wikiHow to Do Common Electrical Repairs

If you're talking about outlets, switches, ceiling fans or overhead lights, the concept is rather simple. Just remember that electricity flows like water. Hot wires are normally black, but can be other colors, neutrals are almost always white, and ground is usually green(sometimes it's a bare copper wire.)


  1. Image titled Do Common Electrical Repairs Step 1
    Familiarize yourself with the layout. Every outlet box in your home will usually have at least 3 wires in it: A hot, a neutral and a ground. In the case of a switch that controls a ceiling fan or overhead light, for instance, will have a feed (3 wires) and an out (3 more wires going to the fan). The 2 neutrals (white in the US, generally blue elsewhere) will be wire-nutted together, and the 2 grounds (bare or green, sometimes stripped with yellow) will be wire-nutted together. The two remaining hots will attach to the switch itself (the feed hot on the bottom, and the out hot on the top).
  2. Image titled Do Common Electrical Repairs Step 2
    For outlets, all the wires will attach to the outlets. A regular two socket outlet will have 5 screws behind it. Two will be for the neutral (white), two will be for the hots (black) and one for the ground (green).
  3. Image titled Do Common Electrical Repairs Step 3
    Attach the neutrals (white) to the two side screws that are on the same side as the ground (green) screw. The hots will attach to the remaining two screws.
  4. Image titled Do Common Electrical Repairs Step 4
    If you come to an outlet box that only has three wires in it (not six), it means you've reached the end of the circuit. Simply follow the same rules described above for attaching the wires.


  • Since most wires will not be labeled, a 10 dollar voltage tester is a great time-saving investment. This will tell you which black is the feeder, and which is the out.
  • Wrapping the electrical connections of the outlet or switch you install can provide added protection. Once all the wires are attached to the device, wrap it completely around 2 or 3 times with electrical tape, ensuring that all the terminals are covered.
  • The 'tail' method is also handy for any time you need to connect more than one wire to a single screw terminal. Create a 6–8 inch (15.2–20.3 cm) 'tail' and wire it together with all like wires (neutrals together & hots together). Cut to length and attach the 'tail' to the outlet.
  • When attaching 2 ground wires to a single screw, cut a third piece of ground wire about 6–8 inches (15.2–20.3 cm) long. Wire-nut all three together which leaves a single 'tail'. Attach this 'tail' to the single ground screw.


  • Always make absolutely sure the power is off.
  • When testing for feeds, it is necessary to have the power on. Only have the power on when doing the testing. Otherwise, the power must remain off for your safety!
  • In the case of a single pole switch that has just a black or other color, white and ground wire, the white wire should be the hot feed or source, and the black is the switched power that goes to the device.
  • In some countries, electrical repairs may be performed only by a licensed electrician.

Things You'll Need

  • You will need a straight and a Phillips head screwdriver, wire nuts of the appropriate size, Electrical tape, Wire cutters and wire strippers. An electrical tester is also a very useful tool.

Article Info

Categories: Electrical Maintenance