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i want to attach a new light to the ceiling but the wires are old. There is a red wire, a brown wire and what seems like a black one. I dared not get them mixed up as I don't want to blow anything up. Can anyone advise on how to proceed and figure out which wire is which? Thanks

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Strima

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That looks very much like VIR insulation with cotton covering, how old is the property and is all the wiring the same?

Don't do anything yet and don't even touch it as the insulation is likely to crumble off.
 
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That looks very much like VIR insulation with cotton covering, how old is the property and is all the wiring the same?

Don't do anything yet and don't even touch it as the insulation is likely to crumble off.
It's quite an old property and no the wiring isn't all the same. I certainly wont touch it. It is isolated at the switch which incidentally has modern colours of wiring
 
Scary how no one would have a TV older than 5 or maybe 10 years old, yet expect wiring to last 50-60 years, especially old technology, rubber and plastic was a world away from what it is now. Needs a good test IMHO.
 

Lucien Nunes

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That's not VIR, it looks like a 3-core flex from the 1930s, when brown was the correct colour for earth in a flex (yes, you read that right). It was probably part of a light fitting and is jointed into the newer house wiring in a junction box above the ceiling.

If the colours are as they would have been 80 years ago, red=line, black=neutral, brown=earth but I wouldn't assume anything. Light fittings were rarely earthed then so the brown might be unconnected, or it could be a second line if there were two switches for different levels of light. The cable may be perished where you can't see it, so should be replaced. If there is much of it, I will cover your cost to post it to us for the museum.
 
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That's not VIR, it looks like a 3-core flex from the 1930s, when brown was the correct colour for earth in a flex (yes, you read that right). It was probably part of a light fitting and is jointed into the newer house wiring in a junction box above the ceiling.

If the colours are as they would have been 80 years ago, red=line, black=neutral, brown=earth but I wouldn't assume anything. Light fittings were rarely earthed then so the brown might be unconnected, or it could be a second line if there were two switches for different levels of light. The cable may be perished where you can't see it, so should be replaced. If there is much of it, I will cover your cost to post it to us for the museum.
Ha ha I think it should be in a museum. To be honest it was connected to a ceiling light a year ago and worked fine. I then took the light down but just don't know which wires are which. I think your advice on replacing it is the best bet even though it means ripping up newly laid carpet and floorboards. Thanks everybody for your time.
 

Strima

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It's quite an old property and no the wiring isn't all the same. I certainly wont touch it. It is isolated at the switch which incidentally has modern colours of wiring
When you work on it isolate at the distribution board as there will more than likely be live conductors at the connection point. Never rely on a switch to isolate.
 
When you work on it isolate at the distribution board as there will more than likely be live conductors at the connection point. Never rely on a switch to isolate.
Hell in older properties I will often isolate all of the lighting circuits when working on one, getting a belt of a borrowed neutral is no fun.
 
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