How to Replace a Worn-Out Electrical Outlet – Part 2

How to Replace a Worn-Out Electrical Outlet by backwiring the new heavy duty outlet. This project is continued from How to Replace a Worn-Out Electrical Outlet – Part 1.

Leviton Heavy Duty Electrical Outlet

Having removed the worn out electrical outlet, I’ll replace it with a Leviton 5252-W Heavy Duty Electrical Outlet rated for 15AMPs and 125 volts for this high-use bathroom vanity location. The heavy duty outlet costs $5.44 versus 59 cents for the residential grade outlet. You get what you pay for in terms of quality and durability.

Leviton 5252-W Heavy Duty Electrical Outlet

Leviton 5252-W Heavy Duty Electrical Outlet

The following diagram explains the terminals and connections of an electrical outlet. I’m showing the Leviton 5320-WCP residential grade outlet because the side screw terminals are easier to see versus the heavy duty outlet above; however both outlets have the same configuration.

Electrical Outlet Terminals Diagram

There is no “up” or “down” to an electrical outlet and it can be installed in the “face” orientation as shown above or rotated 180 degrees. I recommend sticking with the orientation used in your home for consistency.

Backwiring an Electrical Outlet

The new Leviton 5252 outlet will be backwired using the screw-and-clamp system of the heavy duty outlet. Backwiring is faster than sidewiring and just as secure with the screw-and-clamp system of the heavy duty outlet. To backwire the outlet, the 12 gauge wires are stripped to the length as measured by the strip gauge embossed on the back of the outlet.

Electrical Outlet Backwire Strip Gauge

Electrical Outlet Backwire Strip Gauge

Here’s a closeup of the backwire method. The wire is inserted into the hole and captured by the silver colored clamp as the side screw is tightened. The clamp face is serrated for extra holding power and the wire will not rotate.

Leviton 5252 Heavy Duty Electrical Outlet Backwire

Leviton 5252 Heavy Duty Electrical Outlet Backwire

I like to wire the ground first for safety and convenience. The ground wire is looped around the green ground screw and the screw is tightened.

Electrical Outlet Ground Wiring Connection

Electrical Outlet Ground Wiring Connection

The hot (black) wires are inserted on the side with the brass colored screws and the screws tightened to clamp the wire in place. The white (neutral) wires are inserted on the side with the silver colors screws and secured. In a middle-of-the-run series wired configuration such as this, the current flows across the metal tab (red arrow) between the terminals to reach the downstream outlets. A problem with the outlet could affect all downstream outlets.

Electrical Outlet Backwiring in Series (Middle of the Run)

Electrical Outlet Backwiring in Series (Middle of the Run)

The backwired outlet is ready for mounting in the electrical box.

Backwired Outlet Ready for Mounting in the Wall Box

Backwired Outlet Ready for Mounting in the Wall Box

At this point all that’s left to do is gently fold the wires inside the wall box, fasten the two mounting screws and replace the outlet cover plate.

This project is continued in How to Replace a Worn-Out Electrical Outlet – Part 3.

Take care,

Bob Jackson

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2 Responses to How to Replace a Worn-Out Electrical Outlet – Part 2

  1. David Voglozin August 25, 2012 at 1:44 am #

    Hello Bob,

    How great your articles are!

    I ran into the problem of a middle-of-run series as follows:
    1) the broken outlet is associated with four downstream outlets. Everything else is working perfectly in the house
    2) I ran into your solution to the problem, and I bought a 5252 outlet. I first wanted to make the connection as if was before, i.e., in series. While connecting the wires to it, I noticed that the ground wire was separated from its base. To fix this, I bought 10 pack Tyco Electronics AMP Butt Splices from home depot to crimp the two ends together, but this seems a very short-lived fix; the two ends got separated again when I was installing the other 4 wires in the outlet.
    3) But the more serious problems I still have are:
    a) when I insert the energized black wire and a white one, I can detect about 110 V. Why 110, while it is 120 everywhere, even on the plugs that are on the same breaker as this outlet?

    b) once I connect the other pair of wires, there is no more power; this means that there is a broken lead somewhere, using your jargon, right? Where are the leads? And how do I know which one is causing the problem? Do I need an electrician to find and replace it for me?

    I’ll greatly appreciate your wise input in this.

    David Voglozin, Bethesda, Maryland

    • Bob Jackson August 25, 2012 at 10:30 am #

      Hi David,
      I’m pleased you found my website helpful.

