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How To Troubleshoot A Nonworking Outlet

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One of the joys of modern electricity is the simple ability to plug an electrical device into the nearest outlet. That's why it can be both surprising and frustrating when an outlet suddenly stops working. This guide can help you troubleshoot the outlet so you can get it working again.

Check for Other Outages

Take a few moments to check other outlets and light switches nearby to see if they are working properly. Chances are if other outlets aren't working, you are dealing with a breaker box issue. Keep in mind that multiple breakers may cover a single room or section of the house, so some outlets in a room may work while others don't.

Open the Box

Shut down all electrical items in the house and then open up the electrical panel, or fuse box. A quick scan can often reveal one switch that isn't aligned with the rest. Turn it to the off position, and then switch it fully to on. If all the breakers look okay, you should still try switching off those that control the room with the outage and then turning them back on. If the breaker instantly trips again, turn it off and leave it off until you can get a skilled electrician to look at it. Immediate tripping can indicate a dangerous short circuit somewhere in your wiring.

Look For Nearby Causes

If the problem wasn't in the breaker box, it may be in one of the nearby outlets. Are there any outlets labeled as "GFCI," or those with the test and reset buttons built in, in your home? Try testing and resetting these outlets. Sometimes other outlets are wired into these outlets by electricians. If they become overloaded and trip, all the other outlets in the house that are wired to them will also stop working until they are reset.

Rewire the Outlet

Connections in the outlet sometimes come loose. Turn off the electricity to the outlet at the breaker box before you begin work. Remove the outlet cover and unscrew the problem outlet so you can clearly see where the wires enter into the back. Make sure every wire is in contact with the connections on the back of the outlet, and tighten any that are loose. Most are held in place with screws that you can tighten with a flathead screwdriver. Reinstall the outlet, flip the breaker back on, and test the outlet.

It may be time to call an electrician if testing and resetting the breakers and checking outlet wiring didn't solve the problem. There could be loose wiring in the breaker box or in the wires that feed the problem outlet. Speak to a local electrician or click here for more info.