The outlet in one of our bedrooms is such that when you wiggle a plug
in it the power to the plug goes on and off. Experienced that many
times, but what's odd, to me, is when the power is disrupted by
wiggling it, it also cuts out the power to the overhead light/fan,
which is operated by the switch at the door.
There are two switches by the door, one of which is controls the
switching of some/all of the outlets, but that switch is taped ON, so
not a factor in this. When I move the outlet, with it pulled partly
out of the box, the power goes on and off, so there's a loose
wire/connection in the outlet. Question is, based on what's happening,
can you tell if it's a specific wire? By pulling (with power off) I
can't tell that one is loose. Or should I be replacing the outlet?
In a receptacle/outlet in one of our bedrooms, you can wiggle the plug
and the connection will go on and off. We've all experienced that, but
what's unique (in my experience), is that when it goes off, the power
to the overhead light, operated by a switch at the door, goes off,
What's the connection between these two, and what do I need to do to
fix it? I opened the receptacle, and don't see anything obviously
loose, though I'm inexperienced at electrical things. I did turn the
power off before taking the receptacle out, though (do know that
Without getting into the detail as to how the overhead light is wired
into the receptacle, consider this:
If the wires are all tight on the receptacle, and any other wires
inside the receptacle box are connected properly (wire nuts tight,
etc.) then the next logical step is to replace the receptacle. They
do go bad. Note where all wires are attached, take 'em off and put
them on the same place on the new receptacle. If that doesn't fix the
problem, then start digging deeper.
That outlet feeds the light in you room. Usually the incoming feed and
the outgoing feed are at the sides terminals and are just screwed
tight. make sure the terminals are tight.
Or the wires could be "stab-locked" to the back of the outlet. This is
just basically a quick-connect spring loaded terminal which can come
loose over time. I personally don't like those type of connections, I
like the side terminals better.
I would bet money that the OP will find that the wiring is stab-lok'd
to the back of the receptacle and that that is why he's having a
problem. Something is broken/bent/loose inside the recep. assembly
and when the plug is wiggled it is making/breaking the connection to
the wire feeding the light switch. I suspect that a recep. in a
bathroom is used quite frequently - and by this I mean that plugs are
inserted and removed quite a bit. for that reason I would recommend a
"spec grade" receptacle, or if it is an older house without a GFCI
breaker for the bathroom, a GFCI receptacle (which usually appear
similar in construction to "spec grade" anyway.) And I would
definitely use the screw terminals and not the stab-loks.
Yeah, they were backstabbed. I re-wired the same outlet in the
bedroom, and am now debating the replacement of all outlets. I could
see the bathroom ones, as they do get more active use. What are "spec
grade" ones? I don't have GFCI outlets, though my house was built in
'88, and I was told in another thread that it would have to be based
on that. So I guess it's on a GFCI upline somewhere? If so, then are
you saying to simply use a spec grade, since the GFCI is already
elsewhere on the circuit? Thanks.
I would use "spec grade" wherever you find yourself plugging and
unplugging appliances frequently.
I just went back and reread your post and originally read "bathroom"
where you really said "bedroom." So my comment about the GFCI does not
apply, and my other comment about frequent usage may not either.
If your bathroom does not have a GFCI receptacle, you likely have a GFCI
breaker feeding that circuit in your breaker panel. '88 should be more
than new enough that that was a requirement back then.
replace "roosters" with "cox" to reply.
Power to the light is obviously fed through connections at, or on, that
receptacle. Not especially unusual.
Turn the breaker off again, and remove the receptacle from the box. You'll
probably find four wires -- two black and two white -- going into holes on the
back of the receptacle (so-called "backstab" connections, which are
notorious for loosening up over time, and causing *exactly* the problem
If that's what you find, then locate the slot next to each wire where you can
push in a screwdriver, toothpick, wire, or some similar tool to disengage the
spring catch that holds the wire in place. Undo all four wires, and connect
them to the screw terminals on the sides of the receptacle, making sure to
bend the wires clockwise around the shafts of the screws.
(If this receptacle does not have screw terminals on the sides, throw it away,
and buy one that does.)
Connect black wires to the brass screws, and white wires to the silver-colored
screws. Tighten the screws securely, and reinstall the receptacle in the box.
Turn the breaker back on. This will probably solve the problem; let us know.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
Doug's advice is good but I'd take it a step farther: while you're in there
anyway, why not replace the receptacle?
Go to a hardware store or HD or Lowes, get a receptacle that's *not* the
cheapest they carry. Might cost you $1.50 instead
of $0.50, but will last longer and make a much better connection!
