How to Fix That One Weird Outlet in Your Home That Doesn't Work Right

Having an outlet in your home that doesn't seem to work right can be frustrating. However, in many cases, fixing that one problematic outlet is an easy DIY project. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to diagnose and repair a faulty outlet.

Steps to Troubleshoot and Fix the Outlet

1. Turn off the power

The first step is to turn off the power to the outlet at the breaker box. Locate the correct circuit breaker and switch it to the "off" position. Verify the power is off by plugging in a lamp or tester. Safety should always come first when doing any electrical work.

2. Remove the outlet cover

Use a screwdriver to remove the screws holding the outlet cover in place. Carefully remove the cover so you can access the outlet wiring.

3. Inspect the wiring

Check the outlet wiring for any loose, damaged or burnt wires. Use a flashlight to illuminate the inside of the electrical box. Loose connections or damaged wires can cause outlets not to work properly. If wiring damage is extensive, you may need to consult an electrician.

4. Check for loose wire connections

Use a screwdriver to tighten any loose wire connections on the outlet. Loose connections between wires often cause erratic outlet function. Make sure hot and neutral wires are securely attached to proper outlet terminals.

5. Test the outlet

Carefully replace the outlet cover and turn power back on at the breaker box. Plug in a lamp and test the outlet. If the outlet still does not work properly, continue to the next steps.

6. Replace the outlet

The outlet itself may be faulty. Turn power off again at the breaker box. Remove the outlet wires one at a time and attach them to the matching terminals on a new outlet. Secure the new outlet in the electrical box, replace the cover and test.

7. Check upstream outlets

If replacing the outlet does not resolve the issue, the problem may be with another outlet, or the wiring between them. Turn power off and systematically inspect and test each outlet that is on the same circuit until you isolate the problem.

8. Call an electrician

Some outlet wiring problems can be complex and dangerous to DIYers. If you cannot determine the cause of the issue after methodically testing the outlet and circuit, contact a licensed electrician. Describing to them the steps you took can help them pinpoint the problem area.

Helpful Tips for Diagnosing and Fixing Faulty Outlets

With proper precautions, testing and attention to safety, repairing a single troublesome outlet is usually a DIY project homeowners can tackle. However, anytime you are unsure about electrical issues, consult a professional electrician.