How to disassemble a maglite

Red Mag-Lite

“Dismantle your Maglite for, fun, curiosity or servicing”

Looking to take apart your Maglite? Cant figure out how to remove the switch? As I found out by destructively dismantling a Maglite, it’s very easy.

I’m been a avid fan of Maglites since I was given my first mini Maglite when I joined the scouts. To this day I’m impressed by the elegant simplicity of the engineering, the ruggedness and quite frankly the look. They’re practically bulletproof.

While they usually survive being dropped from a couple of meters, or run over, the biggest failing point is a common one amongst torches of flash lights world wide; poor immersion seals, leaking batteries and the associated corrosion. To completely remove the corrosion you need to strip down the Maglite for a thorough clean, but in order to clean all contacts you need to access the switch assembly, which as I found out when I wanted to take apart a Maglite, it’s easier said than done.

Please note; the following directions will only work on the newer models of Maglite. Newer model Maglites have a the letter “D” preceding their serial number.

New model Maglite Serial Number

Newer model Maglites have the letter D preceding their serial number

Older models with out the preceding D on their serial number have a threaded retaining ring that needs to be unscrewed from the top of the torch with a pair of needle nose pliers or specialised tools, there is also a milled grove for the switch assembly to be tightened down upon, this grove prevents the the swtich assembly from exiting from the rear of the torch so in complete contrast from newer models, must be pushed out the top from the bottom of the torch. The grub screw still needs to be loosened on the older models for the switch assembly to be removed.

The newer model Maglites have replaced this threaded retaining ring with a split ring that is impossible compress enough in order to remove while the switch assembly is still in place, and as you see below, means you must remove the switch assembly from the rear of the torch by pushing it down the barrel from the top.

Thanks to Jack, Rowan and Will for alerting me to this older model of Maglite and also answering my questions about the differences. Also, thanks to all the people who continue to send me their thanks for this article. I’m glad it has helped so many people.

The new models of maglites have split ring retainers

First off, remove the rubber switch cover. Insert the allen key down the hole and loosen the grub/set screw until you encounter resistance or the switch assembly can be moved up and down inside the torch freely.
Remove switch cover Insert allen key and un screw
Push the switch down (in other words turn the torch on) then push it down the barrel with a long screwdriver or similar. You should have something like this pop out the end.
Push switch down the barrel Switch assembly
This is the little grub screw you’re loosening.
Gromet screw

So there you have it, one disassembled maglite. Much better than the old brute method and a lot less trouble if you want to put it back together again.

Make sure you’re ready for the assembly to come out the bottom, I’ve been told it can come out in pieces, this hasn’t been my experience unless the nut the the grub screw, screw into, has separated from the earth strap, but be prepared for it none the less.

Post script

In my original article, I questioned why anyone would need to dismantle their maglite, and I got a surprising amount of email telling me their reasons why they had take apart their maglite which has promted

I’ve always admired them, but like most with the tinkering gene, I’d always wondered how to take one apart but never got past how to remove the switch assembly. Every once in a while, when changing the batteries, give the switch body a a light-hearted prod to see if it would wanted to come out.

How I eventually found out about the Maglites secret, when I was building a dive light and thought a Maglite was the perfect light head for a canister style torch. So this led me back to a question that had puzzled me since I received a 4D cell light as a Christmas present, how do you remove the switch? Not being able to find any information online, I resorted to what everyone else seemed to do, who had used maglites as dive torches had done before me, bashed the assembly out with a stick. dismatle a maglite.

My presonal reasonI wanted to strip down a 2 cell maglite for a dive light I was building and I couldn’t find any glamorous (i.e. easy) way of removing the switch assembly. I ended up doing what every one else did, just stuck a large piece of dowel and bashed the assembly out the tail end of the light. Upon examining what came out (almost in one piece), the answer was so simple, stick a 1/8th AF allen/hex key down that little hole in the switch, back off the grub screw located at the bottom of said hole until you encounter resistance, push switch assembly out the rear of the torch, and you have one maglite switch assembly. This little grub screw also acts as the lights grounding screw.

So that inspired this little article, showing you how to remove maglite switch assemblies. I must say, these things are superbly engineered.

102 thoughts on “How to disassemble a maglite

  1. Maglite has schematic in PDF format.

    My 3D maglite tail endcap is fused to the man body.
    I drilled two holes across the diameter of the end cap to insert the screw driver to get some leverage, I even inserted a hardened drill bit and tried pounding it like an impact wrench, but no luck. At this point I just want to salvage some parts if I can like the switch assembly. Thinking about taking a pipe cutter and removing the part of the body that threads with the end cap and see what happens.

  2. Thanks for doing the hard work by sacrificing the MagLite to the light Gods. My four D cell battery MagLite is the best light around and not a shabby defensive weapon, either. I doubt I would have found the well hidden grounding set screw. Even with your help, the corrosion really made it difficult to remove the switch. Good old WD40 did the trick after letting it marinate the insides. Cleaning the contacts and giving it a tad more spring length made it work like new!

