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:

enter image description here

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:

enter image description here

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.

  • See also: diy.stackexchange.com/q/20155/2196 – BMitch Jun 10 '13 at 14:17
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    Since the OP mentions "pot lights", I don't think that's the type of "push-in" connector they're talking about. Many lighting fixtures (especially recessed fixtures), come with this type of push-in connector – Tester101 Jun 10 '13 at 14:18
  • My pot lights are like this, I just didn't feel like using a ladder and taking pictures. – Jason Jun 10 '13 at 14:52
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    @Jason, yeah, but the point is the push-in connectors like those included with recessed lights do NOT have a release function. – Speedy Petey Dec 29 '15 at 1:18
  • I agree with speedy petey most fixtures use wego and those have to be cut off. – Ed Beal Oct 20 '17 at 21:00

I am guessing you are talking about something like what Halo has seen in the image below.

enter image description here

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.

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    If he needs to install a new connector after pulling the wires out... why not just cut the wire close to the connector and install them into a new one? Much easier and less painful :) – Piotr Kula Jun 12 '13 at 9:04
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    He doesn't need to, he might. I have pulled A LOT out. Maybe 1 out of 6-7 is ruined after pulled. – DMoore Jun 12 '13 at 15:11
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    They are not listed for reuse, twisting or pulling damages the wire and the connector, best to snip and get new ones or wire nuts. – Ed Beal Oct 20 '17 at 21:02
  • @EdBeal : Wouldn't recommend wire nuts; they are not legal in Europe, and I believe that is because they are less reliable than Wago or similar connectors. (YMMV) – Martin Bonner supports Monica Oct 26 '17 at 13:14
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    If shortening the wires is an issue, compound action pliers (like Irwin Vice Grips) might be able to crush and break apart the connectors along the long dimension. – Tim B Oct 26 '17 at 15:43

Just twist the connectors back and forth while pulling them off of the wires. It doesn't require too much strength to do.


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.


An additional technique is to remove the insulation and then pull a few of the wire strands out. Then the rest of the strands come out easily.

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    The vast majority of wire I see used in such situation is not stranded. In fact I don't recall ever seeing stranded wire used in these cases. – Wayne In Yak Sep 2 '16 at 3:29
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    Most backstabs are not listed for stranded wire and do not play well together. In fact I recently discovered an excessively warm receptacle, and opened it up to find #12 stranded had been stuffed in a backstab hole intended for #14 solid only. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Oct 20 '17 at 21:39

A better answer is: don't.

The push in connections are not as reliable as screw connections. Instead cut the wire keeping as much length as possible, strip, and put it around the screw.

Or, twist and pull. But expect to have to cut the wire short anyway as it will be all scratched out.

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    Agreed, when possible stick with the screws. But you still have to know how to undo the spring connections for those cases where whoever installed the previous unit didn't follow that advice. – keshlam Jun 19 '14 at 20:46
  • If you're going onto screws, the wire being a little scratched doesn't matter. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Oct 20 '17 at 21:37
  • ??? I disagree. Wago sell their connectors in the UK as suitable for locations where the finished work will not be accessible. Screw connectors are not valid there (screws can work lose over time). – Martin Bonner supports Monica Oct 26 '17 at 13:17
  • @Martin bonner, with the specific exemption of nm splices that are approved for in wall all splices in the U.S. are required to be in boxes and accessable, I have repaired replaced hundreds of backstabed devices over the years On outlets and switches only 14 gauge wire can be backstabbed not 12 gauge (I know wago has listed pushins but you won't many Useing them in the U.S.) In industrial panels I have only seen spring loaded terminals 1 time and we had to remove these as the wires kept falling out due to vibration but have no problems with the screw terminals keeping the wire in place. – Ed Beal Mar 12 '18 at 19:36

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.


Just tried pulling wires out of several Utilitech Push-In Connectors, using needle nosed pliers. It worked. Just twisted and pulled at the same time. Didn't take much force.

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