Broken ground wire-can I use outlet?

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Old 05-16-10, 01:34 PM
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Broken ground wire-can I use outlet?

I was replacing an electrical outlet when I noticed the ground wire was broken. I'm not sure whether I broke it or it was like that already. Replacing the ground wire isn't something I want to tackle myself, but is it safe to hook up the new outlet without it and turn the power back on until I can get an electrician to fix it?
 
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Old 05-16-10, 02:44 PM
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how long is the ground wire where it enters the box? What type of cable is it (non metallic or metallic)?

A picture is worth 1000 words
 
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Old 05-16-10, 03:27 PM
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If your not able to make the repair it might be best to leave the circuit off or cap off the wires with wirenuts until your electrician can come out.

If you have any ground wire in the box a repair is not that difficult and if you have the knowledge to replace a receptacle I would think you would be OK to make the repair. But if you don't feel comfortable doing it then an electrician is your best bet.
 
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Old 05-16-10, 03:58 PM
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Thanks for trying to help. I don't know what's important information and what isn't, so please bear with me.

I haven't removed the box itself, just the outlet, so I have no idea how long the wire is. It's a bare copper wire, which I assume broke off at the screw at the back of the box, since I can't see any sign of more of it still left in there.

I don't mind not having power to that particular outlet or even the bedroom it's in, but unfortunately the breaker I had to shut off also controls the lights for the only bathroom in the house, so it would be nice to get them on. Forgive my ignorance, but how should the wires be capped - each individually, or do some of them need to stay together?
 
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Old 05-16-10, 05:56 PM
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Old 05-16-10, 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
Can you post a picture?
Sorry, I don't have the equipment for that.

I pulled out the receptacle, removed the four wires on the sides, started to undo the screw for the ground wire and realized the wire wasn't attached to the box at the other end. There's no sign of any of it left in the box, so it seems to have broken off where it enters or is attached to the box.

I'm getting the impression that hooking up the new receptacle without the ground wire, even if I don't plug anything into it, is not a good idea. Yes, no?

I guess I'll be bathing in the dim glow of the trouble light tomorrow morning.
 
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Old 05-16-10, 07:44 PM
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Yes. I would think as long as the receptacle is not going to be used your could put it back in. I just don't want you to get the impression that it is ok to just skip connecting the ground. Plus I figured if you were going to call an electrician there was no reason to put it back together.

If you wanted to cap them off you would just use wirenuts. If there is 2 black and 2 white wires that were all connected to the receptacle then you would just connect both blacks together under one wirenut and the whites under another.

You say the wire was attached to the box. This gives the impression that you have metal boxes. This could be your ground. Look in the back of the box and see if you have a green screw. If you do then that is where the ground wire goes. Make a hook on the ground wire and wrap it clockwise around the screw and tighten the screw.
 
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Old 05-16-10, 08:24 PM
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Actually thre should have been two ground wires and a pigtail if this was nonmetalic cable with a ground so I'm guessing mc. So if Toylyn's guess about a metal box is correct you should be fine.
 
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Old 05-16-10, 09:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Tolyn Ironhand View Post
Yes. I would think as long as the receptacle is not going to be used your could put it back in. I just don't want you to get the impression that it is ok to just skip connecting the ground.
I have a healthy fear of electricity. I wouldn't have used the outlet without the ground, although looking at the title I used for this thread I can see why you thought I might. Chalk it up to panic. My bad.

The box is metal, but it has two silver screws in the back that look like they each have a bare copper wire wrapped around them. (I haven't worked up the courage to take out the box yet. Not sure if I want to risk making it worse.) Each of the copper wires comes in from the same place as a pair of white and black wires, but I can't tell where the ground wire attached to the receptacle was attached or came in to the box, as there is no visible remnant of it left. Would it have been an extension of one of the wires wrapped around the screws?

If fixing this is as simple as attaching the copper wire that was on the old receptacle onto one of those screws, I'd love to avoid shelling out for an electrician, but at this point I don't know if I want to mess with it anymore.
 
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Old 05-16-10, 10:45 PM
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It sounds like it is indeed that simple. The bare copper you see attached to the screw(s), is likely the ground coming in to the box and if there is a second, it is the ground going to the next box in the circuit. Since it is attached to the box, the box is grounded. Both the box and outlet are to be grounded, so all you need to do is attach the bare wire from your outlet (should be attached to the outlet via a green screw) to one of the silver screws at the back of the box. If it is too short,you can cut a new piece and connect it the same way. You can buy an inexpensive tester which will assure you that the everything is hooked up correctly before you use the outlet (i.e. it will tell you if you have an open ground).
 
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Old 05-17-10, 08:30 AM
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It's that simple. Go to your local hardware/home store and get one of these:



The screw goes to one of the tapped holes in the back of the box, the fork goes to the ground screw on the receptacle. If your metal box does not have any open screw holes in the back, you may drill one with a 3/16" drill bit.
 
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Old 05-17-10, 01:39 PM
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Well, I took the plunge and attached the piece of copper wire to one of the screws at the back of the box. It wasn't too difficult - I didn't even have to take the box out to do it. Nothing blew up or caught fire when I turned the power back on, so that's a good sign. The receptacle tester says it's okay, but then it said that even before I hooked up the ground wire again, so I'm not sure whether that means anything. My multimeter gives it a thumbs up, so I'm going to assume it's okay.

Thanks to everyone who helped. I saved a few bucks and learned how to do something new. I've changed about a dozen of these things around here so far, and every time I do the ground wires always seem so fragile to me, so it was probably something good for me to know.

You guys are officially my favourite people today.
 
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