Outdoor wiring can be a pain. You might not even realize you have an issue until something stops working or you see exposed wires. Don't panic - I've got some simple tips to diagnose and fix the most common outdoor wiring problems. With a few basic tools and some elbow grease, you can have your outdoor wiring safely and aesthetically repaired in no time.

Inspect Your Outdoor Wiring

The first step is to inspect all your outdoor wires and electrical connections. Here's what I'm looking for:

Exposed or Damaged Wires

This is a major hazard. Exposed wires can lead to electrocution or fires. Look for any cracks in wire casings, gnaw marks from animals, or bending that may have damaged the protective insulation. Even minor nicks in the plastic coating can allow water to penetrate and cause a short.

Any exposed copper wiring needs to be repaired as soon as possible. I recommend electrical tape as a temporary fix, but you'll want to fully replace any compromised sections of wire.

Corrosion on Connections

Outdoor elements can corrode metal wiring and connections over time. Check any visible electrical boxes, light fixtures, outlets, or splicing points for green corrosion. This builds up resistance and prevents proper electrical contact.

Use some sandpaper or steel wool to scrub off minor corrosion. More advanced corrosion may require replacing connectors or splicing new wire sections.

Cracked or Damaged Conduit

For any wiring encased in outdoor plastic or metal conduits, check for cracks or holes allowing water intrusion. Conduit damage can lead to short circuits. Carefully pull out any compromised sections and replace with new conduit.

Trace the Wire Route

If you didn't see any obvious issues, it's time to trace the full route of the wire having problems.

Follow the wire visually from the non-working light, outlet, or other electrical component. Check for any spots where:

Pay particular attention to areas prone to damage, like joints, turns, and places where wires may get pinched. The problem spot may be hidden from plain view.

Use a multimeter to test voltage along the route and narrow down problem zones. No voltage means there is a break somewhere before that point.

Check Connections

With the wire route traced, carefully inspect every connection point, junction box, and splice.

A wire can appear intact but have a poor connection at a hidden splice point. Loose connections from vibration or moisture are some of the most common outdoor wiring issues. Tighten any loose wires and replace damaged connectors.

Look for Underground Damage

You may have wiring damage below ground level. Buried wires are prone to:

Use a wire tracer tool to isolate the underground section causing issues. For shallow lines, you may be able to visually inspect by carefully digging around the area. Deeper wires will need to be accessed through splicing.

Any cracked or damaged areas of underground wiring will need to be replaced. You may be able to just splice in a new segment, or you might have to run entirely new wire.

Prevent Future Damage

Once you've addressed the immediate issue, it's time to take steps to prevent outdoor wiring problems down the road:

Use Flexible Conduit

Flexible, plastic conduit stands up to weather and photos over time better than rigid metal conduits. The flexibility also protects against rock or root damage underground. Stick with outdoor-rated, sunlight resistant conduit.

Avoid Direct Burial

Wires buried straight underground are very prone to damage. Run wiring through conduit to add an extra protective barrier. Conduit bury depth depends on local codes, but 12-18 inches is standard.

Inspect Seasonally

Do a quick visual inspection of all outdoor wiring at least twice a year. Look for any new exposure points or damage. Address minor issues before they become bigger problems.

Have a Professional Install Tricky Wiring

If you need to run new wiring across long distances or through difficult areas, hire an electrician. Professionals have tools to bury conduit at the right depths and route wires safely around roots, rocks, and other hazards. DIY electrical work also often requires permits.

You Can Fix This!

solving your annoying outdoor electrical gremlins might seem daunting, but with some diligent troubleshooting and safe repairs, you can get everything working again. Pay attention to warning signs like exposed copper and corroded connections. With the right materials and some electrical know-how, you can tackle most outdoor wiring issues yourself. Just take it step-by-step until you uncover the problem.