      > While connecting the wires to it, I noticed that the ground wire was
      > separated from its base. To fix this, I bought 10 pack Tyco Electronics
      > AMP Butt Splices from home depot to crimp the two ends together…

      I don’t recommend butt splice connectors for NM-B house wiring because:
      * I’ve never seen butt connectors used inside an outlet box.
      * As you discovered, butt connectors can come loose if not crimped with the
      correct tool and requires some skill to do it correctly.
      * A butt connector takes up too much space lengthwise.

      In my opinion, a pigtail connection fastened with a wire nut is the best approach. Secure, compact, removable and easy to install.

      If a pigtail connection is too difficult due to the too-short broken ground wire, you could try a copper crimp connector sleeve. Home Depot sells the Gardner Bender 14 – 8 AWG Copper Crimp Connectors, Model # 10-311C, Store SKU # 307975 for about $7 for a 50 pack. You must use the correct crimp connector tool.

      You can see such a copper crimp connector sleeve on the ground wires in my electrical outlet in this photo. The crimp connector is that white rectangular shaped cap in the center of the photo – it’s been painted white during the home construction after the electrical wiring rough-in, otherwise it and the ground wires would be copper colored.

      Take care that crimp connector sleeves must only be used on the ground wires where electrical insulation is not required. Never use crimp connectors on the black/hot or white/neutral wires.

      > a) when I insert the energized black wire and a white one, I can detect
      > about 110 V. Why 110, while it is 120 everywhere, even on the plugs that
      > are on the same breaker as this outlet?
      After shutting off the electricity at the electrical panel, try scraping the oxidation off the ends of the black/hot and white/neutral wires so the copper ends are nice and shiny. A utility knife blade does a nice job scraping the wires. The oxidation can increase the resistance causing a slight drop in voltage. I assume you’re backwiring the outlet? Check that the wire is stripped to the correct length and properly set under the clamp inside the outlet.

      > b) once I connect the other pair of wires, there is no more power; this means that there is a
      > broken lead somewhere, using your jargon, right? Where are the leads? And how do I know which
      > one is causing the problem? Do I need an electrician to find and replace it for me?
      This is a major concern. Have you verified the outlet is wired correctly with a receptacle tester?

      When your electrical outlet is wired and exposed as shown in this photo, what are your voltage readings on the side terminals? Be extra careful not to touch the exposed wires to avoid electrical shock.

      If you have 120 or 110 volts on the side terminals but no power in the downstream outlets, you may have a broken wire on the downstream side of the circuit. Most likely that broken wire is the 6 inch lead section between the outlet and the electrical box entry. The wire may have broken as it was folded and unfolded from the wall box. Do you see any sharp kinks in the hot or neutral wire leads coming out of the electrical box that may be suspect for a broken wire? Does moving the outlet to stretch or compress the wire leads result in a voltage reading in the downstream outlets? Again, be careful not to touch the exposed terminals to avoid electrical shock.

      You can positively identify which wire run has a break by checking for continuity:
      * Shut off the electricity
      * Remove the upstream electrical receptacle in question and disconnect all the wires
      * Remove the first downstream receptacle in series and disconnect all of its wires.
      * Double check there is zero voltage on all the wires!
      * Temporarily nut together the hot and ground wire at the downstream outlet.
      The purpose of this is to create a loop back to the broken outlet box.
      No need to twist the wire ends together before nutting as this is temporary.
      * Set your multimeter tester to the continuity test function.
      * Attach one alligator clip to the hot/black wire and the other to the ground wire.
      * Check for continuity between the hot and ground wires at the upstream outlet
      with your multimeter.
      Got continuity – i.e. audible tone and very low resistance in Ohms? Good. Wiggle the wire leads to see if anything changes. No change in continuity? Then the black/hot wire lead is not broken.
      * Next, go back to the downstream outlet and disconnect the hot and ground wires.
      * Temporarily nut together the neutral and ground wires at the downstream outlet.
      * Attach the multimeter alligator clips to the neutral/white and ground wires at the upstream outlet.
      * Got continuity? No? Then the white/neutral wire lead is broken. Wiggle the wire lead to see if you get an intermittent continuity tone.

      Once you’ve figured out which wire lead is broken in the upstream outlet, examine the wire to see where the break may might be – probably at a kink or sharp bend. Feel along the wire for a bump under the insulation where the wire might be broken. When you think you’ve found the break, strip off the insulation down to the to break. The wire should just fall off at the break. Hopefully, you’ve got enough wire left for a pigtail repair.

      Let me know what you find.

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