I've replaced several old outlets in my living room. I rewired them exactly as they were before. There's one outlet that had a switch leg. It powered on and off the top outlet of one of the receptacles. When replacing with a new outlet, I broke off the tab between the two brass hot screws and I did not break the tab on the other side for the two silver neutral screws. I didn't rewire the actual old light switch, I left that as is.

The light switch now doesn't do anything when in the off position and the outlet always stays turned on with continuous power.

A different outlet in the same room was also broken before I started any work. Only the bottom plug was working and the top was not. I replaced that outlet and did not remove the brass tab on the hot side. This different outlet also had 3 hot wires, 2 neutrals and 1 ground (like the one I'm having issues with now).

Could it be that these two outlets were connected in some way and I also need to remove the brass clip on the other outlet?

I've attached photos of the first outlet that's in question and that I know for certain is controlled by a switch. enter image description here enter image description here

Well I took out the brass clip connecting the two hot screws on the neighboring receptacle that is NOT controlled by the switch and that brought functionality back to the outlet that IS controlled by the switch. The outlet with the switch leg works as intended with both switches BUT there are 2 things worth mentioning:

  1. The "On" for both switches is reversed and "Off" now powers the outlet
  2. Only a part of the other neighboring outlet is working, again.

Here's a picture of the old neighboring receptacle, I thought that it was broke after I unwired it because the back is badly damaged and it fell apart when I unscrewed the hots.

Any ideas how to make both outlets work fully?
enter image description here

Here's a picture of the new neighboring outlet also.

enter image description here enter image description here

2 Answers 2


Yes, it is quite possible that the two receptacles are linked. The way to tell for sure is going to take a bit of disconnecting/testing/reconnecting. (But the good news is you got "screw to clamp" receptacles so you don't have to deal with hooks (annoying) or backstabs (unreliable) and can loosen, remove, test, replace.)

Each black wire goes somewhere. Exactly one should be "always hot". Most likely one is going to the switch. The others are going between these receptacles and/or to other receptacles.

  • Turn off the breaker (of course).
  • Disconnect all the black wires on both receptacles and separate them so you can safely test them.
  • Turn on the breaker. Use a Non-Contact Voltage Tester (NCVT - beeps/lights when it is next to a hot wire) and/or a multimeter (check voltage of each wire against ground or neutral) to find which wire(s) is hot. There should be exactly one hot when the switch is off. Tag that one HOT. If there is more than one hot with the switch off, STOP and upload more details and pictures.
  • Turn the switch on. See if there are any additional hot wires. If there is one, mark it as SWITCHED HOT.
  • If there were any other wires on the same screw as the HOT wire, turn off the breaker and connect those wires together with a wire nut. Turn the breaker on and see what, if anything, has changed in terms of other wires being hot with the switch on and with the switch off.
  • Turn the breaker off.

With this information, you can plot out a diagram of where the power goes, starting with the HOT wire and going to the switch and to other receptacles. Hopefully that will provide enough information for you to figure out what to do. And if not, list all the details of what you have found and we can try to decipher it.

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    Diagramming this is time consuming. But since you're dealing with possibly multiple problems - one new problem, one old problem, possibly related, just trying stuff may not be a great idea Commented Mar 5, 2023 at 22:57
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    @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact is being polite. It’s foolish and negligent to just start trying stuff. Next time, take pictures and tag things as you take them apart. Consider the bother of diagramming your price of admission. Commented Mar 5, 2023 at 23:37
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    @manassehkatz-Moving2 okay I appreciate your detailed answer. Ill set up a diagram if my other trouble shooting steps dont work. Hopefully that'll lead to an answer if I can't solve it! Thanks Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 2:06
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    @ Aloysius Defenestrate "Consider the bother of diagramming your price of admission" what does this mean? Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 3:07
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    It means that skills in the various trades cost time/effort to learn. Sometimes, that learning comes through mistakes that are costly or dangerous or trivial if you're lucky. In this case, you have a smooth path laid out (diagramming) that will lead to useful and transferrable learning. Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 4:37

I've replaced several old outlets in my living room.

Theres one outlet that had a switch leg.

One? That's a bold claim. They often have 2 or 3 that are switched.

It sounds like the second one, which you wrote off as "dead", was actually a second switched outlet.

When replacing with a new outlet, I broke off the tab between the two brass hot screws and I did not break the tab on the other side for the two silver neutral screws.

That's nice, but you should have done it exactly as the old outlet was. It sounds like you ignored the tabs on all the old outlets and just presumed that you break off hot only, on only this one outlet. Were you hoping that would control which outlet is switched?

Anyway, what has me concerned is the way the neutrals are wired. Normally, /3 cable is used so that both always-hot and switched-hot can use the same neutral. However, it appears they did this with /2, and it appears they split neutral at the switch, and are delivering separate neutral to each socket. If so, the neutral tabs should have been broken off also.

So you need to dig them out of the trash and take a close look at them.

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    I did do it e.x.a.c.t.l.y like it was wired before. So far Ive changed 20-30 outlets in this house and this is the only one that is on a 2 way switch. The other outlet that has never worked since I moved in now works with the new receptacle I replaced it with. Im not just sitting here willy nilly playing with electricity dude... Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 1:50
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    @JetteBeckett sorry if I came off snarky. If you copied the tab break-off then honestly, you did everything right and there may be a problem elsewhere. Often it is a bad wire contact, but replacing the sockets is definitely a way to re-do the connections! Maybe the switch??? Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 4:43

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