Troubleshoot Your Electrical Box
March 19, 2024

There’s a lot to be said about the value of a DIY project. You often save money. You probably learned something along the way, and the sense of accomplishment is great. If you are not confident in this type of work always call a certified electrician and follow all local codes.

Unfortunately, things don’t always go well, and that can lead to frustration.

If you just installed your own new electrical box, and things aren’t working properly, it’s not fun. The good news is that most issues are easy to troubleshoot, especially if you follow the steps below.

Test the Circuit

When devices in your new box don’t work, you start by testing the circuit. You will want a voltage tester (doesn’t need to be a voltmeter) for this job. The very cheapest one you can find at a local hardware store (or online) will work great. They tell you if electricity is flowing through the wire.

With your tester, check the flow of electricity at each wire before it enters the box. Then, check each source of electricity after it joins with a device in the box.

Using a light switch as a simple example, check each of the three wires going into the light switch. Then, test each wire where it connects to the switch plate. If everything is live, then your device has power, and everything is fine.

If you find that the circuit fails inside the box, skip the second step in this guide. If it fails outside of the box, go to the next step.

Start With the Breakers

If you don’t have electricity going into the electrical box, then the breaker is the most likely culprit. Ideally, you flipped the breaker before installing the box. Go back to the breaker to make sure you restored power.

Sometimes, resistance in a breaker can keep it from flipping all the way, even though you hit the switch. So, ensure that the breaker switch is all the way to the “on” side.

If the breaker isn’t the issue, you’re no longer troubleshooting your electrical box. You don’t have power in your primary circuit. Check to see if the outage covers the whole house. If so, talk to your power company. If the problem is only in one room or one part of the house, it’s time to involve an electrician.

Test the Fit

When the circuit problem is only inside of your newly installed box, you want to test the fit of the components. If the box itself is loose, it can create tension on the wires that pull them apart or otherwise disrupt the flow of electricity.

When the box fits nicely, you still need to ensure a good connection for everything inside. Turn off the power to the box at your breaker. Then, reseat and resecure every connection inside of the box. Even a slightly loose connection can create issues.

If any connections terminate in screws, make sure the screws are properly tightened.

Scrutinize Connection Quality

If the connections inside the box look tight, you want to ensure that the contacts are clean and can conduct electricity well. Especially if you’re installing a new box in an old building, the wires themselves might have corrosion or oxidation on them. That can inhibit your electrical connection.

Similarly, clean the contact points that join with any wires. If cleaning seems to make a difference, consider using an antioxidant to prevent the problem from recurring.

Lastly, look for any kinks in the wires anywhere in or around the box. Kinks can sever electrical flow, and they usually occur because your box isn’t accommodating the circuit properly. A custom box can eliminate that issue and get everything working properly.