Grounding prong broken off in electrical outlet

Discussion in 'Misc DIY' started by KOA, Nov 4, 2005.

  1. KOA

    KOA Guest

    In my house, none of the outlets are grounded, although they are all three
    prong. I discovered an outlet which appears to have a grounding prong broken
    off in it. I can't tell for sure. All I know is I can't plug in any
    three-prong plug.

    Is it safe to try to just yank the prong out with pliers?

    Or should I just install one of those plug adapters, which convert 3-prong
    to 2-prong??

    The problem is, there is no way for me to remove the box, since I can never
    be certain if I have turned off power to the outlet, even if I shut off the
    circuit. The problem is a voltage detector cannot be plugged into the outlet
    to confirm no power, since it is 3-prong. Could I just use a multimeter
    instead to detect voltage? Or use a circuit finder to verify that both
    outlets go to the same circuit? I can't shut off the entire house either,
    since some of my circuits might run through my neighbor's circuits, so I
    would have to shut off his power too.

    Thanks for any help.
    KOA, Nov 4, 2005
    1. Advertisements

  2. KOA

    louie Guest

    A voltage meter could certainly tell you if there's power to the outlet
    or not. There are also inexpensive probes that are available that can
    tell if a circuit is live or not just by holding the probe near it
    (test the probe on a known live circuit before testing the subject
    circuit). Once you've verified that power to the box is off, then you
    have the option of trying to pull out the ground prong or replace the

    Why aren't the outlets grounded? Older wiring?
    louie, Nov 4, 2005
    1. Advertisements

  3. KOA

    Mikepier Guest

    You can try, use insulated pliers
    Its a temporary fix, but you could change the outlet to a GFI as a
    permanant solution. Most jurisdictions allow this to replace ungrounded
    outlets so you are protected.
    Just plug in a 2 prong device like a radio.

    Could I just use a multimeter
    In all likelyhood, both outlets are fed from the same breaker, but you
    can check to be sure

    .. I can't shut off the entire house either,
    You do not need to shut off the entire house. Just find the right
    breaker to that outlet.
    Worst case scenario, if you had to shut off the entire house, it is
    still safer. How is it that your neighbors power is shared with yours?
    Mikepier, Nov 4, 2005
  4. KOA

    KOA Guest

    Ok, thanks. Makes sense. Do I need to insert both probes of the multi-meter
    into the outlet, or just one, with the other grounded somewhere?
    Yeah, the house was built in the 1800's. Wiring is very very old. It is a
    three-story victorian type. Would be bvery hard to ground all the outlets
    and fixtures.
    KOA, Nov 4, 2005
  5. KOA

    KOA Guest

    Oh, duh!! Never though of that. :)

    The ground prong
    Yeah, except I want to be sure that each outlet in the box is on the same
    circuit. So the only way to do this would be to shut off every circuit in
    the sub-panel.
    KOA, Nov 4, 2005
  6. KOA

    KOA Guest

    Thanks Mike for the tips. The tenant who lives in the second floor apartment
    was using the third floor apartment, where the problem outlet is, to let his
    friend live there. He wanted to supply him with free electricity, so he
    altered the third floor electrical system to run off of his, but only
    rewired some of the circuits. He didn't want to pay the $10 fee to have the
    third floor electricity account changed to his name, and he didn't want to
    pay the extra minimal use electricity for devices which were not being used,
    such as the range.
    KOA, Nov 4, 2005
  7. KOA

    KOA Guest

    The landlord brought in an electrician to put in a new light switch for me
    on the third floor, but he was so confused by where the power to the third
    floor came from, he couldn't help me. The problem is he would have to access
    the second floor apartment to see how the wires run and/or shut off his
    service panel to do the wiring, but the landlord does not have a key to the
    second floor apartment, and won't give her one. And he is never home in the
    day, or sleeping.
    KOA, Nov 4, 2005
  8. SNIPS

    Assuming that your outlet is the standard duplex outlet (two pluggy in
    thingies in the one box) you can check the one that does not havre the prong
    stuck in it. Even if against all odds you have he onl nn duplex socet in the
    world, you can still check power status easily in at least three ways with
    out any special tools.

    1. Cut main breaker. Kills power towhole house. Pull grounding prong with
    needle nose pliers. Energize main breaker.

    2. Plug a radio or TV, turned up to the loudest sound you can, into the
    socket. US TVs and radios tend to be 100 % two wire devices. Shut off
    indvidual circuit breakers one at a time, If radio or TV does not go off,
    re energize that circuit. Proceed breaker by breaker until you ind the one
    that shuts down the radio or TV, When you find the individual breaker
    that shuts off the radio or TV, you are home free. Pull the grounding
    prong with needle nose pliers.

    3. Use a small lamp in place of radio / tv. Test circuit by circuit until
    youfind lamp shut off. Proceed as above. The lamp process works best with
    a helper so that ypu dont have to walk back to the room from whereever the
    panel is located to check lamp status. If you have several very long two
    wire extension cords, you can run an extension cord line from the socket
    over to wherever the panel is, or as close as you can get, and lug the lamp
    in there. It cuts down on the walking back and forth. Obviously you can't
    use 3 wire estension cords as you have a prong stuck in the socket.

