How to Fix That One Weird Outlet in Your House That Never Works Right

Having an outlet that doesn't work properly can be extremely frustrating. But there are a few steps you can take to troubleshoot and hopefully fix that flaky outlet in your house.

Inspect the Outlet

First, I'll turn off the circuit breaker for that outlet so I can safely inspect it. I'll remove the cover plate and examine the outlet for any obvious problems like:

Check Connections

Next, I'll check where the wires connect to the outlet and make sure the connections are tight. I'll also check the wire connectors, as loose wire nuts can cause intermittent connections.

I'll re-wrap any exposed wires with electrical tape to prevent shorts. If the wires look really worn or have lost insulation, I may need to trim back the ends and re-connect them.

Test with a Multimeter

To further diagnose, I'll unplug the outlet and use a multimeter to test it. I'll check for power on each socket and verify continuity from one side to the other.

If the outlet is controlled by a wall switch, I'll flip the switch on and off while testing to see if there's an open connection in the switch box.

Check for Backstab Connections

Some outlets have backstab connections where you push the wire into a hole in the back of the outlet. These are notorious for coming loose over time.

If my outlet has backstabs, I'll switch the wires over to the screw terminals which provide a more secure connection.

Replace the Outlet

If I couldn't find any specific issue after inspecting the outlet and checking the connections, the outlet itself may just be worn out. Outlets do wear out over time.

Replacing the outlet with a new one is an easy fix in that case. I'll just turn off the power, remove the old outlet, disconnect the wires, connect them to the new outlet, screw it into place, and turn the power back on.


Here are a few tips to keep in mind when troubleshooting my faulty outlet:

With a little diligent inspection, testing, and maintenance, hopefully I can get that pesky outlet working properly again. But if it still won't cooperate after that, it may simply need to be replaced.