install-electrical-outlet-pic2When you are troubleshooting outlet problems you first want to make sure it is not something simple. Checking the circuit breaker or fuse is a good first try. A loose plug is another simple problem.

Not sure if this is your problem? See the articles on 'Troubleshooting Wiring Problems' and 'Electrical Repair for Homeowners' for a listing of related electrical topics. For some related topics, see 'How To Install an Outlet', 'Installing a GFCI Outlet', 'How To Ground an Outlet' and 'How To Test an Outlet' for more information.

Follow these steps (1) Use a tester or a device that is working to see if you have power. If you have power, it is the device that needs attention.

(2) Check the device – Is the light bulb good? Is the light, appliance, tool or electronic device working? Try hooking it up to another outlet that you know is working.

(install-electrical-outlet-pic33) Check to see if a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) is tripped. Many times the outlets that follow a GFCI in a circuit are also protected. See if the button has tripped on this or a nearby GFCI receptacles. Reset the GFCI and see if the outlet works.

(4) Check the breaker to see if it has tripped. Are you overloading the circuit? Try moving some items to different plugs and reset the breaker.

Did the tester indicate that you do not have power and you do not have a breaker or GFCI tripped? Turn the power off and carefully pull the receptacle out from the box. Double check with the tester to make sure the power is off.

Remove the cover plate and unscrew the outlet from the box. Turn the power back on and use the tester to see if you have power to the black wire attached to the outlet.

WARNING!! Make Sure the Power is OFF!!! BEFORE You Work on Electrical Devices!!!

You have power in the box, but the outlet does not work. Turn the power back off and see if the wires connected to the outlet are loose or corroded. Tighten or clean them and try again. Got it working? Yes, well that's good, your work here is done. Still not working? You will want to replace the outlet with a new one. Shut the power off and obtain a new outlet.


Go to the article 'Installing Electrical Outlets'  for instructions on how to install electrical outlets. No power at all to the outlet box? You have a more serious electrical problem that is beyond the scope of this article. Check out the article 'Basic House Wiring' for more information. You may need to call an electrician to trace down and repair the problem.


Electrical outlets are fairly simple devices that normally work fine. However, the devices themselves are inexpensive and the quality is not always the best. The installation can also be a factor. Fixing them is not that hard.