What's wrong with this outlet?

20 Replies

One of the outlets in one of my units looks like this... as you can see, the thing that should be on the front where you can plug in is missing... does this look broken or is there something I can buy at home depot to put on the front before I install a cover plate?  I could obviously use some help with terminology here... thanks folks

The plastic broke off the front. You have to replace the entire outlet. Very easy fix and cost less than $1. If you're unsure hire an electrician, but it should be easy to follow a youtube video. 

@Patrick M. That is an extremely dangerous condition; please be very careful. The outlet needs to be replaced.  It's not  hard to do but I think you should hire someone to do it, based on your lack of electrical knowledge. 

@Eric Schafer Good receptacles cost more than $1.00 and are worth it.  Electrical is no place to skimp!

Duly noted.  I think I will opt for an electrical contractor on this one.  I need some other small electrical work done anyways so I'll throw this in with it.  Art, would you recommend just putting a solid outlet cover over it (like this one: http://cdn.mscdirect.com/global/images/ProductImages/0118955-11.jpg) until I'm able to get a contractor to come out?  If I do this, any type of material I should opt for or avoid?  

Art, a 15 amp receptacle is 68 cents. A 20 amp receptacle is $1.28. I apologize for under pricing it. If it's a GFCI sure, but that outlet is not. I've never had one of these outlets fail and have used hundreds of them. I'm not sure why he would need to spend more. 

Get it fixed right away.  Outlets likes this often break when people unplug things by tugging the cord instead of removing it at the outlet.  Do you know how old the wiring is in the house? The outlet is still "live" so don't cover it over.  Is it a grounded outlet (3 prung plug) or ungrounded (old houses and you will just see 2 slots for the plug without the ground under it)  You can try to handle this yourself.  Go to lowes and get electrical current sensor....prob $10 and a replacement outlet.  You need to know whether you have copper or aluminum wiring.  Find out what circuit it is on.  Don't just go by the labels in the circuit panel as they are quite often mislabeled.  Plug a radio on the room and turn is on....then turn the breakers off one at time until the radio shuts off.  Use the sensor you bought to test the wires on the broken outlet..it will buzz and/or light if it senses current in the wiring.  No current...you're good to remove the outlet.  Take a picture of it with your smartphone.  It may be feeding another outlet....if so there will be 2 sets of wires.....if it's end of run, there will be just one set.  

Carefully unscrew the outlet from the box and gently pull it out from the wall straight towards you.  Remove the wires feeding the old outlet, tap or cap the ends and bend each wire back against the wall, left or right, high or low, in the same placement they had in the old oulet.  There should be a separate ground wire as well.  In older homes, you won't have a ground and you cYou can also label them with stickers noting their original location.  Take the old outlet with you to Lowes.  Always by the more expensive basic outlet....usually $5 or so and an unreakable mid-sized outlet plate to match.  Pretty basic repair that most landlords can handle themselves.  Pick up a plug in polarity sensor so you can test the new outlet to make sure you have installed it properly.  If the old outlet was an older ungrounded one....you can install a GFI outlet instead.

It makes sense for most landlords to get comfortable with basic electrical repairs and plumbing....most of it is common sense.  There are also a ton of self-help books you can check at lowes or home depot....plus places online like youtube.  Luck!

Originally posted by @Patrick M. :

Duly noted.  I think I will opt for an electrical contractor on this one.  I need some other small electrical work done anyways so I'll throw this in with it.  Art, would you recommend just putting a solid outlet cover over it (like this one: http://cdn.mscdirect.com/global/images/ProductImag...) until I'm able to get a contractor to come out?  If I do this, any type of material I should opt for or avoid?  

 No, I wouldn't suggest you attempt to cover it because you'd have to touch it and it's very dangerous. I'd shut off the breaker to that room and stay away from it til your electrician fixes it. 

I'm so glad you're not at attempting to fix it yourself; you're very wise!  

Originally posted by @Eric Schafer :

Art, a 15 amp receptacle is 68 cents. A 20 amp receptacle is $1.28. I apologize for under pricing it. If it's a GFCI sure, but that outlet is not. I've never had one of these outlets fail and have used hundreds of them. I'm not sure why he would need to spend more. 

 There is a very real difference in quality between a .68¢ receptacle and a heavier duty one. Hold one of each in your hand; you can easily tell the difference. The cheap ones are cheaply made and flimsy.  We're only talking about $3 or $4 difference; why skimp?  

Electricity can be dangerous. There is a big difference in quality between a 1.00 outlet and a 5-6.00 outlet. I would not be cheap when it comes to this. If you do not know where the breaker is and do not have a actual meter to test it I would advise you to hire this out.

Just because you have the power off on the hot does not mean you are not Sharing the neutral with another breaker and could potentially shock you also if you have more then one white( neutral ) on the outlet.

I am a electrician and have seen my share do's and don't's

Oh and ALWAYS treat the wires like the are hot. And never rely on any cheap meter or sensor. Always buy good stuff. Fluke, Greenlee , or Ideal. Test all meters in a live outlet before you check the one you are working on.

Thank you all, as always, for all of the helpful information.  I am definitely leaving this to a pro and hiring an electrician haha.  Not enough time for this.  Thanks again

+1 that there is a big difference in quality between a sub-$1 outlet and the $3-4 ones. Not worth having to come back to fix it to save $2. Get the right product the first time and you'll save in the long run.

Disclaimer: I am not a professional electrician.  I am also new to investing, so I haven't seen all the mayhem a tenant can wreak.  :)

I always put "specification grade" receptacles in my own house, when I replace the original receptacles.  Usually they are the first step up from the really cheap receptacles, and cost about $1.30 to $1.50 or so.  These will always have the words "SPEC GRADE" stamped into the metal mounting strap somewhere - take one out of the box at the store and look!

There are some fancier specification grade receptacles made out of different plastic for another buck or two, that may be worth it for a rental property.  Sometimes you will find "isolated ground" receptacles (either all orange, or with an orange triangle on the outlet face) or "hospital grade" receptacles (with a green dot on the outlet face) for vast amounts of money.  You probably don't need hospital grade, and if you don't know what "isolated ground" means or why you would want it, don't buy one.

If you know you will be replacing a lot of receptacles of the same color, most home improvement stores have 10-packs with better pricing.

I would definitely hire a professional electrician to take care of this, especially on a rental. The stakes are just too high to do it yourself without proper experience.  

omg you wussies. It's an outlet. Open the breaker, take the old one out and put the new one in, same places for the wires. Shut breaker. Done. 5 minutes. A frickin electrician will charge $95 just to show up. You guys amaze me. 

Originally posted by @Marc M. :

+1 that there is a big difference in quality between a sub-$1 outlet and the $3-4 ones. Not worth having to come back to fix it to save $2. Get the right product the first time and you'll save in the long run.

 I second this; I've seen too many people think they could play electrician, skimp out on materials and cause serious damage.

I'm an industrial electrical and I'd suggest that everyone go out and buy a quality voltage tester, even if you have no intentions of working on electricity yourself it's a quick and easy way to test if voltage is present. I use this guy everyday: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Milwaukee-Non-Contact-V...

Safety tip: It's not the voltage that kills, it's the amperage! It only takes around 1/10th of an amp to kill a human. Most home circuits are rated to trip at 15amps....

What ever you do... dont back stab the wires.  I 'used' to change these hot,,but nobody ever accused me of being too smart.  Its an easy thing to learn.  Plug a drill or saw into it carefully and trip breakers till it quits.  If no one ever learned new d-i-y tricks it would be a dull world!!!

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