When you plug in a device, loose outlets wiggle from side to side or sink. While this is inconvenient, it can also be dangerous if left unattended. If you want to know why your outlets are loose and how to fix them, this complete guide starts with the easiest fixes and moves on to the more complicated ones. Most loose outlets can be repaired in a matter of minutes for less than $5. Let us look at how to fix a loose outlet box cover and its plugs in this article.
What Causes Plugs to Fall Out of Outlets?
When plugs refuse to stay in an outlet, the issue could be with the prongs or the receptacle. Test multiple devices to ensure you have a loose outlet.
Most loose outlets are caused by broken contact points, which usually happen over time. Heat and sparks from faulty wiring, on the other hand, can cause damage. The bottom line is that you should replace a loose outlet and look for other signs of electrical safety issues, such as burned wires.
If the outlet is tightly packed with other devices and you have one loose plug, try straightening out the bent prongs and then try again. If it’s a lamp, you can rewire it yourself with a cheap rewiring kit or hire an electrician. Phone chargers, for example, should probably just be replaced.
Considerations for Safety
Turn off the power to the outlet at the electric service panel (or breaker box) before you fix a loose outlet box cover and plugs. Using a non-contact voltage tester, confirm that the power is off at the outlet.
What You’ll Need
Instruments / Tools
- a screwdriver with a flathead
- a Phillips screwdriver
- Voltage tester with no contact
- 1 set of electrical outlet plastic shims
- 1 1/4- or 1/2-inch electrical box extender, as needed
- a single metal wall plate spacer
How to Fix Loose Outlet Plugs
When you plug something in, does your outlet box wiggle around in the wall? Or do plugs feel loose and fall out of the outlet? Loose outlets can pose a fire hazard, so they must be repaired as soon as possible. Even if you’ve never done any electrical work before, you can fix either type of loose outlet in under an hour. Continue reading to learn how to fix a loose outlet box cover and its plugs so they are secure and safe to use again.
#1. Turn off the power to the outlet at the circuit breaker.
Locate your home’s circuit breaker, which is usually on a wall in a hallway, basement, or garage. To turn off the power, locate the switch that controls the room with the outlet and turn it to the “OFF” position. Use a voltage tester to make sure that the outlet doesn’t have any power flowing through it. If the outlet remains active, it is controlled by a different switch.
#2. Remove the outlet’s cover plate.
Turn the screw in the middle of the cover plate counterclockwise with a screwdriver. Once the cover plate is loose, carefully remove it from the wall and set it aside.
#3. Remove the old outlet from the wall by unscrewing it.
Your outlet will be held in the electrical box by a screw at the top and bottom. To remove the screws, turn them counterclockwise and place them in a small bowl or cup so you don’t lose them.
#4. Disconnect the wires from the old outlet’s screws.
Carefully pull the outlet out of the electrical box to see the screws and wires that hold it in place. Loosen the screws with a screwdriver so that you can easily unhook the wire ends from the old outlet. After you have disconnected all of the wires from the outlet, you can dispose of the old one.
Identify the wires correctly. Some outlets are wired with a black live wire and a white neutral wire. Others may have two live wires and two neutral wires to connect to another outlet. A green or bare wire for a grounding screw may also be visible in your outlet.
Take a picture of how the wires are connected to the outlet if it is confusing. You could also put a piece of masking tape around each one and write the name of the screw it goes to.
#5. Attach the wires to the screws on the new receptacle.
Buy a new outlet receptacle from a nearby hardware store. Wrap the exposed ends of the white neutral wires clockwise around the silver screws and the exposed ends of the black live wires around the brass screws. Wrap a green or bare ground wire around the green grounding screw if there is one in the box. Then, using your screwdriver, tighten the screws.
Make sure not to connect the wires to the wrong screws, as this could result in a short circuit or shock. If the wire ends are frayed, use wire strippers to trim them and strip the coating off the wires before wrapping them around the screws.
#6. Screw the new outlet and cover plate back into position on the wall.
Push the wires back into the electrical box gently. Screw the top and bottom of the outlet back in place with your screwdriver while holding it tightly against the electrical box. Then, place the cover plate over the outlet and secure it to the wall.
If the outlet does not fit in the box, gently move the wires out of the way until it does.
#7. Reconnect the power to see if your outlet is loose.
Return to the circuit breaker and restore the switch to the “ON” position. Return to your outlet and plug something in to see if the outlet will hold your plug without falling out. If it’s working and the plug isn’t moving, your repairs are complete.
How to Fix Loose Outlet Box
There are multiple techniques for repairing a loose outlet box cover. Some are simple, while others are difficult. This article demonstrates how to easily fix a loose outlet box cover. To achieve the best results, you must follow the steps.
Step One: Gather all necessary materials.
