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I have one receptacle left to replace and it was back-wired. The two black wires had a release slot, so I could remove the wires. The two white wires do not have slots. Any suggestions?

pic of receptacle

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    Have you tried the one release? It might release all four wires.
    – DoxyLover
    Feb 19, 2023 at 16:24
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    @DoxyLover, it doesn't .These are very rudimentary devices.
    – isherwood
    Feb 20, 2023 at 0:09

5 Answers 5

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The spring clips should exist on the other side but sometimes too much plastic ends up in the mold and they’re covered.

Try punching them out by gently tapping a hammer on something roughly slot-shaped (like an old screwdriver you don’t care about).

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  • Yeah, there is an oval shape visible that suggests there is just a bit of plastic on top of it.
    – jpa
    Feb 21, 2023 at 9:45
  • This looks similar and has slots for all four back-stab connections. Feb 21, 2023 at 15:24
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Since you are replacing this receptacle, and presumably trashing it, use a hammer or locking pliers to break/crush it, exposing the guts and allowing you to get the wires out, relatively unscathed, while preserving wire length.

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    It looks like there's already a big crack across the back side near the bottom. Wiggling the two halves of the black shell in opposite directions will likely open it up fairly quickly.
    – bta
    Feb 20, 2023 at 15:45
  • Destroying the receptacle MIGHT not be an entirely unproblematic option if either a) there is the need to be able to revert in case the new receptacle for some reason won't install, or b) is not the OP's property (eg in a rental unit). Feb 21, 2023 at 1:00
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    If it's a rental they shouldn't be doing electrical at all. Not being able to replace a receptacle with a receptacle is fairly far-fetched.
    – Ecnerwal
    Feb 21, 2023 at 2:25
  • IDK why you'd need to go to such extremes. Simply twisting the wires/recep while pulling hard seems to work for me.
    – Huesmann
    Feb 21, 2023 at 13:36
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    Because, @Huesmann, twisting and pulling can damage the wire, which is being kept and reused, while destroying an already broken receptacle which is being replaced anyway, isn't an issue at all.
    – FreeMan
    Feb 21, 2023 at 18:08
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The wire tends to be abused most (bent and re-bent, often sharply) at the back of the device, weakening the conductor. Wires with nicks have increased resistance because much current flow is at the surface of the wire (to oversimplify how electricity actually works). Also, bare copper tends to oxidize over time, reducing conductivity when reinstalled. It's best to start fresh when possible.

But... when I have to remove a receptacle with wires in the backstabs I pull and spin. The locking tab inside will essentially cut spiral threads and the wire will eventually come out. If you can't spin completely, twist as far in one direction as possible, then reverse. Repeat until it lets go.

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    At 60 Hz, the skin depth of copper is ~1/3 inch. So unless you have a really big conductor, the current flows fairly uniformly throughout the cross section, particularly for commonly used 12 & 14 gauge wire. But, that doesn't diminish from the fact that at the point of the nick, the resistance is higher and so can lead to localized heating.
    – SteveSh
    Feb 19, 2023 at 16:38
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Cut the wires close to the outlet. Re strip the insulation and install on the new outlet.

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    Perhaps it was because the answer doesn't give a reason. It should.
    – isherwood
    Feb 19, 2023 at 15:40
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    In this case the reason is "it's a quick and easy solution, arguably the quickest and easiest."
    – keshlam
    Feb 19, 2023 at 16:13
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    And hope you still have enough wire…
    – Jon Custer
    Feb 19, 2023 at 17:37
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    Yeah, I'm not a fan of cutting, wire length is precious because you're not allowed to just use nimble fingers, you need 6" beyond the end of the sheath and 3" beyond the wall surface. Or you must extend with wire nuts. I personally think the score marks it puts on the wire are trivial and not worth worrying about. Feb 19, 2023 at 22:19
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    I'm not a fan of cutting but I'm also not a fan of wrestling with a piece you intend to throw away. If the leads are already short, sure, conserving length might make current and future work easier. But if you have plenty of length for this repair and the next three...
    – keshlam
    Feb 20, 2023 at 3:18
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Making sure the power is off, just cut the wires close to the end/edge.

To use them again on another new outlet, strip off the insulation the proper length. There usually is a strip gauge on an outlet/switch

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    Make sure you have enough wire length before cutting. You need 6" of wire beyond the end of. the cable sheath and wires must come out at least 3" beyond the surface of the wall. Don't squander what you have. Feb 19, 2023 at 22:19

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