Problem: Outlet won’t work,
sparks, does not receive prongs on plug, or does not grip
Background: Most homeowners should not have any problem
replacing a common-wall electrical receptacle (sometimes
called a “duplex” receptacle) if safety precautions are
taken and the new receptacle is the same as the one
replaced. The receptacle may also be the 3-hole type in
stalled where heavy appliances and tools are used, a
protected outlet with a spring-loaded cover that springs
back over the openings, or it may be a receptacle-switch
combination. Older receptacles with 2 slots can be updated
to 3-prong types if grounding can be provided; if not,
call an electrician for advice.
What to do: The procedure of re placing a
receptacle is similar to that of replacing a light switch.
Make certain the power is off, then remove the cover
plate. Pull the old receptacle out and note the position
of the wires. Unscrew the terminals so the wires can be
removed, then install in the same way on the new
receptacle. Hook the wire loops so they are clockwise
under the terminals on the new receptacle. Reinstall the
receptacle in the electrical box, turn on the power and
test to see if it is working.
Special advice: Newer polarized outlets have one
wide slot and one narrow slot to accept the wide and
narrow slots of polarized plugs. The National Electrical
Code requires home wiring to be identifiable by color
code. Neutral wires are white; live wires are colored,
Polarized outlets and plugs continue this identification,
assuring that the live wire is connected to the incoming
side of the switch in an appliance. The wide slot is
connected to the neutral (white) wire in the sys tem. In
polarized lamp and appliance leads and extension cords,
the neutral (white) wire may be ribbed for identification.
Non-polarized, 2- wire plugs can be used with a polarized
outlet, though the polarization continuity will not be
Helpful hint: Note
that all grounding (3-wire) plugs are polarized since the
position of the prongs is determined by the third prong.
To double-check a new receptacle, you can buy an
inexpensive circuit tester. It will indicate if ground,
neutral, or hot wires are properly connected, and whether
the hot and ground wires are reversed, or whether the hot
and neutral wires are reversed. They are usually avail
able where electrical parts are sold.