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Changing an outlet now in my kitchen. The old one had 3 white

Changing an outlet now in...
Changing an outlet now in my kitchen. The old one had 3 white wires (2 going into the holes and one wrapped around the screw) and a ground wire wrapped around the green bottom screw and 3 black wires (one in the hole in the back and the other 2 not sure - since they were rather fried (guess is one around the screw, the other black in the hole in the back). Anyway, I put them back as I found them (2 wires in the holes, one around a screw for both the black and white wires) Now only the top of the outlet works and another outlet next to it doesn't work at all (but the ones on the other side of the one I worked on are working) It seems I "broke" the daisy chain of kitchen outlets on the same circuit - how do I attach the wires (pull the wires out of the back and pigtail them and leave the ones wrapped around the screw??)
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Answered in 16 minutes by:
9/26/2013
Jason
Jason, Service Technician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 4,287
Experience: Over 20 years of experience in all types of installations, troubleshooting, and repairs.
Verified

Jason :

Hello. Welcome to Just Answer.

Jason :

The best method is pigtailing, as you described.

Jason :

A simple explanation of how to do it is to take all like colors to one wire nut, with a 6" piece of wire the same color in the wire nut as well. Then, curl the other end of the 6" piece around the appropriate screw.

Jason :

The push-in holes are known for being problematic, but not typically on a brand new outlet.

Jason :

That's a problem that usually presents itself after the outlet has been in use for a while.

Customer:

So I need to put all 3 of each color into a wire nut and twist. Or do i leave one of each wire wrapped around the screw?

Jason :

Sort of a combination of both. Cut a 6 inch long piece of wire from a roll you have of extra wire. Bring your three blacks together, and add one end of the 6" piece of black into the splice with the 3 box wires. That will be a total of 4 ends in that particular wire nut. The other end of the short piece then goes to one of the gold screws.

Jason :

Follow that methodology with the white and the ground, landing them on the appropriate screws, and you'll be all set. White goes to silver screw, and bare goes to green screw.

Customer:

So I need to get new wire to join the old 3 wires? What gauge - does it matter?

Jason :

It depends on the rating of the circuit breaker. If it's a 20 amp breaker, it needs to be #12 wire. A 15 amp breaker can have #14 wire connected to it.

Jason :

Picture the 3 black wires in the box going into a single wire nut, with one end of a short piece of black wire that you cut. That gives you a total of 4 ends in one wire nut... 3 from the box, and one from the short piece.

Customer:

I have some spare wire in my workshop - it's black and white separate wire that is looped together - I assume left behind by a contractor or electrician. It says on the white wire: CSA type TEW LL34978 18AWG FT1 105(degree sign)C 600VUNICAB-D.

Jason :

The 18 AWG is a problem. It's too small, unfortunately.

Jason :

Do you know the rating of the circuit breaker that feeds the outlet box you are working in?

Customer:

I also have flexible cord "for lamps, clocks, radios" - it is two insulated wires molded together and I have a clear plastic covered wire - also molded two wires molded together - can't tell the guage -anything I can use?. The circuit breaker says 20A, but the outlets themselves look like 15 - there are no cross T's on the outlets - they are straight vertical holes.

Jason :

Thank you for the additional information. We have to go by the breaker rating.

Jason :

So you need some #12 wire. You can get short pieces of it on "project rolls" at your local home store.

Jason :

Or, better yet, you can buy it by the foot off of a rack at Lowe's. One foot of each color is more than enough. The wires you've described don't sound large enough to me. One of them appears to be lamp cord, which is too small as well.

Jason :

I wouldn't want to advise you to do something that is dangerous for your house, which would also be in violation of the Electrical Code.

Customer:

OK - as long as they are #12 I'm OK? How come when I pulled the old outlet out (house built in 1985) all 3 blacks and whites were to the holes and screws?

Customer:

went to the

Jason :

That's an acceptable way to do it, but it's not the best way. We strongly dislike the push-in holes. They are known for being problematic. Yes, #12 tails are perfect for a 20 amp breaker.

Customer:

If it's acceptable, I don't get if I have all B and W into either the holes or the screws and it's grounded, why is there still a problem - how come one (lower half) of the outlet works and one does not? And why did it mess up the kitchen outlet next to it?

Jason :

The holes are problematic because on the inside of the outlet, touching the stripped end of the copper wire, is a tiny piece of metal. The end of it literally just rests against the side of the stripped portion of the wire. It's not a good, strong, tight connection at all. It would be like laying the end of one stripped wire on top of the end of another stripped wire, on the floor, and expecting that "splice" to carry a load. It just won't do it very well, nor for very long. Connection points are where wires most often fail. Hardly every is there a wire failure in the center of a length of wire.

Jason :

Are the small tabs between the side screws still in place on the new outlet you installed?

Jason :

Hardly ever... sorry - typo. Not "hardly every"

Customer:

yes the tabs are still there

Jason :

OK, that means both the top and bottom portions of the outlet should work, so that may be something I would need to see (in a photo). But if there's power in the box (meaning a functional hot and neutral, which there must be, since half of the outlet works), then any other issue with that particular box is minor. In other words, not having a complete circuit at a box is the worst problem you can have. You don't have that issue. I really suspect pigtailing the wires as described will solve all of the issues you are having.

