Home Electrical How to Fix a Loose Electrical Outlet

How to Fix a Loose Electrical Outlet

How to Fix a Loose Electrical Outlet

Considering we use electrical outlets always every day, it is easy to forget how dangerous they can be. All that is protecting us is the little piece of plastic we call the cover plate. It is crucial to inspect your outlets to make sure they are not loose. A loose outlet can expose you to direct electrical hazards. You know the cartoons where the character gets electrocuted, and their hair is sticking up? Yeah, that could happen if you are not careful enough. It is a great skill to learn how to fix a loose electrical outlet safely.

If you detect a loose outlet, it is important to fix it right away. An outlet can loosen as a result of two possible causes. The receptacles are so loose that the plugs do not hold them in, or the whole outlet face wobbles. If you encounter either of these problems, it is encouraged that you find solutions quickly. If you are unaware of how to fix a loose electrical outlet, then you have come to the right place. Keep reading and soon, you will understand how your outlet became loose, why it is an urgent problem, and a step-by-step guide on how to fix it successfully.

Why is my outlet loose?

Electrical outlets are attached to an electrical box located inside the wall. Loose outlets are generated because the electrical box they are attached to is too far back into the wall. When the electrical boxes are too far, they are not secure enough for the outlets to be safe. The instability of loose outlets can create even more significant problems, such as loose wires. The loose wires can be severely dangerous and lead to serious electrical hazards, such as fires. Loose outlets can be even more dangerous for children, considering they are curious and like to touch everything.

Just a Few Materials to Get the Job Done!

All these items can be purchased on Amazon (who doesn’t love Prime?)

A Price that Won’t Burn a Hole in your Wallet!

We all would like to spend as little as possible when we are doing projects around the house. Luckily for you, this project does not require a lot of spending. Most of you should have screwdrivers. I recommend purchasing a new cover plate, a metal one, if possible. Then you will need to buy a box extender or outlet spacers depending on which solution you decide. You may also need to purchase a voltage tester, which you could substitute, plugging a lamp instead. So, you are looking at roughly about $20-$30 at most. It sounds cheap to me!

Time required to fix your loose power outlet:

Slow and Steady Wins the Race!

I am sure this step-by-step guide on how to fix a loose electrical outlet is new for most of you. That is okay! It is always good to have a clear schedule when planning to do projects around the house. The tightening of a loose outlet should take a rookie about 30-45 minutes. For those who are more intermediate, it will take you about 20-30 minutes. Always remember to take your time.

Save Yourself the Aggravation and Fix it Yourself!

Keep reading for a quick step-by-step guide on how to fix an electrical unit!

Warning: You might break a sweat when you finally learn how to fix a loose electrical outlet

Step 1: Power Down

Locate your breaker to cut the power off. The breaker can generally be found far from main living areas such as a garage, laundry room, or basement. Once you have switched the circuit power off, you will utilize your voltage tester to make sure the power is off.

Step 2: Remove the Cover Plate

It is good to have both a Philips head and a flathead screwdriver handy. Take whichever screwdriver head fits the screw holding the cover plate to remove it. Make sure not to stick fingers inside the cracks of the outlet and the wall because there are wires back in there. Here would be an excellent time to use your wire tester to make sure no power comes from the wires in the wall.

Step 3: You’ve Got a Few Loose Screws

  • You will follow through by loosening the screws that are holding the outlet in place of the wall. Now, there are two tricks to tightening loose electrical outlets. In some cases, the brackets on the outlet are supposed to grip onto the wall.
  • When they do not grip, this can become a problem when the outlet hole is made too big. Often, you will see the bottom brackets gripping onto the wall, but the top brackets are not. If the drywall hole is too big, there will be nothing for the brackets to grasp onto the wall.

Step 4: Box Extender Ring

For this first solution, you will try a box extender ring. Now, keep in mind that this can only work sometimes. The purpose of the box extender is to fill in those extra spaces around the outlet. To make it easier to install the box extender, you can cut a slit to fit it around the outlet so you can avoid unhooking all the wires.

This is what the box extender should look like.
How to replace a loose electrical wall outlet
This picture represents how your box extender should be placed into the outlet.

Step 5: Utilize Your Options

Now that you have the box extender installed, place your cover plate back on. Take your voltage tester to plug it in and check if the outlet is still loose.

Now, if the outlet is still loose…

  • It is time to ditch the outlet box extender and move on to solution number 2.
  • Start by removing the box extender from the wall. Then pull the outlet out of the wall to expose the wires.
The lime green pieces are the spacers, similar to the ones in the picture shown earlier in this article.

Solution number 2 consists of implementing a new metal wall plate and outlet spacers.

This solution is often found to be the better option. What the metal plate does is provide and sustain the necessary forces needed up against the wall.

Step 6: A Safe Distance

You can now take your outlet spaces and measure the distance back that the outlet box is sitting, and that is the distance you need to cover up that gap. So, once you screw the screw back in, it will not keep pushing the outlet back; it will maintain that distance from the front ledge to where the box is.

Step 7: Mind Your Space

Once you have measured the space of the gap, you will fold up your outlet spacers and place them in. Start screwing your outlet back in, and you will see the shim is going to start moving in to begin occupying the gap. When it touches against the box, it will set the thickness. You will not have to worry about the outlet going into the wall because it will draw the outlet box towards you.

Step 8: Cover Up, Power Up!

  • After you have filled in your gaps with spacers, you will screw your outlet back into the wall. Push and pull on it to check how in place it is. Put your new metal cover plate back on.
  • Lastly, turn your power back on. Take your voltage tester to double-check the outlet is satisfactory for use. If the voltage tester fits in there tightly, then you have successfully fixed your loose outlet.

Frequently Asked Questions: How To Fix A Loose Power Outlet

Why did my outlet become loose in the first place, and can I prevent it?

Outlets are attached to an electrical box in the wall. They become loose when they are attached to an electrical box installed too far back into the wall. When the outlets were placed too far, it means the outlets are not secure enough, causing them to become loose.

Are loose outlets dangerous?

Yes, loose outlets are a potential hazard that needs to be taken care of ASAP! A loose outlet can trigger sparks and even ignite a fire behind the wall.

Why does my outlet cover get hot?

Hot outlets are often caused by loose wiring or a worn receptacle. This problem would be a necessary time to contact your electrician for further guidance!

If I need to replace the whole electrical outlet, how would I do so?

Lucky for you, we have prepared a step-by-step guide on how to replace an electrical outlet here as well as one on how to replace an electrical outlet with 4-wires here.


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