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How to change 2 prong outlet into 3 prong?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
I don't think my outlet is grounded even though I checked and there's a copper wire. Whenever I plug in my 3 prong adapter and the top is not screwed in, my surge protector says wiring fault.

IIRC there were 2 black wires and 2 white wires. I think only 1 of each was hooked to the screws. The copper wire is screwed to the side I think. They lead to a metal hole at the top with some paper wrapped around them. The box is plastic.

What's a good and easy way to get a grounded 3 prong outlet? This will only be used for a computer and I read that GFI is not good with it. Also 15 or 20 amp receptacle? Thanks in advance.
post #2 of 16
15 amp fine.NO gfi.unless you run a new wire to the panel you really cant ground it to the bus bar i thought the plastic boxes had a ground screw built in to attach to the grd.screw on the plug.that grey adaptor is suposed to screwed down to the plug plate.
post #3 of 16
When you install your adaptor are you screwing the tab in to the outlet? If not try that and see what happens. If your box is metal and grounded and that is what it sounds like you are describing then the adaptor will only be grounded if that screw is run in. use the screw from your duplex cover. If so all you have to do is remove the old duplex and an install a grounded duplex. Disconnect the bare copper from the bax and connect it to the grounding screww on the new duplex and you good to go. i the wire is not long enough run a jumper.
post #4 of 16
Might need more info. If the box is plastic, are you sure that metal hole the wires go into with paper around them is not the end of a BX cable?

You said there are 2 white and 2 black wires so there must be 2 cables coming to the box. Can you see if each of the cables has a copper ground wire?

If only 2 of the wires are connected to the outlet are they pigtailed from a wire nut or are 2 capped and not being used?

If you can post exactly what you have I'm sure someone can help.
post #5 of 16
If the box is plastic and the ground is screwed to the box, It's useless. If the receptacle has no ground pin, it can't be grounded in a plastic box. Consider it a floating ground. Swap out the receptacle for a grounded one and connect the bare copper wires to the green screw on the receptacle. The smaller slit (where you plug in) should get the black wire.
post #6 of 16
You may have a bad adapter or outlet. If you get a fault for no ground except when screwed by the little tab it may just be a bad prong on the adapter or female ground in the outlet.
post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 
i bought 2 testers and .

when i plug the red and black one into both outlets the light goes on. i never tried to plug it into the outlet with the 3 prong adapter plugged in.

when i plugged the 3 prong tester into the adapter (3rd hole at top, metal tab at the top screwed in, short slit on left), the tester is backwards i assume (sticker with descriptions is not visible) the first 2 lights are on. which either means hot/neutral reverse if it's backwards or grounded if not backwards.

when the adapter was plugged in with 3rd hole at bottom, metal tab at top screwed in, large slit on left, the stickers with descriptions is visible and showed hot/neutral reverse.

whenever the adapter wasn't screwed in either way i plugged it, it said open ground.

i also looked at the wiring/receptacle again. there are 4 screws (2 on left, 2 on right) and 4 wires (2 black hooked to screws on left, 2 white hooked to screws on the right). i hope that helps with solving this. any other details needed, just ask.
post #8 of 16
Now all you need is a ground wire. Is there a ground wire passing thru the box ?
post #9 of 16
Two wires are coming in, and two wires are going to another recepticle on the circuit, that's why you see 4 wires(one black/white pair coming in, one going on further). The black wires are the hot leads and should be used with the thin pole on the adapter, keep that in mind if you replace the socket with a real 3 way set. You're not clear on your gauge readings. If the 2 orange lights are on (which sounds like they are) your plug is correct. The tester orientation is irrelevant, it's the colors not the position of the lights
From the sound of it, your box is already grounded, that's what the tab screwed in to the box is for. If you don't connect the tab you don't get the ground.

So if I understood your post, the left side of your socket is hot and should get the thin blade of the adapter, and you need to connect the tab to the screw in the face plate to complete the ground. Your three prong tester should show two orange lights.
post #10 of 16
Let me try this one.
There are 2 sets of wires coming into the box. Each set would be a black wire and a white wire. This will give you what you have described, 2 black & 2 white wires. Is there also a pair of bare copper wires tucked in the box? If there is you are all set. You might need to get a 8inch piece of bare copper wire to extend your ground wire to your receptacle. Both bare wires will need to stay twisted together, no matter what else you do. The extra piece of bare copper wire will have one end twisted to these bare wires. Make all twists clockwise to tighten.

Turn off the circuit breaker to these wires. Now look at the colors of the screws on your receptacle. You will see 1 green screw, this is for the bare copper ground wire. Wrap the wire clockwise around the screw. Now look for the 2 silver colored screws, these will be on the side with the longer slots, these are the neutral wires. Wrap each white wire clockwise each silver screw. Now you will have 2 brass/copper colored screws remaining, these are the hot wires.. Wrap each black wire clockwise around each screw.

The reason for the clockwise wrap, is the wire will tighten when you tighten the screw. Wrapped CCW the wire can come out from under the screw.

Also there is no correct way to install the receptacle. Ground hole up, or down it doesn't matter. Your tester is made for the ground hole to be down with the large slots to the left.
post #11 of 16
Went back and reread your initial post. Unless the wiring is bx if you don't have a bare copper the only way to ground the outlet is to run a new line. You really need to take a picture and post it if you don't know the terminology. Bx is metal sheathed cable whre the sheathing itself acts as the ground if it is installed poperly. Romex is the plastic sheathed wire and without a bare copper there is no ground. Back in the day the neutral acted as a ground but is not a true ground. If the wiring is bx there shold be aome sort of clamp where the wires come into the box and you may be able to ground off this. Assuming the wiring is done correctly and the bx is continous ground. I ahd to install a gfi in an old house one time where the oulet was still knob and tube, and was able to get my ground by fishing a single wire to a sink and clamping to the cold waterline.
post #12 of 16
Do not snake a wire to a water pipe. There are laws against that sort of thing.

If your wires are in metal sheathed cable, you need to change to a metal box with a clamp in it for the armored cable. The plug will be grounded when you screw the recpt to the box.
post #13 of 16
Originally Posted by longcaster View Post

Also there is no correct way to install the receptacle. Ground hole up, or down it doesn't matter.

I believe current code is ground hole up.
post #14 of 16
Nope. It is customer or electrician choice. If it is code, why aren' the tools to check the wireing made to read with the ground up?
post #15 of 16
Either you folks or I am not reading his post accurately. He states that the addpter shows as grounded when the adapter gound tab is screwed into the socket, That means the socket's grounded regardless of whether it has a separate romex type ground wire, or the BX armored shield ground. If I read him right he gets two different readings due to which way he plugs his adapter in. He doesn't seem to be getting the fact that the tab on the adapter is attached to the ground hole, so unless that tab is connected, screwed in to the face plate, a ground isn't made. If he plugs in the adapter with the thin blade/hole on the hot(black) side of the socket and connects the ground tab, he should be fine. His 3 prog tester should show two orange lights to indicate a correct circuit. He shouldn't have to rewire anything to get the adapter to work. The only re-wireing, if any, would be if he were replacing the socket itself.
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