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How to Do Electrical Repairs

Oct 31, 2007
Electrical appliances are so much part of the American household scene today that most people take them for granted. Refrigerators, freezers, mixers, irons, air conditioners, clothes and dish washers, ventilating fans, broilers, vacuum cleaners, heaters, etc., all contribute to our comfort, convenience and health.

It's only when something goes wrong that we begin to wonder if electricity is our servant or our master. A five-cent fuse in a dark corner of the basement fails for no apparent reason and life upstairs stops. Food spoils in the freezer, the heating system grinds to a halt, dirty clothes pile up, or a half-cooked dinner sits in a cold rotisserie.

Here are solutions to two electrical problems which you can carry out yourself.

Power Where You Want It

Flexible extension cords with rugged plugs and receptacles of armored type will last for years. Two most useful lengths are 10 feet and 25 feet. To keep the fiber center piece of the plug from falling out, apply narrow strips of adhesive tape between and around prongs.

An extension cord is such a useful accessory around the house, shop, garage and garden that after you make and use one you'll probably make another. To take care of heavy current loads, use at least No. 16 and preferably No. 14 flexible wire, with heavy outer covering; thinner No. 18 wire is poor economy. And avoid 10-cent "molded mud" plugs and receptacles.

Spend a little more on armored fittings, and you'll be glad you did the first time you step on them, drop them to a cement floor, or drive the car over them. These fittings and the heavy wire are widely available from electrical, hardware, radio and mail-order firms.

Before trimming insulation off ends of wire, slip cord through cap of receptacle. To prevent strands of wire from unraveling under terminal screws, solder them very lightly, then form into loops with long-nose pliers. Put two or three layers of tape over wire, far enough back so that they come under the clamp of the end cap.

The molded body of the extension receptacle fastens to the armored end cap with two screws. When these are tightened in properly, they are below surface. Use narrow blade screwdriver for job.

Cable clamp on end cap has two screws. Turn them in a little at a time each, so that pressure is distributed evenly around layers of tape on the wire. A pull on the cable will not then loosen the connections to the terminal screws inside. (Attachment plug is assembled in similar manner.)

When the Lights Go Out

When the lights go out the fuses or circuit breakers have been overloaded. The only cure is to lighten the load, not to invest in larger protective devices

Standard "plug" fuses have bases like lamps, and screw into receptacles in "cut-out" box. Keep a record on cover of latter of house circuits controlled by particular fuses to ease replacement.

Cartridge" type fuses have exposed metal end caps, which fit tightly in spring clips in the cutout box. Keep spares in the latter. CAUTION: Even if the fuse is blown out, the end cap on the side of the meter is still "hot."

To remove a suspected cartridge fuse, first kill power by turning off main switch (have a flashlight handy if room is dark), then pry out with wooden stick. Turn on switch if light is needed during testing operation. Be sure to turn it off again before attempting to insert the new fuse.

These are two fairly simple jobs you can fairly easily carry out yourself.
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