Gather the necessary materials for the process first. To test the flow of electricity, you’ll need a socket-opening screwdriver set and a tester. Next, get some metal wall plates and spacers to attach to the outlet. Spacers are essential for tightening loose outlets.
Step 2: Disconnect the electrical supply lines.
To repair a socket, you will need a few tools and materials. The most important step is to turn off all of the electricity in the room in order to avoid injury. Then, using a screwdriver, open the socket and begin the repair.
Step 3: Use a standard screwdriver.
You must now remove the metal plate that has already been attached to the wall with a regular screwdriver. It will assist you in determining the primary cause of the box becoming loose. After you’ve opened the box, make sure the screws are in the right place. Now you can see that the large size of the box is the main cause of the socket becoming loose. As a result, you’ll need to use some spacers to close the gap between the socket and the board.
Step 4: Use metal spacers.
Metal spacers, which can be purchased at any convenience store, are now required. Simply fold these spacers and place them between the socket and the box to close the gap and keep the outlet from becoming loose. Place two spacers at both ends, then use the screws to secure the socket. Finally, replace the old metal plate with a new one and secure it with a screw.
Warnings and Precautions:
- Because working with electricity is dangerous, this project should be completed by a licensed electrician.
- During the installation, disconnect the electrical circuit to which this wall outlet is connected.
- Never install an outlet box in a finished ceiling.
- Give yourself plenty of space, avoid crawling around in cramped spaces, and be cautious of sharp sheetrock edges!
- Remove all paint from the area where the metal screws will ensure a good electrical connection with the receptacle if the wall is painted.
- Check that the outlet box is securely fastened to a wall stud.
- Always check local building codes for any additional work or the use of a different type of wall box and electrical receptacle.
Is there a way to tighten the outlets?
Remove the outlet from the wall by unscrewing it. Place your outlet shims over the outlet screws. Shims will fill any gaps that may exist between the electrical box and the screws. The number of shims you use will be determined by the distance between the electrical box and the wall.
How do you fix an outlet that won’t hold a plug?
If the outlet is tightly packed with other devices and you have one loose plug, try straightening out the bent prongs and trying again. If it’s a lamp, you can rewire it yourself with a cheap rewiring kit or hire an electrician. Phone chargers, for example, should probably just be replaced.
What causes electrical outlets to be loose?
Damaged contact points are the most common cause of loose outlets. The contacts simply wear out over time. This, combined with the heat and sparks caused by faulty wiring, can quickly escalate into a dangerous situation.
How much does it cost to fix loose outlets?
The cost of repairing a loose outlet box cover and its plugs depends on the type of outlet and its location. Most homeowners should budget between $65 and $200 for the project.
How do you fix an outlet that pushes in?
Slide the electrical box extender or shimming plate behind the outlet plugs. Attach the outlet plug(s) to the electrical box and extender/shimming plate. Alternatively, fold your outlet spacers until they are thick enough to cover the recessed gap. Remove any unnecessary sections.
Are loose outlets a fire hazard?
Yes. Because loose outlets can disrupt the flow of electricity, they can cause arcing, which is a serious fire hazard. Fortunately, a simple fix for a loose outlet box cover and its plugs can help improve your home’s safety.
Do electricians replace outlets?
Yes, hiring an electrician to repair an electrical outlet or replace a switch can save you a lot of time.
How long does it take an electrician to replace an outlet?
It is possible to replace an existing electrical outlet in less than 30 minutes. Wiring an outlet in a new location or installing a new circuit could take several hours, whereas a full upgrade could take several hours or a couple of days.
How often should you replace your outlets?
15 to 25 years
Electrical outlets do not last forever, and many homeowners are unaware of when they should be replaced. Most outlets have a lifespan of 15 to 25 years, but some can fail as soon as a few years after installation. Frequent tripping of outlets is a sign of failure.
We hope that the method we’ve described here for repairing a loose outlet box cover and its plugs is simple for you to fix. And, while performing such electrical tasks, we must always keep our health in mind. Check that the main power supply line is turned off. Thank you for your valuable time. Have a wonderful day!!
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I replace my electrical outlets?
After about 15 or 20 years, electrical outlets typically show signs of wear. Depending on how frequently you use your plugs and the types of devices or appliances they usually power, they may require attention sooner. Ignoring faulty electrical outlets may put you at risk of fire, electric shock, or burns.
How do I know when my outlet needs replacing?
Signs that you should replace your electrical outlets include:
- A faulty outlet.
- An old house or structure.
- Outlets with two prongs.
- A faulty or cracked outlet.
- A burned-out outlet.
- The outlet is loose.
- Plugs are easily removed.
- Smoke or sparks coming from the outlet.
Do outlets expire?
Electrical outlets, like everything else, have an expiration date. They will serve their purpose for a while, but eventually, they will become worn out. A worn-out electrical outlet will either stop working completely or cause several issues.