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Cahill_Main 11-26-2012 11:00 AM

Outlet wiring; hidden ground wires
Noobie question -- my apologies in advance.

I am trying to replace an outlet, which I have learned: 1) is part of a series wiring (i.e., connected to 3 other outlets, ugh!); 2) lives within a metal outlet box; 3) has ground wires that are hidden behind said metal outlet box. That is, I can see the ground wires, but they are tucked behind the outlet box, which keeps me from connecting the ground wires directly to the outlet.

I assume the person who wired this outlet intended to use the outlet box to ground the outlet. My question -- do I just ensure a connection or contact between the green ground screw on the outlet and the metal box? Is there a proper (or, maybe more importantly, improper) way to do this?

I understand that a parallel configuration would be superior, but I'm in an unfortunate situation of working with what I have. I have one outlet that appears to have failed, which has knocked out the 3 other outlets in the series. I tried replacing the outlet once before, and thought I had grounded the outlet by ensuring contact between the ground screw/terminal and the box, but after two weeks of working fine it failed again after plugging in a new appliance. I don't know if I ruined the outlet, or if it's just not properly wired/grounded. Any advice about ensuring a safe configuration is greatly appreciated.

jbfan 11-26-2012 11:33 AM

Not connecting the ground will not cause a receptacle to fail.
You have other issues.

All of your receptacles are wired in parallel anyway.

rjniles 11-26-2012 04:33 PM

A picture would help. You say the ground wires are tucked behind the box, are they wrapped around the cable sheathe and secured by the box clamp? This is called a "Boston back wrap" and was common in the NE in the 50's and into the 70's. I did tons of them working as a helper back in the late 50's.

As long as the cable clamp is secure it will adequately ground the box. You need a pigtail from a ground screw in the back of the box to the receptacle ground. It will not meet code today but it is a grandfathered method.

But as jbfan states, a bad ground is not your issue. Show us a picture.

Rochsolid 11-26-2012 06:21 PM

your plugs are wired in parallel, that being said, i think that your issue is in the plug, sounds like you have lost power at that plug, thus losing power to the other receptacles down stream.

TTW 11-26-2012 06:32 PM

What appliance did you plug in and did you buy a really cheap outlet?

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