CMC’s DIY Electrical Guide: How to Fix a Dead Outlet

CMC Electrical Guide

Fixing a dead outlet is one electrical job a homeowner can do without a professional technician. While it doesn’t involve a lot of complex work, it’s still important to learn the step-by-step actions to take. Here, we’ll walk you through how to troubleshoot the outlet, fix it, and navigate a few basics.

Troubleshooting a Dead Outlet

Most of the time, a dead outlet is a localized issue. The outlet can go dead without there being a larger-scale electrical issue. First, look for a simple solution such as a tripped circuit breaker or GFCI outlet. If that’s the case, simply reset it and turn on anything plugged into that outlet. You can also:

  • Plug something else into the outlet to see whether it works.
  • Test other outlets to see if the problem is more extensive.
  • If the breaker tripped, unplug something to prevent overloading.
  • Push the reset button on a GFCI.
  • Check for loose wire connections and terminal screws.

When checking for loose connections or bad wires, turn off the breaker serving the outlet and remove the faceplate using screwdriver to remove the screws holding it. If you can verify there are no wiring or connection problems, good. If not, you’ll need to call an electrician.

Fixing an Electrical Outlet

A standard, non-GFCI outlet is simple and has no moving parts. If you have a dead outlet, the problem is usually localized. A permit isn’t required to work on electrical outlets in most locations. But there are safety considerations. To work on an outlet, you must make sure the circuit breaker is turned off, and test the outlet with a voltage tester to ensure no current is running through it.

The best solution is usually to replace the outlet with a 15 amp, 20 amp, or GFCI model. Depending on the model, you’ll need a flat head or Phillips head screwdriver, a voltage tester, or GFCI tester. Proceed with the following steps if you’ve isolated the problem to a single outlet.

  1. Remove the faceplate of the non-working outlet.
  2. Check the wires, connections, and screw terminals for damage, corrosion, burns, or wear.
  3. Bend each wire at the screw terminal or stab-in connection to see whether it is loose.

Steps to Replacing a Dead Outlet:

  1. Disconnect and remove the old outlet.
  2. Bend a loop in the ends of the hot, neutral, and ground wires.
  3. Connect the wires; the hot black wire connects to the brass screw, while the neutral white wire connects to the silver screw. The ground wire connects to the green screw.
  4. All wires should be looped clockwise around their respective screws.
  5. If the outlet has pairs of hot and neutral wires, connect pairs of like-colored wires along with a pigtail wire under one connector. This neutral wire is about six inches long.
  6. Reinstall the wire connector, ensuring wire ends are lined up (the connector’s package label should say how many wires it is rated for).
  7. Turn on the circuit breaker and test the outlet.
  8. Reinstall the faceplate if successful.

If the outlet still doesn’t have any power, it works intermittently, or there are other issues preventing it from working normally, call an electrician. There could be a problem elsewhere in your electrical system that would be dangerous to attempt a DIY fix on.

Contact CMC Service Experts

Our licensed technicians are trained and experienced in fixing electrical outlets, receptacles, switches, and receptacles in Raleigh, Durham, Clayton, Fayetteville, and Chapel Hill homes. We can repair or replace your outlets, or provide upgrades such as GFCIs. If you have issues such as old, faulty devices, overloading, arc faults, a damaged outlet, or unsecured wiring, call us at 919-804-1645 for same-day service. Also, feel free to use our online booking system to schedule service