How To Fix a Loose Electrical Outlet

Electrical outlets are used every day, sometimes many times a day. It’s for this reason that it’s easy to forget how dangerous they can be. Let’s face it: sometimes, the only thing that separates a homeowner from dangerous, electrical currents is a thin plastic plate. When outlets are loose, they must be fixed immediately. Loose outlets can expose a homeowner and their family to voltage, sparks, and other hazards.

Outlets become loose in two ways: the entire face loosens, or the receptacle is so loose that the plugs fall out of them. There are different reasons for these problems, and these require different solutions. This article is designed to show homeowners how to fix these problems. Homeowners can also learn how an outlet gets loose, why it’s a problem, and how to fix it.

How an Outlet Gets Loose

In nearly all cases, an outlet becomes loose when attached to an electrical box installed too far back in a wall. Electrical boxes installed too far behind a wall aren’t secure, which severely affects how stable the entire fixture is. When a box is unstable, wires can be bumped and jostled, which can create significant problems. Wires that are loose, disconnected, or damaged can cause shocks or sparks, which cause fires and other electrical hazards. It is essential not to ignore loose outlets.

How to Fix a Loose Outlet

All you need to fix a loose outlet are shims (spacers), a regular screwdriver, and a circuit tester. Once these are gathered, you are ready to fix an outlet.

  1. First, go to your breaker box and turn off the power to that outlet or room. If you want to feel really safe, turn off the power to the entire house. If you decide to turn off the power to the whole house, it’s good to have a flashlight with you.
  2. Use the circuit tester to make sure power to the outlet is off. Do not proceed any further until you have confirmed this.
  3. Once the face plate is removed from the outlet, the problem can usually determined. Sometimes, all that needs to be done is to tighten the screws into the box. If not, unscrew the outlet from the wall and pull it out.
  4. Put the outlet shims on the screws between the outlet and the electrical box. These shims are designed to compensate for space and provide a cushion between the outlet and the box.
  5. Screw the outlet back into the box. Now check to see if the outlet is still loose. If so, repeat the process and add another shim. If it seems to be secure, your job is done.

A Guide to Follow if Plugs Are Falling Out

  • If a homeowner is having a problem with plugs that are constantly falling out of an outlet, there’s a good reason. When this happens, it’s a problem with the contact points inside the slots where the plug goes in. These contact points simply wear out over time. When this happens, outlets and receptacles can cause arcs, sparks, and sometimes even fires.
  • If an outlet receptacle is worn out, it’s usually best to simply replace it. This is a quick and easy job, but if you are inexperienced with this type of repair, or uncomfortable doing it, call an electrician for help. It might require some rewiring, so it’s best left to a professional. The same is true for an outlet, which is an easy job for an electrician.

All of the directions above could be called easy fixes, especially in the hands of a professional. However, if a homeowner feels they are comfortable making the repair, it is fairly easy to do.

What Else To Look For

When working on a loose outlet, there are several other things that should be checked. These include frayed wires, scorch or burn marks, and broken outlet covers and switch plates. These fixes are relatively easy to make, but if anything such as these or other red flags are present, they should be looked into immediately. There are many reasons why any of these can happen, but if ignored, any of them can cause serious trouble, including electrocutions and fires.

As stated above, fixing a loose outlet can be an easy job, especially for someone who has the knowledge and experience to do it. Any homeowner who is not comfortable performing repairs of this sort should leave it to an electrician to take care of. Better safe than sorry.