Electricity is complicated, we know.
We’ve said before that you should be wary of DIY electrical repairs and projects, but there are some things that google can actually teach you how to do without you ending up in the emergency room.
One of these simple DIY projects is the wiring, or rewiring, of a plug.
But before you reach for that leather toolbelt you’ve been dying to use since you impulse-bought it at the farmers market last year, we want to take you through the basics of how plugs work. It’s important to understand how each part functions to ensure you know how to wire the plug correctly.
First and foremost is electrical safety. Always make sure you’re working with wires that are not connected to any live sources of power. Make sure you’re using the correct tools and that they’re the right size for the job (yes, size does actually matter in this situation). Plugs may need to be wired (or usually rewired) for many different reasons, but it’s usually because the existing plug or plug housing is faulty or broken.
Wiring and Plug Basics
We have two main types of plugs in South Africa. A C plug, and a D plug. The C plug, commonly known as a two pin plug, has two round pins parallel to each other. The D plug, commonly known as a simple standard plug, has three round pins arranged in a triangular shape, with the top pin being larger than the bottom two. When we talk about wiring a plug in this particular article, we are referring exclusively to the standard three pin plug which are connected to many appliances and extension cords/strips.
Inside the plug are three separate wires. Each wire has a specific purpose, and all three are necessary for the plug to function properly and safely.
There should be a red/brown wire, a blue wire, and a green/yellow wire.
The red/brown wire is the live wire (L), and transfers electrical current from the power source to the appliance.
The blue wire is the neutral wire (N), and transfers the electrical current away from the appliance, preventing the circuit from being overloaded.
The yellow/green wire is the earth wire (E), and is a critical safety feature. It connects the metal casing of the appliance/cord to the actual ground, meaning that the electrical current from the live wire cannot be transferred to the outer casing of the appliance and electrocute anyone who comes into direct contact with the outer casing.
There are 14 steps to wiring a plug, which can seem intimidating, but we’ve outlined exactly what to do in each step.
- Make sure the wires you are using are not connected to any live power source. Electrical safety should always be your number 1 priority.
- Make sure you have the correct tools for the job, mainly a screwdriver and a small pair of pliers.
- Find the three wires mentioned above. Take each wire and expose the small metal wires by cutting away the plastic insulation around the wires. Make sure you don’t cut the actual metal wire. You should have approximately one centimetre of exposed metal wire.
- Gently twist the small copper wires of each line into a single tight wire for each line. You can use the small pliers, or your fingers for this.
- Fold the twisted strands over to make a tight loop shape at the end of each wire.
- Take the plug casing and open it. You can open the cover either by unscrewing it and lifting it up, or by separating the pieces if it’s a snap on cover.
- You will see three pins inside the casing. Unscrew the little screw on the side of each pin.
- The left pin should have a blue dot or an N at the bottom of the pin. The right pin should have a red/brown dot or an L at the bottom of the pin. If these markings aren’t present, don’t worry. As a rule of thumb, always connect the blue wire to the left pin and the red/brown wire to the right pin.
- Insert the twisted copper wire into the hole in the pin. Each wire should be connected to its own pin. Insert the yellow/green wire into the top middle pin. Insert the blue wire into the left pin. Insert the red/brown wire into the right pin.
- Tighten the little screw on each pin so that the wires are securely connected.
- Make sure each wire is secured properly by the arrester clips in the plug housing. They should not be loose or able to shift freely.
- Replace the cover of the plug by snapping it back on or screwing it back together.
- If you are rewiring a plug, remove the old wiring before connecting the new wires. You can do this by unscrewing the little screws in each pin and loosening the arrester clips to free each wire. Remove the wires, rewire the plug, and dispose of the old wires.
- Once the plug is properly wired or rewired, you can test the appliance (or extension cord, etc) by connecting it to a power source, to ensure it works.
Adulting is hard, but it helps to know how to do small repair jobs on your own. We’re not throwing you in the deep end, though. We know that sometimes, it’s easier and less stressful to call a professional in, especially if you’re not confident yet, or you have a bigger issue that needs tending to.
As always, we’re here to meet all your electrical needs. Don’t hesitate to contact us for a free on-site quote from one of our trained service professionals.