiding a tedious repair job by using my doorbell’s backup bell

Did you know that most doorbells have two chimes in them?  I didn’t until today, and it just saved me an hour and a half and $20.

A couple of months ago, the button to our doorbell broke.  The button mechanism completely crumpled in:

I was able to use a pair of pliers to pull out some of the broken pieces, allowing the mechanism to move again, but it wasn’t working quite right.  Rather than making a nice chiming sound, it just made a loud buzz.

While annoying, it was still sufficient to tell me someone was at the door, so we have just left it for the last couple of months.  Today, I finally decided to fix it.  I swung by the hardware store and picked up a five dollar replacement doorbell button (thankfully, these things are one size fits all).

With a screwdriver I swapped out the buttons, and then with great anticipation pressed the button to hear… the same loud buzzing sound I was hoping to fix.  It would seem that whatever the problem was, it wasn’t the button itself.

I retreated into the house and stood up on a ladder to pry the cover off the doorbell chime itself.  Having never looked inside one, I saw that there were two chimes, and two sets of wires.  One was for a front door and one was for a back door, but we only have a front door, so only half of it was wired.

After having my four-year-old daughter helpfully try pressing the button a few times, I could see that the plunger that should be ringing the chime was stuck in place.  The buzzing sound was coming from it trying to move.  Upon closer examination, I realized that the plastic around the plunger was melted and fused.  I’m guessing that when the button first broke, it was stuck on and heated up and melted the plastic.

My heart sank, since I would now have to replace the whole chime.  This would mean another trip back to the hardware store and remounting and rewiring the chime.  While not complex, it was a lot more work than just swapping the buzzer.  This was no longer a five minute project.

Then, I had an inspiration.  Why not just reconnect the doorbell wires for our non-existent backdoor buzzer to our actual front door?  It was just sitting there, unused.  With a screwdriver, I swapped a wire and then asked my daughter to press the button.

Chime!

 

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5 Responses to Avoiding a tedious repair job by using my doorbell’s backup bell

  1. Clever and handy. It’s good your 4 year old was able to help. Train her.

  2. Eser Saydam says:

    This really helped me with understanding my doorbell issue. I had the same plastic cap melted on the front door plunger end as you described-must have been when the door bell was stuck and kept humming for a few hours until the kids said something to me. In your example, moving from the front to the back changed the chime from a dual-chime (ding-dong) to a single-chime (ding) as the back connection is only for a single chime to distinguish between both chimes if you have two hooked up simultaneously. I wanted the ding-dong sound so….there was an identical plastic cap on the rear door chime (the backup one you mention) so I just removed it from the rear door plunger to the front door plunger and it fixed the problem.

  3. cal says:

    A few months after we moved into an old house that had been newly rewired, we had the same problem. Don’t remember if the doorbell had two chimes or not — but when it buzzed it would sometimes get stuck and smell like something was burning. Not wanting to burn the house down, we replaced the entire chime portion. A few months later, the new chime is buzzing again. The plunger is frozen, I see melted plastic, and the copper coil is discolored. I’m wondering if your fix is still working or if you had problems again? I’m thinking our problem may be a faulty transformer, although I have no idea where it is inside our plaster walls…

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