This is for wiring in the United States.

My wife ordered a new GE electric range top, and it came with a 3 wire flex conduit permanently attached. I cannot change it. It has a black wire, a red wire and a ground wire. It looks like this:

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We plan to use it in an old cabin that was built in the 1940's. There is an existing 240V 3 prong 50A outlet in the kitchen. Upon opening the outlet, I found a red wire, white wire and black wire in what looks to be 6 gauge? It's very thick, and hard to bend. There is no ground wire present.

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My understanding was that I could just wire in the black and red on the range top, and not use the neutral wire in the outlet box. But the fact that there is no ground in the outlet box means I can't ground the range top.

What is the proper way to wire this up without having to run an entirely new outlet from the breaker panel?

UPDATE: Added picture of breaker panel wiring, and it appears the metal box is indeed grounded?

@ThreePhaseEel, yes I plan to hard wire it. I'm away at the moment, but can take a photo later. There is a 3/4 inch metal conduit entering the top of the outlet box. You can see it in the 3rd photo.

Update 2: Okay, you guys are going to freak, but here is a photo of what I'm dealing with here. This is all the panels for the cabin: enter image description here

Now, I consider myself to be very handy. I do all my own mechanical and electrical work on my cars, I run my own outdoor gas lines, run my own electrical for my landscaping, etc. Add outlets within the house... But I'm obviously not an electrician. It seems like it would be easy enough to replace that sub-panel myself, but in light of all the other panels on that wall, is this looking like something that I should have an electrician handle?

Update 3 My original question has been answered, but it opened another can of worms. And so I've created a new question to address the panel replacement/rewiring: Proper way to modernize 1940's cabin sub-panels

Thank you all so much for your very generous help! It is greatly appreciated.

  • 1
    Are you sure your metal box is not grounded?
    – Ed Beal
    Jul 30, 2020 at 22:25
  • @EdBeal, No, I am not sure. What is the easiest way to check this? Do I need to trace it all the way back to the breaker panel? And if so, how would it be grounded normally?
    – Jimmy
    Jul 30, 2020 at 22:42
  • 1
    It looks like you now have two separate accounts; you should request that they be merged. And, please take our tour so you'll know how best to contribute here. Jul 31, 2020 at 1:30
  • 1
    Hi! You were unable to leave this as a comment on your original post because you have two accounts, one unregistered used to ask the question and a registered one that posted this. Please consider merging them together, which will allow you to edit, comment on any of your posts and accept an answer on your question. Thanks, and welcome to the site!
    – Niall C.
    Jul 31, 2020 at 1:44
  • 1
    @ThreePhaseEel, It is 8 inches wide, 11 inches tall, and just under 3 inches deep. And it is inset into the wall.
    – Jimmy
    Jul 31, 2020 at 2:15

4 Answers 4


That white wire can just...go

Since your new range doesn't use a neutral, and this circuit appears to be run in conduit, I would turn off the feeder to the subpanel box at the main panel, make sure the power's off in the sub, then unhook the white wire headed rangeward from the neutral bar of the subpanel and pull it out as a starting point. While this may sound odd at the moment, it's actually a rather sensible move since you don't have separate neutral and ground in the feeder, thus we need to pick one or the other to provide at the subpanel, and since the other load has no use for neutral, we pick ground.

Of course, if you are planning to consolidate the panels, then the white wire can stay since it'll become a proper isolated neutral in that case. You'll want to cap it off at the cooktop junction box in the meantime, though.

That subpanel needs to go, though, too

However, once that white wire's gone from the equation, the challenge begins, as sadly, that subpanel is a Zinsco, with all the relatively checkered failure history attendant to that fact. Sadly, the fact it's recessed is going to make this a tricky (albeit rather necessary!) job, especially considering that retrofit interiors aren't made for small panels like yours. You'll want to ignore the bonded bar and fit a ground bar to the new panel, though, landing the bare ground wires on the incoming feeder cable and outgoing 10/2 NM cable on the ground bar and leaving the bonded bar empty as a cue that neutral is not available at this panel.