  3. Thank you so much. My dead Mag Lite came apart very easily. Everything inside was good, no rust or corrosion. All contacts clean and working. Problem was traced down to a flaky bulb, sometimes off, sometimes on. New one works 100%.
    Again, thank you, it would have been garbage without this info.


  4. Thanks for the information. I collect Maglites. I have tried a bunch of different bulbs, from auto interior lights to expensive LEDS. So far the most practical and drop-resistant has been the Nite-Ize LED from walmart ($5, runs a couple whole days on 4 D). I have usually just resorted to spraying transmission fluid in them and letting it run out, for corrosion problems or sticking switches.

    Someone told me a tip: put a dab of Vaseline on the batteries terminals and the cap threads. Just a bit. It helps prevent the corrosion and makes the cap go on easier.

  5. Many thanks for this! I would never have thought of trying an Allen key down the middle of the switch!

    My 6-D cell model had the MIDDLE two cells stuck so I really needed to get at them from both ends
    A few notes from my experiences…

    1. The Allen key that fitted my 6-D cell model perfectly was not 1/8″ but 5/64″ (as per the .pdf that rcaholic linked to).
    2. You have to push the key almost an inch and a half into the body of the switch before it mates with the grub screw.
    3. After unscrewing it a few turns, the switch assembly was very loose and easy to move
    4. The split ring is immediately above the switch unit, so the switch won’t go UP the tube unless it is removed. I couldn’t get the ring out from below, because of the stuck batteries, so I had to remove the ring..
    5. Luckily (and I’m not sure why because I would have thought the jammed batteries would stop it), I managed to slide the switch assembly DOWN the tube just enough to make room for a long jeweller’s screwdriver, which I pushed through the switch hole on the body to get purchase on the split ring.
    The ends of the ring are tapered, so you can just get the screwdriver blade behind it and flick it out of the slot and UP the tube.
    6. The switch could then be slit easily out of the top
    7. After that it was fairly easy to ram a broomstick up the tube to release the stuck batteries.

  6. Thanks for the Solution. You may not save Man Kind, But you did just save a frustrated man from the need to destroy the wall and yet another Maglite!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Go to i have left an alternative if you have an older model. Basically there is a steel clip that needs to be removed. Just knock the top section down with a 2 pence piece to dislodge before pulling out of the top! This took me awhile to figure out! and tried several stupid and time wasting other options before this ………………..DDDUUUURRRR!

    Enjoy people.

  8. I wish you’re explanation referred to the older “screw-on switch” lite. I repaired one years ago, I recall sticking a wire down the hole that the light bulb “tail” goes into, but have tried that again recently to no avail. I have 3 AA-cell maglites that my daughters have managed to “unwork”, and a D-cell that my wife has managed to “unwork”. I also found one in the Union River in the UP of Michigan which seems to be in great shape and should also work, but doesn’t. Replaced bulbs and batteries so the problem must lie in the switch. Screw the light/lens and nothing happens, so the internal switching mechanism must be bad. I had hoped your article would have expounded on that.

  9. Hi Peter. I can not find new parts for older 4 D size batteries maglite flashlight. The battery barrel is a little bit thicker than new flashlight. Marcus

  10. THANK YOU!
    I’ve been looking around off and on for hours trying to get info on removing the LED module. Maglite never responded to my request for instructions. After removal of the switch assembly; another allen screw holding the LED module in place was obvious. I checked the switch and module and verified the LED module is dead.

  11. I have a 2 c maglite. It has not been used in years. The tailcap is stuck, probably due to battery’s leaking inside. I can send it to maglite and they will replace with new one. If the. Attests are a certaint name brand. I wanted to disassemble the top of the light to hopefully see what kind of battery’s. Is it possible for the lamp assembly to come out the top of the light instead of the bottom?

  12. Woe betide you if the switch comes apart in your hand…..It took me the better part of an afternoon to get the switch back together in functional form and back into the flashlight.

  13. Thanks for the tutorial. There was just enough battery leakage in mine to prohibit the switch from turning off. The parts are soaking in a wd40 bath as I type. I did need to use a dowel rod and a rubber mallet to remove the guts.

  14. Thanks Peter! A leaking battery caused my MagLite to stop functioning, I cleaned it the best I could without results, I needed to get to the contact points on the switch. Thank you for the help!!

  15. Thanks for the heads up on older models! I was following the official instructions and they did not mention that older assemblies come out the top! Found your info and after spinning the retaining ring it all came apart. Now to find out why it isn’t working. Thanks.

  16. Can’t get switch to come out even after reading your article. Never mind, got it!

  17. Thanx for this, I had a Duracell Cell leak inside so much so that the last cell out would not come out, had I not tried the internet I would have assumed that the corrosion had prevented the switch from sliding and resorted to the “broomhandle method”.

  18. Been pondering how to get apart my old Maglite (without the D on the number) for several days following a leaky battery problem. You page solved it in seconds !!! Many thanks. I must remember in future to always seek out the hidden grub screw. ☺

  19. WOW! Thanxs for your effort and great post….great photos…..was able to fix my maglite thanks to you..!!!!

  20. Great guide! Really helped. Just like to point out I have a new series 6 cell Maglite and it was possible to remove the split ring that holds the switch assembly with a long screw driver and long nose pliers.

