Over the many years, I've been an electrician, I've seen my share of bad electrical connections. Some are caused by faulty wire nuts or a loose wire crimp connection, some without fault to the one that installed them. I've seen some defective materials that have caused these problems, but there are also plenty of the connection faults caused by the person making the connection, often the homeowner.
Electrical connection problems are often loose connections that can and sometimes do cause electrical fires in homes. Sometimes the wire connections are perfectly fine but the terminals on the device are loose and have not been tightened properly. This causes the same problem and is dangerous if not addressed immediately.
Other connection problems stem from loose connections under circuit breaker terminals. When making connections to circuit breakers, be sure to strip the proper amount of wire insulation from the wire and make sure that only the bare wire is placed under the terminal slot before tightening. Insulation under the connection slot is a no no.
Lastly, check all of the neutral wire connections in the electrical service panel. The neutral wires connect on the neutral buss bar within the panel and can have the same issues as the "hot" wires I mentioned above. Be sure the sire is stripped sufficient and placed correctly within the neutral bar slots. Be sure the connection are good and tight. Test this by trying to pull the wire out after making the connection.
Here is a list of common wire connection problems and the solutions to fix them. As you do more home do-it-yourself electrical projects, don’t be surprised when you run across a host of these common problems. I’m here to right the wrongs and help you correct the flaws in your home’s electrical wire connections.
Each fix should take you less than an hour.
The Problem: Electric Wire Joined with Electrical Tape
Here’s a classic wire connection that makes my stomach turn when I see it. I cannot believe a number of times I’ve encountered electrical wire joined with electrical tape and no wire nut to hold them firmly together. It’s one thing to have them twisted together and taped, although still wrong, but quite another to have them untwisted and taped. It’s a potential fire hazard indeed!
How to Fix
Turn off the power to the circuit, remove the tape, clean the wires, twist the wires together, and twist a wire nut over the wires. If the wire ends are damaged and the wires are long enough to leave 6 inches of wire in the box, cut off and strip the wires to make a clean and effective splice. Twist the wires together and add a wire nut to secure the connection.
The Problem: Two or More Wires Under One Screw
The wires that attach to a receptacle screw terminal have two or more wires under one screw. You may also have one wire under each of the two screws on each side of the receptacle.
How to Fix
What we’re looking to do is turn off the power to the circuit, remove the two black wires, twist them together, add a third wire called a pigtail, twist them together with a wire nut, and connect the pigtail wire to the hot terminal screw on the receptacle. Do the same for the two white wires by adding a 6-inch white wire to the two white wires, twist them together with a wire nut, and connect the pigtail wire to the neutral terminal screw on the receptacle for a secure connection.
Exposed Wire That Can Short Out
The wire that attaches to the receptacle terminal isn’t wrapped around the screw clockwise, it is stripped back too far and exposes bare wire that can short out, the insulation isn’t stripped far enough and the screw is tightened down on the wire insulation that makes for a poor connection.
How to Fix
Strip back about of insulation from the wire, bend the bare wire in a half-moon shape, and wrap it clockwise around the terminal. Make sure that only the bare copper wire is under the terminal screw. Now, tighten the screw for a secure connection.
What You Need to Perform the Fixes
- Wire Strippers
- Screw Drivers
- Razor Knife
- Wire Nuts
- Safety Glasses
- A Length of Electrical Wire