Same thing as a recent previous post with the TV set. Unfortunately
working with Romex involves "cutting the load run" a LOT more often
than working with plain wire in conduit where you can center strip the
wire easily without cutting it and "christmas light along" on an
unbroken run. If the Romex electrician is not careful about ensuring
a good load run as they go, with all that cutting, then loose
connections take out devices farther down the wire, that simple. I'm
not real familiar with Romex wiring as I have only used it once many
years ago, but I'm learning a lot on this group about it (I'm in
Chicago where we really dont ever see Romex, its all plain wire in
If screw connections, tighten all the screws.
As someone asked, are they the stabbed type? Does the outlet also
have screws that are not being used? If so move the wires from the
stabbed to the screws. Otherwise replace the outlet.
Thanks so much for all the quick, great answers. Sorry for the
double-post; I happened to entitle this the same as someone else's old
post, and it got put in the middle of it on my reader way back several
months. Glad I found it now!
Kind of a "duh" re: the why, if I knew anything. Now I do! As for what
went wrong and the fix, indeed, they're going into holes in the back,
and there are screws on the side, so I'll be switching them to there.
Thanks a ton!
For sake of completeness I'll say that just because there are wire holes
in the back the outlet is not automatically a "back stab" type. There is
an extremely high quality sort with holes in the back where tightening
the screws actually physically clamp the stripped wire ends rather than
depending on the backstab's feeble sprung contact. The easy way to tell
is whether there are little slots on the back of the receptacle where
one inserts a small screwdriver tip to release the wire. If you see them
then the receptacle is a backstab.
Personally, I would avoid re-using an old backstab type. They are
cheaply made and if the circuit has been compromised in the past there
may have been overheating that could have caused other unseen problems.
Even good receptacles are relatively inexpensive, so why not replace it?
Oh. And to provide the usual warnings: "power off before you mess with
it!" and "it can't hurt to make a drawing and label the conductors
before you mess with things so you can put it back together correctly".
Speaking from experience- fighting with those usually-too-short wires is
enough of a pain, that it is crazy to not spend the two-three bucks and put
a new high-quality duplex outlet in there. 'Wiggling the plug' tells me the
springs in the slots are getting tired, and the outlet is about shot anyway.
If an outlet is over a few years old, and I have to take it apart, I just
replace it as cheap insurance.
IMHO, it falls in the category of Life Is Too Short To Mess With This Twice.
OMG. Simple enough. Indeed, they were backstabbed, and after getting
done with re-wiring them (BTW: coincidence or not, turns out the best
thing to use to disengage those suckers is the prong of a cord! Tried
about 10 things before I came up with that). Anyway, got done with
it... and nothing. Nothing. So, I decide to test other outlets in the
room, stick my multimeter in another one, and as soon as I do, all
lights and power come on throughout the room?! Including to the one I
just re-wired. Yet, this was an outlet that was behind a dresser and
hadn't been used in eons. What happened? I decided not to take it
apart to check it, since we're not using it and it's working now.
Stumped... But problem solved.
You KNOW there's a problem there. You know, too, that the problem is a loose
connection. What you may not know is that loose connections can start fires.
BEFORE you go to sleep tonight.
Stumped? Why? The symptoms are identical. It's almost certainly the same
problem -- and the outlets are telling you that it's time to at least re-wire,
if not replace, ALL of them. In the entire house. As soon as possible.
While you're at it, check all the switches too (chances are they were done the
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
On Wed, 22 Aug 2007 00:29:44 GMT, email@example.com (Doug Miller)
Thanks for all the replies (and Rich, no, they're not aluminum). Can
anyone explain what happened after I re-wired the one outlet, and
suddenly I wasn't getting any power to it, and then tested the other
outlet, that hadn't been touched in years, and all of a sudden it
appears to have a loose wire? Did the wire come loose from turning the
breaker on and off? Guess I'll go in and replace it/both with new
outlets, but then shouldn't I be doing that throughout the house, if
these are all original, and all backstabbed, and two in one room have
gotten loose at the same time? Jeez, sounds like a fun week ahead!
Thanks again for all the help!
On Wed, 22 Aug 2007 12:07:21 GMT, firstname.lastname@example.org (Doug Miller)
Thanks for the heads-up on the switches, too. Boy, as bad as
backstabbed things appear to be it's hard to believe codes allow it.
My "stumped" was because the other outlet hadn't been used, and was
behind a dresser and not even touched during this ordeal with the
other one. Yet a conncection appeared to have gotten loose during this
one day period, without it being touched. So I was stumped, and
wondering if it could have happened as a result of the power being
turned on and off to it at the breaker. Tha'ts the only thing that's
been done to it from the time it was working and when I tested inside
it, triggering the power to come back on.
Anyway, thanks so much for the help and cautionary words. I will
address them all.
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