Customer:

It's weird that the "bad" method is OK for 28 years, then one wire gets fried and I can't put it back the old way but I see your point. If I just pigtail the two of each color going now into the holes and only use one of each color going directly to the screws, (along with the ground wire) will that work at all?

Jason :

How many total sets of black, white, and ground wires do you have in the box? I thought it was 3 sets, each containing a black, white, and ground.

Customer:

Here it is: Two whites going to the holes, two blacks going to the holes, 1 white going to a screw, 1 black going to a screw and one ground wire going to the botXXXXX XXXXX screw. I rewired it that same way and only half the outlet works (2 yellow correct polarity lights on my tester on the one half of the outlet that works)

Jason :

OK. Let me make a quick, basic sketch of the best way to use the pigtailing method. Can you stand by?

Customer:

yes - thankis - of course if you can save me a trip to buy new wire if it's legit, that would be even better

Customer:

if it's a legit method that works

Jason :

There is one other way to do it without having to buy new wire, but it would require one of each of the colors in the box to be long enough to do it properly.

Customer:

They seem pretty long

Jason :

It involves removing a 1" section of insulation from each color, not at the end of the wire, but somewhere between the end and where they exit the box.

Jason :

I'll show that method in a sketch as well.

Customer:

OK

Jason :

I am leaving out ground wires, for the sake of time and clarity.

Jason :

It doesn't appear the image loaded properly. Are you able to view it?

Customer:

I understand the drawing - 4 wires of each color go into a wire nut and the 4th new wire goes to the screw. But what is this other method - strip the insulation from the existing wires? Can't picture it

Jason :

You would only do it on one of each color. I'm modifying the sketch now, to show the other method.

Customer:

The "Full Size Image" didn't work. - It wouldn't open

Jason :

For some reason, the images aren't fully loaded until after they've been in the conversation field for a while. It wouldn't open for me at first either. Do you mind trying again?

Customer:

Got it - so is it three whites going to the wire nut with the insulation stripped away so it fits into the wire nut, and then coming out would be just one wire which would go to the screw (repeated for the black)?

Jason :

Yes. Just a short section of insulation stripped from the "midsection" of each color, with the exposed copper of the midsection being wrapped around the appropriate screw.

Jason :

Only do it on one white, and one black.

Customer:

The midsection is wrapped around the screw? ANd then the end goes into the wirenut? Or is it the other way around?

Jason :

Midsection around screw, end of wire into wire nut.

Customer:

SOunds like the midsection deal may be a bit riskier since I could screw up the wire if I strip it wrong. On my wire stripper tool, it has an AWG stranded side with 16-26 and a mm2 side with .14,.25 through1.0 - which size slot do I use?

Jason :

I don't think any of those sizes are right for the wire you are working with. The strippers sound like they are for much smaller wire. I have a set like that too.

Jason :

But I rarely work with wire that small, so that set hardly ever gets used.

Customer:

OK - I found another tool it has 10-22 AWG - so I should assume it's 12 and satart with that, and then move on to the 14 hole if it's a samll size ?

Jason :

Yes, exactly.

Customer:

So if you were me and wanted the easiest way but most relaible, would you just buy the spare wire and use taht method/ this will solve the problem with the other adjacent "bad" outlet assuming they are linked together on the same circuit, and no loose wires in that second outlet?

Customer:

that method?

Jason :

Yes, I would pick up the extra wire. I don't like the midsection method, but have used it on occasion. Usually when there isn't enough room in the box for the additional pigtail wire. That means the box is too full anyway.

Customer:

Any aprticular size wire nut I need to pick up - I have a few lying around, but don't know if they have sizes on them?

Jason :

They are sized by color. For 4 #12 wires, you'll need red or larger. Larger than red is gray, but they're pretty big. I'd go with reds.

Customer:

And strip back, what, about an inch on either end of the new wire?

Jason :

Half an inch for the end in the wire nut... a little more for the end that gets curled. Probably not an inch, maybe 3/4".

Customer:

Is it unusaul the have 3 of each color in the box - most examples I've seen only have like 1 or 2?

Jason :

No, not really unusual. I've seen more than 3. Up to 5, but that's too many, especially for a single gang box.

Customer:

OK - I will give this a shot tomorrow - thanks for your help - any idea of how to save this transcript?

Jason :

You can get back to this dialogue at any time by logging on to www.justanswer.com, and clicking "My Questions" in the upper right corner of the page. That will take you to a page that has a link to this chat.

Customer:

Great - tahnks again! Goodnight!

Jason :

You are most welcome. Thank you for the opportunity to help. Take care.

Jason :

I hope I have provided excellent service. We strive hard here to achieve that. Thanks again.

Jason
Jason, Service Technician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 4,287
Experience: Over 20 years of experience in all types of installations, troubleshooting, and repairs.
Verified
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