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Replacing An Electrical Outlet With 4 Wires

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Replacing An Electrical Outlet With 4 Wires

If you are into DIY projects, then you have come to the right place. DIY projects are not just fun to do, they also teach you things that will come in handy around the house. Before taking part in any DIY project that deals with electricity, it is essential to follow the correct step-by-step guide. Safety is paramount and is a priority. This step-by-step will guide you through how to replace an electrical outlet with four wires.

Now, during this unfortunate time, people have been restricted to social interaction. This worldwide pandemic means more people are encouraged to get things done on their own. This tragedy makes it even more important to be knowledgeable about replacing items around the house. As I mentioned earlier, it will come in handy! Replace an electrical outlet with four wires if yours is shorted.

Replacing an electrical outlet with 4 wires is easier than you think!

When I was younger, I was always helping my dad with any project he took on. If it were safe for me to do so, of course, I would always look forward to it. Having these skills under your belt will pay off. It is essential to become comfortable with your working space and the tools you will be utilizing. This will only make it easier for you through the process.

It certainly is frustrating when you have an outlet that unexpectedly stops working. Believe it or not, there are several reasons your outlet burns out. Luckily, it is an easy fix. Before replacing an outlet, though, be sure the breaker is not overloading and causing a short. You can use masking tape to mark any outlets that seem to be having issues. The masking tape will make it easier to keep track of which ones are old.

To replace an electrical outlet with four wires seems a lot easier than it looks. It is essential to be aware of how many wires your outlet contains to replace it correctly. If you look below, there is an easy step-by-step that will guide you through on how to replace an electrical outlet with four wires.

Materials needed to replace an electrical outlet with 4 wires:

  • Wall Outlet (15 or 20-amp)
  • Phillips Screwdriver
  • Flat Head Screwdriver
  • Wire Strippers
  • GFCI Outlet Voltage Tester (optional)
  • Utility knife (optional)

Why call an electrician when this is a project you can accomplish in no time!


Luckily for you, replacing an electrical outlet with 4 wires is a quick, easy process that will take 30-45 minutes, no longer than one hour. It may take longer if it is your first time, as well as if you are more cautious. Just take your time and go at a pace that suits your level of comfort.

A quick fix for a cheap price!


This process of replacing an electrical outlet with 4 wires is very affordable, mainly because you are DIYing it. Considering doing it yourself over hiring an electrician will save you a tremendous amount. The outlets cost from $5-$14. You do not have to replace the cover plate unless it is damaged. You may need to purchase the tools if you have not done so previously. All the necessary items are on Amazon.

Wall outlet

Step 1: First and Foremost!

Locate which outlet needs replacing. Outlets need to be fixed if they have stopped working, have loosened, or look old and ugly.

Step 2: Locate Your Main Power Source

  • Once you have identified which outlet you will be replacing, you will need to locate the breaker box. The breaker box or fuse box will be far from the main living areas such as, in the basement, garage, or laundry room.
  • Turn off the switch to which outlet you will be replacing. It is crucial to make sure the circuit power cut off because some labels may not be accurate. You can check the power by using your voltage tester.
  • Plugin the outlet voltage tester, and if the light does not come on, then you are ready to replace your outlet.

A brief rundown of how to use an outlet voltage tester:

You will begin by inserting the end of the voltage tester in both straight slots of the live receptacle. There are different models of testers so depending on your model, the tester should flash, beep, or if there is a live current. If the outlet is wired correctly, the test will indicate voltage only when inserted in the short “hot” slot but not the long neutral slot or the rounded ground slot.

Step 3:

You will start by utilizing your flathead screwdriver to unscrew the screws holding the cover plate. Then you will take your flathead screwdriver to unscrew the top and bottom screw of the outlet. Some outlets may require a Philips head screwdriver. You may need to take your utility knife to score the paint from the edges. You will pull the outlet from the wall as far as the wires can reach.


Step 4: Time To Strip!

Here you will utilize your wire strippers to strip of insulation to reveal the wire. It will help remove the wires from the screws of the old outlet. You can find out how to use your wire strippers to strip the insulation from the copper wire in Step 5 of “How to Replace an Electrical Outlet”.

Step 5: Almost there!

  • With a 4-wire outlet, you will see two white and two black wires along with the ground wire. When replacing a 4-wire outlet, it is important which side of the plug the different color wires go on, but it is not essential which terminal they go on in the vertical direction. After the cables are disconnected, get your new plug.
  • In your house, there will either be 15-amp circuits or 20-amp circuits. It can be determined by either looking at the breaker for the room or look at the wire. If it is a 15-amp circuit, it will be 14-gauge wire, and you will need to purchase a 15-amp circuit plug.
  • If it is a 20-amp circuit, you will have to buy a 20-amp plug. One easy way to tell if you have a plug that will handle the load that the circuit is capable of is if the wiring from your house will go into the holes in the back of the plug. If the wiring is small enough to go into the holes, then you are okay.
Electrical outlet

Step 6: Make sure your outlet is in the upright position before landing the wires!

To connect the new outlet, you will start by putting the white wires on the same side that contains the ground screw. This side of the outlet is the neutral leg of the circuit; it is the silver side. Take the two white wires and press them into holes in the back of the plug on the right side.

Step 7:

Next, you will connect the ground wire around the ground screw. The ground screw will be green and underneath the two screws where you connected the two white wires. The ground wire should have a little hoop in it to hook around the screw. Once you have it hooked around, you can screw it, which will tighten the loop as well.

Step 8: Connect, Connect, Connect!

Next, you will connect the black wires. These are the hot wires. They go into the brass side of the plug—the side without the ground screw. You can even see the outlet itself, and the more elongated slot is the neutral or the white wire. The shorter space is the hot or the black wire. The bottom opening is the ground wire. You will press the black wires into the holes on the back of the plug.

Step 9: Back In The Wall You Go

Now the wires are back in the plug, and it is time to put it back into the wall. When you replace the plug into the box, be sure you fold the wires so that they can fold up into the box nicely. Also, make sure the ground wire does not get pushed up against any of the other terminals! Tighten the screws back just enough to press the receptacle against the wall gently.

4 wire outlet replace

Step 10: You have made it!

Lastly, install your cover plate. These will be the same, whether it is a 15-amp or 20-amp circuit. Locate your breaker box again and switch the power back on. Take your voltage tester to make sure everything is connected correctly. If the light comes on, then you have completed the installation of a 4-wire electrical outlet.

Fix your electrical outlet

Frequently Asked Questions: Replacing An Outlet With Four Wires

Can I extend the wires if they’re too short?

Yes, you can extend the wires if they are too short by splice and adding an extension.

Can I just put a regular three-wire outlet on if I don’t have a four wire?

Yes you can do so because the neutral/white wire can act for both.

What do I do if one of the screws breaks off while I’m removing the outlet?

You must make sure to fetch the screw out. You may have to use a drill that is a bit smaller than the screw.

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