A Simple DIY Electrical Repair – Replacing a Broken Outlet
If you take the right precautions and pay careful attention to what you are doing, most people can undertake a simple electrical repair safely, and get that feeling of satisfaction that comes from a completed project. One example of a straightforward job is the replacement of a broken outlet.
Outlets can be damaged by the insertion of metal objects that cause a short circuit, by faulty appliances, by impact, or sometimes they just wear out with age. Installing a new outlet is straightforward because you are replacing like with like. If you have an ungrounded two prong outlet, be sure not to replace it with a three prong grounded outlet, as this will not provide grounding and other people may mistakenly believe grounding is in place.
Before you start, make sure you have all the necessary tools and the replacement outlet. You will need a screwdriver, wire stripper and cutter, and a utility knife.
Switch off the supply
The first thing to do is to switch off the relevant circuit at you breaker box. If you don’t know which breaker is the right one, the safest course is to turn off the electricity completely.
Remove the outlet cover
Remove the outlet cover with a screwdriver. If necessary, use a utility knife to cut through any layers of paint which are holding it in place. Then remove the two screws that hold the outlet in its box and gently pull it out.
Understand the connections
Make sure you know which wires attach to which terminals. If you are not familiar with where the wires attach, take a digital photo, draw a diagram or wrap a piece of tape around each wire and label it. It is so easy to take something apart, be distracted, and then forget how it fits back together.
If any of the wires are damaged or the insulating cover is frayed, you should call in a professional to replace the wiring on that circuit. Fixing hidden wiring is not a job to be undertaken without expert knowledge.
Connect the new outlet
Connect the wires to the new outlet. If the bare ends of the wire are broken, lip them of with your wire clippers and strip off a small part of the insulation so that you have enough to make a good connection. The white or neutral wire attaches to the silver screw, the black or red hot wire goes to the dark colored screw. If there is a bare or green grounding wire, it connects to the screw with a green mark on it. Loop the bare ends of the wires in a clockwise direction so that as you tighten up the screw heads, the wires are pulled tight.
Fix the outlet and cover in place
Once all the wires are connected, gently push them back into the box. Replace the two screws that hold the outlet in the box and replace the outlet cover.
Restore the supply and test your work
Reset the circuit breaker and then plug in an appliance or a circuit tester to check the outlet is now working. Do not try to test the outlet without fixing it properly back into the box and fitting the cover. If you do, you risk giving yourself an electric shock and pulling wires loose when you remove the device you have used to make the test.
If all is well, good job! If not, remove the outlet again and check your connections. If the outlet still does not work, that is a sign of a more significant problem and you should get professional help from a qualified and licensed electrician.
The most common mistakes made in this type of repair are failing to switch off the electricity supply before starting, and wrongly connecting the wires. But these are both avoidable if you follow the correct procedures. Completing a minor electrical repair yourself can save you money and bring you a great sense of satisfaction and achievement.