    It was essential for me to remove the assembly as I had a popped D cell wedged in the shaft!

  21. would be nice if they’d make it so the switch will come out the top instead of being jammed up by those corroded batteries you’re trying to remove in the first place. but hey, what do i know about designing flashlights? ended up breaking the thing anyway.

  22. Do you know if any way to get batteries that are stuck out of the Maglite? (2 D Cell) Any suggestions?

  23. I have a brand new 4D maglite. The set screw is a T9 Torx bit. So beware, if a 1/8th allen won’t fit through the hole in your switch, you probably wanna try a T9 Torx before you break out your dremel. (I was dremeling mine anyways due to running some additional wires through it for a little work project, and luckily I had another maglite handy to use once I’d torn the first one apart to figure out what bit was required.)

  24. Excellent. Just what I needed. 2 mags a 2D and a 3D both with corroded batteries needing some cleanup work.

  25. If you have substantial corrosion you will still need to tap carefully against the switch assembky with a dowel rod. Especially if a battery is stuck in the tube.
    BUT 1st !!! Soak over nite in water with a half cup backing soda disolved in it. This helps breaks down the corrosion and neutralizes the battery acid.

  26. The switch release gave me everything I needed to remove the corroded battery in the tube closest to the switch (it was really stuck in there).

    This gave me about 10mm of play in the tube, then I was able to release the circlip by placing an electrical flathead screwdriver underneath the circlip tip and push down releasing it from it’s groove.

    I say electrical screwdriver as it’s skinny enough to wedge itself under there.

    The circlip then fell out in one piece, followed by the switch assembly (through the top).

    The battery was removed with two blows without further obstruction.

    I’ll do a video on it sometime in the future with clean up instructions (I’ll credit you and this site as I couldn’t have got this far without you)

    Thanks (New Zealand)

  27. Thanks for the article. I thought I had a LED problem, but by being able to take it out I could test it. However without you article I wouldn’t have got that far. As it turned out the LED was not the issue but the switch. Somehow by taking it out and reinstalling, the bad connection in the switch was fixed ??


  28. I couldn’t get your method to work, but as the batteries were locked into the barrel by corrosion, I suspect this is why I couldn’t get the switch to move.

  29. A quick note: the correct size Allen wrench (hex key) is 5/64″, at least on my 4D Maglite. I had to try three different sets of wrenches before I found the right one. The 1/8″ that you mentioned wouldn’t even fit in the hole! :)

  30. With the right tools (two picks and a vice) and enough patience, the retaining clip can be removed from newer models. I had to do this because a battery leaked and became lodged in the barrel, so I had to pull the switch out of the top of the torch to beat the battery out with a hammer and punch.

    Thanks for this tutorial, though, otherwise I wouldn’t have known about the set screw.

  31. Thanks for the info. I have one of the old lights and your info. made it an easy task. Thanks again!

  32. Your “pre-D” info was the KEY to easy success!!!!

    I need to send this info to the OFFICIAL Mag-lite repair dealer (a certain hardware store in Moline, IA). Their guy really screwed up my flashlight.

    “if you want something done right, do it yourself”

    Hours of research to finally find you and the correct info ( thanks for nothing Maglite).

    THANK YOU SIRS for your help!

  33. note; if you have a six-cell, D battery maglite, there is another step. you MUST also turn out the large diameter screw from the front just behind the bulb housing. there are two dimples into-which you can get needle-nose pliers. turn counter clockwise until it comes out THEN push on the back with a long implement to remove the button switch. i used the handle of a broom.

  34. Great info, a bit more if it helps
    my 3D torch loaned and returned corroded,
    ser no DL302621818 the allen screw is now a star screw
    i found it impossible (due to corrosion) to remove or bugde the screw, and the circlip at the lam(LED) end of the torch almost impossible to move.
    Solution: a bit of brute force and a stout hammer and most importantly, a wooden drift allowed me to achieve a 1/8th to a 1/4 inch down movement of the lamp assembly into the body of the tube (towards the battery compartment). then fine snipe nose pliers and a spike permitted a time consuming removal of a corroded circlip.
    with the same drift, a few sharp and reasonably hard taps from the battery end moved the assembly out of the top ( bulb) end of the torch .
    the mark cut by the grub screw was removed using a needle file and wet and dry paper (fine grain). the switch totally corroded beyond repair taken apart to see how it worked will i hope be replaced with one from an older incandescent unit.
    i hope this helps. and thanks for the fantastic work, i could not have got this far without your expertise
    MATT de G8NLF

  35. Gracias! Este equipo cuando lo compre me dió muchas satisfacciones, pero con el tiempo espezó a fallar por falta de mantenimiento, y realmente no tenia la menor idea de desamblarlo pero con los consejos e ilustraciones he podido llegar a las entrañas de la lampara y ahora trabaja como nueva. Es bueno que existan páginas como la suya que ayudan a resolver problemas.
    Le estoy agradecido.

    Reciba un cordial saludo.

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