Once all that's out of the way

Once you get all that taken care of, then the green wire from the range can just land on a small mechanical lug (Brumall 6T or equivalent 4-14 foot lug with a #10 hole in it) connected to the box by a 10-32 self-tapping screw (Garvin GSST). From there, the conduit continues the equipment grounding path to the subpanel, which then is grounded via the bare outer braid of the SEU cable used to feed it.

  • "which then is grounded via the bare outer braid of the SEU cable used to feed it."... does this mean the ground connection will naturally work because the outer braid is metal and will be touching the inside of the metal conduit? Or do I take the outer sheath and connect it to the grounding bar like it is in the box I have now?
    – Jimmy
    Jul 31, 2020 at 2:35
  • @Jimmy -- the braid in the SEU cable would need to be connected to the replacement panel's ground bar Jul 31, 2020 at 2:44
  • @Jimmy -- what model is that range, BTW? Jul 31, 2020 at 2:46
  • 1
    @Jimmy -- thank you! I'll have to look that one up -- p.s. the reason it doesn't require neutral is because it's a cooktop, not a full range, and most cooktops get by just fine without neutral, while most ranges need it for the blasted oven light bulb, if nothing else Jul 31, 2020 at 2:57
  • 1
    Thanks again ThreePhaseEel! I added a new question to address the panel rewiring, as it is beyond the scope of this original question. diy.stackexchange.com/questions/200007/…
    – Jimmy
    Jul 31, 2020 at 18:41

IF (and with some houses that's a big if) the metal conduit is continuous and properly joined all the way from the box to the panel, that is your ground. You can either install a 4-Prong range outlet (and use a plug, leaving the neutral pin unused in the plug) or you can hardwire and tape off the neutral for future use.

The ground would attach to the box, if you look closely almost all metal boxes have at least one pre-threaded hole which takes a #10-32 screw - you can get short green ones in the electrical aisle, or non-green ones (which should still be short, particularly since old boxes tend not to have the "bump in" that modern boxes usually do for screw clearance behind this hole.) If your box, after close examination, is the exception to this rule, you can get self-threading screws for the job, but they need to be fine thread so that they have enough threads in the metal - not just any self-threading screw.

For a #6 wire you'll probably need a ring terminal to make a connection you can trust, and you want to be able to trust the connection.

  • I wouldn't pull a 4-prong range outlet off that circuit anyway, since the feeder to the subpanel's 3-wire. Jul 31, 2020 at 1:08
  • @ThreePhaseEel But what about a future upgrade that will need a neutral, may as well leave it in place. Jul 31, 2020 at 12:41
  • Since you are recommending replacement of the sub-panel, leaving the neutral on the basis that the replacement sub-panel would need to be properly fed with 4 wires (and it's not very far from the main, by the look of things) seems sensible. Of course, it might be the case that this whole collection of panels could be replaced with a single decent-sized panel...
    – Ecnerwal
    Jul 31, 2020 at 13:01
  • @Ecnerwal, I have created a new question to address the panel rewiring: diy.stackexchange.com/questions/200007/…
    – Jimmy
    Jul 31, 2020 at 18:41
  • @Jimmy -- good call on the new question :) Jul 31, 2020 at 22:45
  1. Check instructions for maximum fuse/breaker size on new cooktop - could be lower than 50 amps.

  2. Would be a good idea to re-wire that mess, but requires a lot of work. A new panel location that meets NEC requirements would have to be selected and all circuits extended to the new location, some of the old panels could be kept as junction boxes.


The white wire can be used as a ground wire. It goes to the the neural bar witch is grounded. Black to black, red to red, and green to the white.

  • 2
    No, it can’t! Neutral is not ground and they must not be confused or mixed up! That’s even more important when subpanels are involved. Aug 1, 2020 at 0:18

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