How to Repair an Electrical Outlet That Buzzes or Sparks

outlet on a wall
  • 1 hours
  • Beginner
  • 25
What You'll Need
New electrical outlet
Screwdriver set
Multimeter or light tester
Wire caps or electrical tape
Wire strippers
Needle-nose pliers
Safety gloves
Safety glasses

If you have an outlet that is making buzzing noises or from which you notice sparks, you should look into it by immediately turning OFF the circuit breaker and repairing the electrical outlet immediately to eliminate the risk of a fire in your home. When you hear strange sounds or see flashes of light from an electrical outlet, the best method of fixing the problem is simply replacing it with a new one. Fortunately, replacing a defective outlet is a relatively easy task that the average DIY'er can perform in about half an hour or so. This simple how-to guide will show you everything you need to know.

Note: Working with electricity can be very dangerous and can lead to serious injury or death. If you are not absolutely sure that you can follow the directions in this article, you should contact a licensed electrician to make the repair for you.

Step 1 - Purchase New Outlet and Other Materials

Visit your local home improvement store and purchase a new electrical outlet to replace the defective one. Make sure that you purchase the correct size outlet since some are rated at 20 Amps while the most common outlets are 15 Amps. Also, even if in most cases, you will be replacing a 110-volt receptacle outlet, if you are replacing an outlet in the laundry room or behind an appliance the outlet may be of the 220-volt variety.

Step 2 - Turn Off the Power to the Room

circuit breaker box

Go to the main breaker box in your home and locate the circuit breaker dedicated to the defective outlet. Once you locate the correct circuit breaker, switch it to the 'Off' position.

Step 3 - Test the Circuit for Safety

Once you have the circuit breaker turned off, you should still check the outlet with a multimeter to ensure that no electrical current is being passed to it. Set your multimeter to measure for voltage, and then place the probe leads in the blade receptacles of the outlet to ensure that no voltage is present at the outlet. Make sure that you wear your safety gloves and goggles when you do this.

Step 4 - Remove the Faulty Outlet

Once you're absolutely sure that no electricity is being passed to the outlet, you can begin the removal process. First, remove the screw that holds the cover plate. There should be two screws that hold the receptacle in place in the outlet box. Remove those and set them aside. Finally, pull out the outlet and remove the wires from the outlet. In most cases, the wires will be attached to a screw-type terminal. However, in some cases wires may be pushed into a small circular opening on the rear of the receptacle. If this is the case, use a pair of needle-nose pliers.

Step 5 - Check and Inspect the Wiring

While you're inside the outlet box, inspect the wiring to make sure that it is not damaged. If it's badly damaged remove the damaged section, if it's burnt, however, the outlet may have to be rewired, so you must get the advice from a qualified electrician before proceeding any further. What this means is that the circuit breaker 's rating in Amps is too high for the wiring and if it heated bad enough to cause damage inside the box, the wiring inside the walls could very well be in the same condition.

Step 6 - Install the New Electrical Outlet

outlet pulled out from the box with wires showing

But if the wire looks good, reverse the process used for removing the faulty outlet to install the new one. Attach the wires to the receptacle by using the screw terminals or by gently pushing the wires into the rear of the receptacle with a pair of pliers, with the black and white wires in their proper location. Then, screw the receptacle back into the outlet box and reattach the cover plate.

Step 7 - Turn the Power Back On

Go back to the main breaker box and switch the power back on.