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Electric plug outlet is faulty?

(23 Posts)
misscph1973 Wed 27-Jan-16 09:40:08

One of my electric plug outlets (sorry if wrong terminology, English is not my first language) is faulty. It's the top prong, looks like a metal bit that should be in the middle has moved to the right so that the top pin on any plug will not fit in. Can I fix this myself?

specialsubject Wed 27-Jan-16 11:18:33

if you have the knowledge of how to do it, yes. Replacing like for like is perfectly legal without part P registration (Assuming you are in the UK)

if you don't know what I'm talking about, call an electrician!

catsofa Wed 27-Jan-16 11:22:46

Do you know how to turn off the correct circuit in the house? If not then no, don't do it!

PigletJohn Wed 27-Jan-16 11:38:35

It's called a socket.

It is very strange if an internal part has moved, especially for the top, earth, pin which should never have any current pass through it except under fault conditions, so should never get hot or even warm.

However there are special sockets, used for example in schools, hospitals and the communal areas of flats, where the "holes" are positioned differently so that they only fit special plugs, usually for the cleaners' or maintenance appliances.

Pipistrella Wed 27-Jan-16 11:44:46

You would have to turn off the electricity (or just the circuit which supplies this socket) and then remove the front, make a note or take a photo of where the wires go, go to the shop, by a replacement which has holes in the same places, and go home and fit the new front.

It can be easy and it can be bloody complicated depending on how many wires you have in there. One of mine had about 12 wires coming into a three way switch.

PigletJohn Wed 27-Jan-16 12:10:57

Post a photo, it may help.

misscph1973 Wed 27-Jan-16 14:20:22

Thanks, all. I think I will start by opening it (after turning the electricity off at the mains) to have a look. It's really hard to take a photo of the inside of the plug through the hole!

I am in the UK, but I have not got much experience with UK electrical work, although I did a fair bit in my native country Denmark.

I don't think it's a special socket, but it is an old house.

PigletJohn Wed 27-Jan-16 15:16:58

A photo of the outside will help

you mean one of these?

PigletJohn Wed 27-Jan-16 15:47:37

I have been thinking, if it is an ordinary 3-pin socket, it might be that the safety shutter has broken. This prevents anything entering the two lower holes, unless an earth pin has already entered the upper hole (that's why the earth pin on a plug is longer). You will not be able to repair this, but a replacement socket is not expensive. Good brands are MK and Crabtree.

misscph1973 Wed 27-Jan-16 16:14:59

Yes, like the one on your photo, PigletJohn. I believe it is an ordinary 3-pin socket, and the 2 lower holes don't seem like the pins can't go in, it's the top pin I can't put in, it looks like some metal bit that should be pushed in by the top pin (when compairing to working sockets in the house) has moved to the right, and that is causing the problem.

If you look at this photo (not my socket) , maybe you can see the metal shining in the top hole? That's not in the right place in my socket, it should be in the middle, but it's moved to the side.

Pipistrella Wed 27-Jan-16 16:51:48

I thought that was what you meant - yes, that's a little metal thingy that once it's pushed in (the top pin of the plug being the longest) it allows the bottom two pins to enter as well.

I would take your socket front to the shop so you can get as close as possible a match (the two small bolts/screws that hold it onto the wall will need to be in the same place, or you'll need a new back box too - that's a more complicated job)

Can you leave the power off while you go out? If not, then take a pic of the back of it and measure distance between the two screws that attach it to the wall, so you can get a good match.

Forsigtig!!! smile

misscph1973 Wed 27-Jan-16 17:31:07

Many thanks, Pipistrella, and very impressive Danish ;)

I think I will ask my agent (I rent) to repair this, although it's a minor thing I could spend ages trying to get the right part.

But I don't understand how the safety shutter can even get out of place?

PigletJohn Wed 27-Jan-16 17:50:12

I hope your socket has not suffered heat damage like the one in the photo. If it has, there will be damage to the wires as well.

It is OK to see the metal part in the top (earth) pin, but it should be impossible to put anything into the two lower holes.

The shutter mechanism in a good-quality socket will usually last 30 years or so without failing. There are also some cheap brands about.

