I would like to reposition some pot lights - before drywalling the ceiling. They have been wired using push-in wire connectors. How do you release the wires from a push-in wire connector ??
If you're talking about an outlet - or a similar concept fixture - the best tool I've found is a flat head jeweler/precision screw driver.
The wire is being held in by this:
You can see you'll need to push that "tab" away from the wire, from the back of the outlet you should see a small rectangle hole next to each circular hole that the wires are in:
MAKE SURE POWER/BREAKER IS OFF YOU WILL BE TOUCHING A "LIVE" WIRE Insert a small jeweler screwdriver in the rectangular hole/slot, use the box as your pivot point and the screwdriver as your level (bring back end of screwdriver towards wire to force "tab" away) and gently pull the wire out.
* If the outlet is old/weak or the wire wasn't inserted in deep you can sometimes get away with just twisting the wire back and forth while pulling.
I am guessing you are talking about something like what Halo has seen in the image below.
To get these out you are supposed to just twist like hell and pull out. I have had to pull a couple out in my basement and it takes a minute. Also wear gloves because there are a lot of sharp edges around.
If you are going to rewire you need to install a new connector. Stab connections are not listed for re-use -- once you pull a wire out, their spring is weakened and they cannot be relied on to hold again. Reusing them violates NEC 110.3b, the requirement to follow labeling and instructions.
Note: My preferred method is to use needle nose pliers and grip about an inch from the connector. Then just jiggle and pull until it is lose. I have found jiggling allows me to not have to pull as hard.
I just did this with my husband. They absolutely do not pull out once they are in, but he cut the wire off leaving about 1/4" coming out of the connector. He handed it to me and said, "See what you can do" thinking we'd just have to get a new recessed light fixture. I googled my question in and came to this website. When I read the post where someone suggested twisting, I went back, took my needle nose pliers, pulled off the plastic wire covering so I could get a better grip on the wire. I didn't need gloves...I didn't need to work up a lather and I didn't ruin anything. I realized that it had threads that kept the wire from pulling out and simply and gently twisted it counter-clockwise and it eased it's way out! Our mistake was that my husband forgot to put the wire through the punch out holes in the box of the recessed lighting fixture first! But, he got them through and poked the wire in the appropriate holes of the connector and you couldn't pull them out.
I have a surefire method to release the wire. Just use a drill in the little hole that geniuses can use to free the wire. Drilling with a drill bit a little larger than the hole with break off a bit of Bakelite and you are most of the way home. This method ruins the old fixture but they only cost just over a dollar. You were probably going to replace it anyway.
The easiest way I have ever found is to just cut the wires and re strip the wires. If I find an electrician that uses these and is to lazy to wrap the wire around the screw like the old days (needle nose pliers to make the loop) I find a new electrician because it drives the rest of us crazy to have to fix later.
After trying this myself and reading the replies, I feel like the best way to handle this is to tear apart the plastic push-in connector and replace it with a proper multi-use WAGO connector. This is not an easy thing to do, but then you end up with completely intact wires which is what you want, and you don't need to shorten the wires by cutting them off. I am going to need to do this 8 times for 4 potlights... very annoying. Honestly, I don't understand why they can't spend 10 cents extra or whatever and include proper WAGO-stype connectors. Maybe it's because they are patented and therefore expensive to include. Who knows.
By the way I read somewhere that the twist on connectors are not less safe than WAGO, they are prohibited in UK for historical reasons because at some point they had some terrible screw-on connectors there that caused a whole bunch of fires. These are not the same as the ones used in modern US and Canada. In any case, for low load WAGO is definitely the way to go. For things that require permanent connection and heavy load the best way based on some advice I got from experts is to twist a long stretch of a wire, put a copper clamp on top (maybe even more than one), and then cover it all with heat shrink. The only way that is better than that is to weld the wires (not solder but actually weld). But that I feel like is a massive overkill for residential applications. Not a pro, just got some advice from pro electricians that work with high voltage industrial-grade circuits.