Fixing Faulty Outlets Yourself

Fixing Faulty Outlets Yourself


Electrical outlets are something we often take for granted, until suddenly they stop working properly. A faulty outlet can be a major inconvenience and potentially a safety hazard. Thankfully, many outlet issues can be resolved fairly easily by homeowners. In this article, I'll walk through the common problems with outlets and how to fix them yourself.

Safety Precautions

Before doing any electrical work, safety should always be your top priority. Electricity can be extremely dangerous if mishandled. Here are some key safety tips to follow:

Common Outlet Issues

Here are some of the most frequent problems homeowners encounter with electrical outlets:

Loose Connection

Over time, vibrations and plugging/unplugging can cause wires to become loose at the terminal screws. This leads to flickering power or complete failure. Tightening the screws often fixes this quick and easy.

Worn Out Outlet

Old outlets eventually wear out from repeated use. You'll notice loose plug fitting or discolored/cracked plastic. Replacing the outlet restores a snug fit.

Faulty GFCI

GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets protect against shocks. But their internal breaker can trip unnecessarily or simply stop functioning. Resetting or replacing the outlet usually remedies this.

Overloaded Circuit

Too many appliances on one circuit can overload and cause an outlet to trip, fail to reset, or feel warm. Check the circuit load and redistribute appliances if needed.

How to Fix an Outlet

Let's go through the steps for safely repairing a faulty outlet:

1. Turn Off Power

The first step is always to turn off power to the outlet at the main breaker panel. Double check it's off by using a non-contact voltage tester.

2. Remove the Outlet Cover

Unscrew and remove the outlet cover plate to access the outlet wiring. Place it aside carefully so no wires get disconnected.

3. Disconnect and Inspect

Unscrew the outlet from the electrical box and pull it out enough to access the wires. Check for any visibly loose, damaged or burnt wires.

4. Clean Connections

Use a wire brush to scrub corrosion and buildup off the wires and contacts. This improves connectivity.

5. Reconnect Wires

Refer to outlet wiring diagrams, and connect hot, neutral and ground wires to the matching screws or push-fit ports.

6. Secure the Outlet

Remount the outlet securely into the electrical box, and tighten the cover plate screws straight.

7. Restore Power and Test

With everything reassembled properly, restore power and test operation thoroughly. The outlet should now be repaired!

When to Call an Electrician

While many outlet issues can be DIY repairs, there are some cases best left to the professionals:

Their expertise and special equipment can diagnose and access complex underlying electrical issues.


Fixing a faulty outlet is a common need for homeowners. With proper safety precautions and some DIY skills, many outlet problems can be quickly and economically solved. But also recognize when an issue requires calling a licensed electrician. A little electrical maintenance and outlet TLC can make your home wiring much safer and more reliable.