Sockets made in the last 40 years or so have standard spacing for the fixing screws.

PigletJohn Wed 27-Jan-16 17:53:46

here you are!

Pipistrella Wed 27-Jan-16 18:18:11

It's possible some small child has stuck a screwdriver in it, I suppose! That would be my first line of thought but you may not have a toddler hell bent on destruction residing with you grin

I think it is a very good idea to get the agents to send someone - at least that way if it needs further exploration or the back box taking out or something, they will do it free of charge. And you'll know it's certified, etc - actually, I hadn't realised you were renting, it's in most rental contracts that you aren't allowed to touch the electrical system at all.

I think it invalidates their insurance - unless you're qualified, that is.

I had endless frustration when I rebuilt the kitchen at my old flat and they had to send a guy to take all the sockets off, so I could plaster and tile it, then to put them all on again hmm but I guess rules is rules.

misscph1973 Wed 27-Jan-16 19:02:39

PigletJohn, there is no sign of heat damage like on the photo (which I had found in the link you sent), we had that in a kitchen socket last year, so I know what it looks like.

It's an old house, and a lot of work has quite obviously been carried out by unqualified or at least not very competent people, the lino in the kitchen has missing bits from not being measured up properly, some of the walls have been plastered really badly and the tiling in the bathroom was simply put over the old tiling, there are gaps so you can see the old tiling. The plumbing is a nightmare, we have had blockages quite far down twice in 12 months.

And there are 2 other sockets with similar issues, but they are not in use so I haven't bothered asking the agent to fix them. They look old, I guess they could be 40 years old.

(the above makes it sound like an awful house, but it's actually lovely, structurally sound and a pleasure to live in. But like many old houses there is a lot of maintenance)

Pipistrella, I very much doubt that any of my kids have stuck anything into the socket, they are 8 and 11, and they understand that their tablets need electricity to work;)

Anyway, I will call my agent, I just always try to see if I can fix things myself first, as I have never rented a house where I had to call the agent so frequently, and I don't want to be seen as not looking after the property. But I guess I am by flagging problems, it just feels a bit like I am being an unreasonable tennant.

PigletJohn Wed 27-Jan-16 19:17:14

I'd have all the faulty ones done at the same time. It will be more economical than repeated calls, and the electrician will probably have an hourly or a call-out including 1 hour pricing structure.

If you have a lot of different problems it suggests the owner is taking an economical approach to maintenance and repairs.

misscph1973 Wed 27-Jan-16 19:26:10

That's what I was thinking, PigletJohn.

My landlord has had plans about this big renovation for about a year now, and the agent can't give me a date or any details. I'm not terribly happy, as apparently the landlord is going through a "very nasty divorce", and last month he had decided to put the house up for sale, but then he cancelled it a week later. So I think perhaps the renovation plans are part of selling plans that they are not telling me about, and I don't feel very secure as a tennant, but for the time being we are staying. I have an alert on Rightmove for properties in the area, but so far I have not seen anything that would suit me.

specialsubject Thu 28-Jan-16 11:47:07

it's a rental?

don't do it. Call the landlord. That's one of the things you pay rent for.

sounds like you need to get informed of your rental rights:

misscph1973 Thu 28-Jan-16 16:20:38

I did, specialsubject, I just don't like being helpless ;) Thanks for the link, I am a long term renter, but it doesn't harm to read up on these matters.

specialsubject Thu 28-Jan-16 17:46:33


but seriously, don't touch it. Worst case - you've no idea how the house is wired and could get injured. Best case - the landlord has emergency cover and electrical safety certificates, and unqualified tinkering invalidates the warranty.

Pipistrella Thu 28-Jan-16 18:28:52

Yes if the wiring is 40 years old, it may not have a circuit breaker (well I don't think anywhere did in those days) so that makes it far more dangerou to work on.

Modern circuits have to have an RCD. Sounds like the whole place wouldn't meet modern standards and could use a rewire.

Good luck getting it sorted out.

misscph1973 Fri 29-Jan-16 09:32:16

I'm not touching it, thanks for the warning ;) It's not all the electrics that's old, the fusebox (that's probably not the correct term) looks like it's less than 10 years old.

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