3 Electrical Cord Problems

pile of cables and cords
  • 1 hours
  • Beginner
  • 251
What You'll Need
Three-prong plugs
Electrical extension cords

A damaged electrical cord can be a source of all types of problems with your electrical appliances, devices, and equipment. Problems with electrical cords can result in short-circuits that will trip a circuit breaker in your main breaker box, cause your electrical devices to stop functioning properly, or may even cause a dangerous electrical fire. However, most electrical cord related problems are avoidable if you know what to look for. Therefore, this article will address common problems with electrical cords, how to avoid the problems, and also how to correct them when they arise.

Broken Ground Prong

3-prong outlet plug

Some homes only come equipped with outlets that have 2-prong receptacles. This presents a problem for owners of electrical devices that use electrical cords that include a third prong for the ground. Although it is inadvisable and hazardous, many people choose to break off the third prong on electrical cords and use them anyway in a 2-prong outlet. While it is true that many appliances, devices, and electrical equipment will function without the ground prong, they are equipped with polarized plugs to ensure that the Neutral and the Hot lines are connected to their assigned wire feed. Since they create an extremely high hazard for electrocution, the old two-prong receptacles should be replaced by the now grounded three-prong receptacles.

Manufacturers of equipment that use 3-prong electrical cords choose this type of cord for a very good reason: to keep the equipment properly grounded so that a malfunction doesn't arm someone. For example, if you plug inexpensive appliances, tools, or other equipment into a 2-prong outlet where the Neutral might get connected to the Hot side of the electrical feed and a malfunction or short-circuit would occur so the neutral and all the metal part on the appliance would become Hot, you would become the Ground path for that 110 Volts as soon as you touch something grounded in the vicinity. The same is true with three prong surge protectors. If you plug equipment into a surge protector and get a surge or spike of power in the circuit the surge protector would immediately switch the excess power directly to ground, thus protecting the equipment from sustaining damage.

Cracked or Frayed Electrical Cord

man covered in black soot holding a cord

One of the most common problems with electrical cords and cables is that of cracking or fraying. Over time, when electrical devices are moved around, the electrical cord often gets caught up in between furniture, behind tables or desks or other areas where it is pulled and tugged on, and this can result to cracks in the cord. This will often lead to the equipment not being able to receive power. However, in some cases, a frayed electrical cord can cause an electrical fire. If you do have an electrical device or piece of equipment that has a cracked or frayed electrical cord, you should not attempt to splice the cord back together. Rather, you should remove the damaged cord completely and install a new one at the source inside the piece of equipment.

Cords Underneath Rugs or Carpet

One of the biggest causes of electrical fires is an electrical cord or extension wire that is run underneath a rug or piece of carpet. When you place an electrical cord underneath a rug, it is subject to friction and increased heat when people walk over the cord. Over time, the cord can easily become damaged and arc or spark underneath the very flammable rug material. Instead of placing an electrical cord underneath a rug, visit your local home improvement store and purchase a piece of floor molding that is specially made to protect electrical cords and extension cords.