How to Use a 4 Prong Dryer Cord With a 3 Prong Outlet

Coleman dryer chord

Photo from Amazon

When moving a newer dryer into an older house, one common problem is that the dryer has a 4 prong plug yet the outlet is the older type that accepts only plugs with 3 prongs.

Can you convert? If so, how do you convert it by yourself?

Luckily, you do not need to replace your dryer. Instead, you have two options, each of which costs less than $20 and requires only a screwdriver.

Option A. Convert Outlet From 3 Prong Into 4 Prong

One option is to convert the 3 prong outlet into a more modern 4 prong outlet that is up to code.

In terms of permitting and code, this is not absolutely necessary. Your 3 prong outlet will be grandfathered in.

Option B. Convert Dryer Cord From 4 Prong Into 3 Prong

The second option is easier: convert the dryer cord so that its plug is 3 prong. That way, it will fit into your 3 prong outlet.

You may be heartened to learn that the electrical wiring part of this project is simple. The hardest part is something that is only partially "electrical": re-attaching the restraint collar to the dryer.

How to Make the Switch

1. Get Your Materials and Tools Together

  • Cord: You need a 10/3 cord specifically labeled as a dryer cord. The "10" refers to the wire gauge, and the 3 refers to the number of individual wires within the cord.
  • Manual Phillips Screwdriver
  • Coleman 4-Foot 30-Amp 3-Wire Dryer Power Cord

2. Be Safe About Circuit Breakers and Electricity

Locate your home's service panel and shut off the circuit breaker controlling the dryer outlet. Note that dryer outlets run from a double-wide circuit breaker, not single. Ensure that power is off with a voltage tester.

Why do this if you are not working on the outlet? With electrical--especially the higher, potentially lethal voltages associated with dryers--it is advised to exercise an abundance of caution.

3. Remove Dryer Safety Plate

On the dryer, remove the safety plate with your screwdriver. This is usually attached only by 1 or 2 screws.

4. Remove Dryer Cord

Still on the dryer, remove old cord and restraint with a hand or cordless drill.

It is easy to strip these soft screws with the cordless drill. Since they are short enough and loose enough to be unscrewed by hand, this is recommended. The restraint is the collar that fits tightly around the cord to hold it firm to the dryer.

5. Center Wire of New Cord

Connect the center wire of the 10/3 cord to the center silver terminal. Screw in firmly but not so tight as to strip it.

6. Addressing Those Other Two Wires

Now you have two wires remaining to be attached to either of the two terminals beside the silver terminal. It does not matter which wire goes on which terminal, as both wires are hot. Screw in firmly.

7. Attach Restraint Collar

The hardest part is always the restraint collar.

From the outside of the dryer, you need to slide the tab end of one of the collar halves into the 10/3 cord wire hole. Do the same with the other half of the collar, except on the other side of the hold.

The two screws will, theoretically, easily draw the two halves together to tighten against the cord. However, the two halves of the collar never seem to be parallel, and it takes quite a bit of effort to get the screws to catch.

As long as even the tips of the screws have "caught," you are good to go: turn the screws and they will slowly draw the halves together, even if the halves are not really parallel.

8. Replace Safety Place

With your manual screwdriver, turn in the screws that hold the safety plate to the dryer.

Of Special Note

To avoid the possibility of shock, you must ground the dryer. Return the frame ground strap to the center terminal post (neutral). When a 4 conductor cord is used, the frame ground has been located to its own dedicated terminal.