Having an outlet that doesn't seem to work can be frustrating. You plug something in and it just doesn't turn on or charge. But with a few simple tools and some basic knowledge, you can probably fix that troublesome outlet yourself.

Identifying the Problem

The first step is to figure out exactly what the problem is. Here are some things to check:

Loose Connection

Over time, vibrations and plugging/unplugging can cause wires to become loose inside the outlet. This interruption in the flow of electricity will cause the outlet to not work properly.

To check for a loose connection:

Faulty GFCI Outlet

If the outlet has a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) button on it, this safety device may have tripped. When tripped, it cuts power to the outlet to prevent shocks.

To check a GFCI outlet:

Worn Out Outlet

Outlets do wear out over time. The electrical contacts inside get bent or corroded, interrupting the flow of electricity.

Signs of a worn out outlet:

Tripped Breaker

It's possible the circuit breaker powering the outlet has partially tripped, cutting power while not fully flipping to the "off" position.

To check the breaker:

Replacing the Outlet

If you've determined that the outlet itself is faulty, replacing it is an easy DIY fix.

What You Need

Steps to Replace Outlet

  1. Turn off power to the outlet at the breaker box. Double check it's off with a voltage tester.

  2. Remove cover plate screws and set aside.

  3. Disconnect wires from the outlet. There will be 2 or more wires attached to side or back.

  4. Carefully pull outlet out from the electrical box while not stressing the connected wires too much.

  5. Detach wires from old outlet using needle nose pliers. Take note of where each wire was connected.

  6. Connect wires to the same terminals on the new outlet. Screw them securely in place.

  7. Position new outlet back into the electrical box being careful not to pinch wires.

  8. Screw outlet firmly into place through front mounting holes.

  9. Replace cover plate and screws.

  10. Restore power at the breaker box and test outlet.

And that's it! With a basic outlet replacement, you can often get that troubling outlet working again. Just be sure to always turn off power first and double check with a voltage tester anytime you work on electrical.

When to Call an Electrician

While many outlet issues are DIY fixable, there are times you may need to call a professional electrician:

Safety should always be the #1 priority when dealing with electrical problems. If the issue is beyond your skill level, don't take risks and have an expert handle it.


That one outlet driving you crazy doesn't have to stay that way. In many cases, you can troubleshoot the problem and fix it yourself in under an hour. Just make safety the top priority, take time to correctly diagnose the issue, and be prepared to call an electrician for complex electrical matters. With a few tools and some basic DIY knowledge, you'll be able to say goodbye to that troubling outlet for good.