How to Fix a Faulty Outdoor Electrical Outlet Yourself
Dealing with a faulty outdoor electrical outlet can be frustrating, but with some basic knowledge and the right tools, you can often fix the problem yourself. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to diagnose and repair a faulty outdoor electrical outlet:
Inspect the Outlet
The first step is to inspect the outlet visually and physically. Look for:
- Cracks or damage to the outlet cover. A damaged cover can allow water to get into the electrical components.
- Corrosion on the outlet, wires, or screws. This can indicate moisture problems.
- Scorch marks or burning around the outlet. This usually means there was an electrical short.
- Wobbly outlet. This could mean the outlet is not securely installed in the electrical box.
Before touching the outlet, make sure the power is off at the circuit breaker. Test with a non-contact voltage tester to confirm.
Diagnose the Problem
Next, you need to diagnose the type of problem:
- No power - Test with a plug-in circuit tester. If it doesn't light up, there's no power present. Check connections.
- No GFCI reset - If it's a GFCI outlet, try resetting it. If it won't reset, the GFCI may be faulty.
- Flickering power - This usually indicates a loose wire connection.
- Buzzing/sizzling - This points to an electrical short. The outlet needs to be replaced.
Safety note: If you see scorch marks or the outlet is buzzing/sizzling, do not try to repair it yourself. Call an electrician.
Shut Off Power and Remove Old Outlet
Once you've diagnosed the issue, turn off power at the breaker and double check it's off. Then:
- Unscrew the outlet cover plate and remove it.
- Unscrew the outlet from the electrical box and carefully pull it out.
- Inspect the outlet box for any signs of moisture or damage.
If the electrical box itself is damaged, it will also need to be replaced.
Replace Outlet or Repair Connections
Here are a few common repairs:
- Loose connections - Tighten all screw terminals. Replace outlet if corrosion is present.
- Faulty GFCI - Replace the entire GFCI outlet. Test reset button after replacing.
- Moisture damage - Apply dielectric grease to wire connections to prevent future corrosion.
Make sure all wire connections are tight and secure before installing the new outlet.
Install New Outlet
To install the new outdoor outlet:
- Connect wires - Match wire colors. Connect neutral (white) to silver screw, hot (black) to brass screw, and ground (green) to green screw.
- Position in box - Carefully push outlet into box keeping wires in back. Wires should not be pinched.
- Screw in place - Tighten outlet screws to secure to box. Do not overtighten.
- Weatherproof - If outlet is not a GFCI, install a weatherproof cover plate. Use silicone caulk around the plate.
Restore Power and Test
With the new outlet installed:
- Turn power back on at the circuit breaker.
- Plug in a light or tester appliance and check that the outlet is now working properly.
- If it's a GFCI outlet, press the "Test" button then "Reset" to confirm proper operation.
Be sure to test the outlet regularly to make sure it stays functional. Contact an electrician if you have any doubts about completing the repair safely. With the right precautions, inspecting and replacing a faulty outdoor electrical outlet is a job a handy homeowner can certainly handle.