    And no. it is not saf to just grab the broken prong and pull it without
    first killing the power.
    Jim McLaughlin

    Reply address is deliberately munged.
    If you really need to reply directly, try:

    And you know it is a dotnet not a dotcom
    Jim McLaughlin, Nov 4, 2005
  9. KOA

    Beachcomber Guest

    So you are paying for this guy's electricity?

    Beachcomber, Nov 4, 2005
  10. KOA

    Jeff Wisnia Guest

    If all those outlets don't have stickers on them bearing the warning
    "Ground not connected", you may not be in code compliance.

    For all you know, someone may have deliberately shoved something in
    their to deter someone else thinking it really was a grounded receptical.

    FWIW, as long as you're not standing in a puddle of water or touching
    something which really is grounded at the same time you go to do the
    "extraction", I can't think of any reason it wouldn't be safe to pull
    that broken off pin out with pliers.


    Jeffry Wisnia

    (W1BSV + Brass Rat '57 EE)

    "Truth exists; only falsehood has to be invented."
    Jeff Wisnia, Nov 4, 2005
  11. KOA

    Rich256 Guest

    If nothing else just buy one of those adapers that convert the old two prong
    to three prong.

    Should be able to get them at Lowes or HD.
    Rich256, Nov 5, 2005
  12. KOA

    mm Guest

    I thought he was your tenant. If I were the landlord, and you're not,
    I'd evict him for this, for rewiring without permission.. And if I
    wanted to look at it, I'd drill out the lock (see long thread about
    getting access to a tenant's property) , because the mere fact that it
    hasn't started a fire yet, it doesn't mean it won't later today.

    Remove NOPSAM to email me. Please let
    me know if you have posted also.
    mm, Nov 5, 2005
  13. KOA

    mm Guest

    If you have two people, you can have one at the fusebox and one by the
    outlet, watching the lamp. Or with one person, you could use a radio
    set loud enough to hear it at the fuse box. Then you can shut off
    the circuits one at a time until you find the right one.

    This sort of efficiency only matters because of digital clocks and
    cheap vcr's and tv's that might forget the time or other settings if
    you disconnecdt them even for a few seconds. (though most appliances
    use a back up 9 volt battery or a capacitor or non-volatile memory so
    they don't forget things in less than what, 10 minutes, a half hour?)

    Or, you could turn on all the lights and something in every
    receptacle, and tour the house each time after a cb is switched off,
    making notes about what has been disconnnected. Make a detailed list
    and put it in the fuse box. Laminate it maybe so it will last for
    another 100 years.

    Back to hunting down the circuit for every light and receptacle: You
    can turn the circuit breaker or fuse back on after you find what it
    dsconnects. But when you find that a lamp has gone off, plug the lamp
    into the other half of the receptacle to make sure it has gone off
    too. I don't think it was very common to split receptacles, except
    maybe if one is wired through a wall switch and the other half isn't.
    Especially here because they didn't play such clever games in the
    1800's and when the house was rewired, I doubt anyone would go to the
    ttrouble of running two lines to the same receptacle.

    Furthermore, you don't really have to know about every receptacle.
    You'll probably never have to repair any of them, and if you do, you
    can test then to make sure both halves are disconnected.

    BTW, my first house had one fuse for ceiling fixtures in more than one
    room,, and another fuse for receptacles in more than one room. This
    has the big advantage that if you blow the fuse with a lamp, you still
    have the ceiling fixture to see with, and vice versa. But the house
    was built that way. I wouldn't expect a house built without
    electricity (yours?) to be this well done. Electricians were probably
    very expensive when this house was wired.

    Also, few houses had 3-prong outlets until what, 40 years ago. People
    used electricity for almost 100 years before then and mostly without
    trouble. The ground plug is only a secondary safety backup for all,
    iiuc, appliances.

    IIUC, it only helps when a wire inside short to a metal case that the
    person using the appliance touches. It's much more common for a wire
    to break than to short. Or maybe motor windings short, but they short
    from one side of the plug to the other, and they blow the fuse.

    Most home appliances don't have metal cases in the first place, except
    some space heaters and some kitchen things, like toasters. Don't most
    of these things still come with 2-prong plugs? If so, a 3-prong
    outlet does you no good.

    Home power tools used to have 3-prong plugs and metal cases, but now
    almost all have plastcic cases (and therefore have 2-prong plugs.)

    Your refrigerator, washing machine, and I forget but probably the
    dishwasher have 3-prong plugs. Take care of those first.

    And room air conditioners.

    Check your house and see what else has them. If something has a
    two-prong plug, a three-prong receptacle gives no added protection,
    grounded or not.

    How do you know they're not grounded. If you have BX cable, with the
    coiled metal sheath, that is probably the ground.

    You have a tenant who rewired part of your house!! This reminds me
    of the time a roommate borrowed my bicycle (I'd told him he could
    borrow the older one) and readjusted my front wheel bearing, and
    didn't tell me. I didn't find out until I had a flat 10 miles from
    home and when I patched the tube I noticed it was adjusted WRONG. I
    was really mad at him. Not only shouldn't he have done it at all, he
    should have notified me immediately if he did, and he should have done
    it right. The jackass thought he knew more about bicycles than I did.

    Remove NOPSAM to email me. Please let
    me know if you have posted also.
    mm, Nov 5, 2005
    1. Advertisements

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments (here). After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.