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When I was using my dryer it smelled like an electrical fire. I don't know anything about electrical work so I had my friend check it. He isn't an electrician, but said that the cause was that one of the lines was loose and burning. He said he could fix it by trimming the burnt part off and installing a new outlet.

Is this something that can be fixed by someone handy, or should I be hiring an electrician?

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  • Is the house wire copper or is it aluminum? Apr 19 at 17:41
  • Did your friend open up the box and examine the wiring to conclude that there was a loose connection? Apr 19 at 17:46
  • 19
    Do you care about why it burned? Any interest in preventing it from happening again? Apr 19 at 18:28
  • 1
    @Harper-ReinstateMonica "loose" suggests a simple bad connection, that is probably its own cause and not caused by anything else, right?
    – user253751
    Apr 20 at 10:04
  • As an addendum to previous answers, check whether replacing a plug is legal where you live. In some places (eg. Australia) it is not legal to replace a plug. Whether or not you will be caught is another thing, however, should it cause an electrical fire, and you insurance company find out the plug was changed and you can't show it was done by an electrician, you will most likely not be paid out. I'm not necessarily saying not to replace the plug if this is the case, just to be aware that this financial risk exists, in addition to the obvious safety risks.
    – B-K
    Apr 20 at 10:48

5 Answers 5

17

This is usually a fairly easy fix. Replacement of a receptacle, even a 240V receptacle, is a straightforward task:

  • Turn off power and verify with a non-contact tester and/or multimeter.
  • Remove the old receptacle.
  • Fix the wiring issues - in this case, cut off the burnt section and strip some clean copper.
  • Install the new receptacle.
  • Test with a multimeter (120V each hot to neutral, 120V each hot to ground, 240V hot to hot (208V in some situations)).
  • Plug in the dryer and test.

However, this raises the infamous 3/4 wire issue:

If your existing receptacle (and plug and cord) is 4 wires, everything is fine. If it is a 3-wire receptacle (hot/hot/neutral, no ground) then now is the time to fix it! There are a few possibilities:

  • Ground wire present but unused

Replace the receptacle and attach the ground properly.

  • No ground wire, but metal conduit

Test to be sure, but with a metal box and metal conduit you can connect ground from the receptacle to a screw in the box to ground it.

  • No ground wire, no metal conduit, but able to run a new cable (e.g., if the breaker panel is in the laundry room or nearby and is a modern, easy to work on, panel (as opposed to an old Rule of Six, no main breaker, fuse box like I used to have)

Run a new 4 wire ("/3" = hot, hot, neutral plus ground) 10 AWG cable from the breaker panel to the new receptacle. This does get more complicated as you need to make connections to the breaker and the neutral and ground bars in the panel, so a step up from "replace receptacle" and you may feel more comfortable contacting an electrician to do the work.

  • No ground wire, no metal conduit, hard to run a new cable

You can run just a ground wire (bare or green) from the new receptacle either back to the panel or to another point on the grounding system (at least 10 AWG).

In all of these 3 -> 4 receptacle replacements, you also need to replace the plug/cord and remove the neutral/ground bond from the dryer.

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  • Thank you so much for all the info. I really appreciate it! Apr 19 at 18:59
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    The entire 3/4 wire issue is local to the US and other countries that use 120V phases. In countries that went all-in on 240V like Europe, it's a non-issue. Also, in Europe a missing ground wire invariably means that the appliance is double-isolated and that no ground wire is necessary, so again, this is a non-issue in Europe. Apr 20 at 10:50
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If that burnt wire is actually the cause of the smell and the problem, then yes, it's a perfectly acceptable solution to trim and reconnect the burnt wire, and replace anything else that was scorched.

How certain are you that this was the problem? Only you can answer that.

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This happened to me. Loose connection either at the outlet to the wire or on the plug to the outlet or at the dryer to the cord. It burned the outlet a bit, and the dryer stopped really drying (still spun -- guess that only one side and neutral have to work for the motor to work. I just replaced the cord and made sure everything was tight and have had no problems for 8 years.

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Don't Waste your Money on Hiring a Electrician. Fixing Burnt wires is not as much big job if your friend can identify the fault then he can fix that cables too. He will just need to cut the Burnt part of cable and connect it again, Just tell him to use all proper tools to fix it and to take precautions that he should not get shock.

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    Agree it should be a fairly straightforward job, but if you need to tell the friend to use proper tools and to avoid getting shocked, they probably shouldn't be working with electricity. I would not want someone who doesn't think to turn off the breaker to do any work on my wiring. Apr 20 at 14:44
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    Do please mention that the scorch marks could be inside the wire clamps too, so the faceplate/outlet needs to be replaced or cleaned properly and inspected.
    – Criggie
    Apr 21 at 0:00
-2

Hire an electrician.

220v is serious electricity, and neither you nor your friend should be working on it because of the risk of injury or death. How, for instance, could could either of you be sure that whatever caused the burnt wire would not recur? How could you be sure that your work would be effective and safe?

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    this site is diy.stackexchange.com and not whichtradieshouldicall.stackexchange.com
    – user253751
    Apr 20 at 10:03
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    Bike riding on streets is serious business, and neither you nor your friend should be doing it because of the risk of injury or death. - Like bike riding, fixing electric errors like this is easy to learn, and quite safe if you don't make a fool of yourself. As a matter of fact, the issue was likely caused by an "electrician" who did not tighten a screw sufficiently. Surely, the OPs friend can do better than that. Apr 20 at 11:05
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    Obviously, the friend does know a bit about electricity, so it's not the start of their learning experience. And I was not talking about motorcycles, I was talking about bike riding. Apr 20 at 11:34
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica I highly doubt it. Other motorists treat motorcycles vastly differently from bikes. A motorcycle is generally granted its lane without issue, a cycle is generally considered too weak to be granted a lane. Motorcycles are generally passed with sufficient safety distances, bikes never enjoy that luxury. Motorcycles don't get honked at for simply existing, bikes do a lot when they abide with the rules of the road. And that's really the main source of danger to cyclists: Motorists that ignore their rights. But this is devolving into a serious tangent. Apr 20 at 20:32
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    Back on-topic... A half-way option is to hire the electrician, and assist them. Watch what they do and learn that way.
    – Criggie
    Apr 20 at 22:14

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