Older wires that are not easily flexible -- questions

Ask your electrical related questions here
Post Reply
jas83
Posts: 7
Joined: Thu Jun 21, 2018 7:59 am

Older wires that are not easily flexible -- questions

Post by jas83 » Sun Jun 24, 2018 3:04 pm

Hi, me again!

I'm replacing some duplex receptacles with new ones in my house. I'm coming across a problem that I also came across when replacing light fixtures on the ceiling. All the wires (hot, neutral, and ground) are not very flexible at all! One of the problems this has presented is with the outlets I'm replacing. The old ones had the hot and neutral wires just pushed in the back of the receptacles instead of wrapped under any screws. When I took the wires out of the holes, they all had indentations in the wire (I guess from where they'd been clamped into place inside there). I've read/heard that wiring that's a little chewed up like that isn't the best to use, so I cut these ends off and stripped some extra insulation off the wires so I could curve them into a little hook to wrap around the screws on the new receptacles. But, I believe because the wires are not easily flexible, when I use my needlenose pliers I really have to bear down on the wire to get it to bend, and this causes the pliers to kind of dig into the wires, leaving little scratch marks and what-not on them. I wanted to check with you guys and see what you have to say about this. Is it really bad to use wires that have some surface damage like this? Because I can't see any way around it! I tried to minimize it as much as possible, but I completed the job on one room (three receptacles), turned the power back, and so far everything seems okay. But I feel like the room might be a death trap now, or some kind of disaster just waiting to happen. Am I being too paranoid? Is this not really a problem, or is it?

User avatar
Aaron
Posts: 3516
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2015 4:03 pm
Location: St. Paul, MN

Re: Older wires that are not easily flexible -- questions

Post by Aaron » Mon Jun 25, 2018 12:05 pm

jas83 wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 3:04 pm
I'm replacing some duplex receptacles with new ones in my house. I'm coming across a problem that I also came across when replacing light fixtures on the ceiling. All the wires (hot, neutral, and ground) are not very flexible at all! One of the problems this has presented is with the outlets I'm replacing. The old ones had the hot and neutral wires just pushed in the back of the receptacles instead of wrapped under any screws. When I took the wires out of the holes, they all had indentations in the wire (I guess from where they'd been clamped into place inside there).
The wire you're working with may be #12 gauge, which is pretty stiff and hard to work with (compared to #14). I've encountered this in a lot of houses built in the 1960s and 70s for some reason. My theory is electricians of the time were so used to using #12 aluminum that when aluminum was made illegal for house wiring, they just bought the same gauge in copper, even though they could have stepped back to #14 copper. Copper was also cheap back then, unlike today.

Do not worry that it's "old" wiring. It has every bit of the integrity as new wiring. Copper is a very stable metal and resists corrosion pretty well (as does bronze and brass). If the copper is dark brown or green, you can sand it with sandpaper or use a wire brush.
jas83 wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 3:04 pm
I've read/heard that wiring that's a little chewed up like that isn't the best to use, so I cut these ends off and stripped some extra insulation off the wires so I could curve them into a little hook to wrap around the screws on the new receptacles.
Yes it's good to cut off previously bent wire, because it's not physically as strong as "fresh" wire. You did exactly the right thing. Good thing there was enough slack in the box for you to work with--that is a very typical challenge. It's annoying when you have to splice a short piece of wire in the box because there isn't enough wire to work with.

Be sure to hook the wire around the screws so it's clockwise. So as you tighten the screw, the end of the wire curls into itself. This guarantees a tighter termination.
jas83 wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 3:04 pm
But, I believe because the wires are not easily flexible, when I use my needlenose pliers I really have to bear down on the wire to get it to bend, and this causes the pliers to kind of dig into the wires, leaving little scratch marks and what-not on them. I wanted to check with you guys and see what you have to say about this. Is it really bad to use wires that have some surface damage like this?
No, not at all. The electrons don't "care" about the shape of the wire. Just as long as you get nice tight connections under the screw, that's all that matters.
jas83 wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 3:04 pm
Because I can't see any way around it! I tried to minimize it as much as possible, but I completed the job on one room (three receptacles), turned the power back, and so far everything seems okay. But I feel like the room might be a death trap now, or some kind of disaster just waiting to happen. Am I being too paranoid? Is this not really a problem, or is it?
Nope, you're fine... good job using the terminal screws, too. Although if your wire was #12, you had no choice as it would not fit into those backstabbing holes (which are for #14 only, at least on current devices). Never use those backstabbing holes in switches and receptacles, they make a far inferior contact with the device, and are notorious for failing and causing heat buildup, melted devices, or burns. I am so surprised they haven't been banned yet.

1carpDaughter
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Mar 29, 2012 1:54 pm

Re: Older wires that are not easily flexible -- questions

Post by 1carpDaughter » Wed Jun 27, 2018 10:41 am

Check the 2017 NEC Code Book to make sure you are code compliant. Here are a couple of sites: https://www.nfpa.org/NEC/About-the-NEC/ ... -standards
and https://www.nfpa.org/NEC
Also this site has some good questions and answers, especially the first answer: https://www.reddit.com/r/electrical/com ... with_tape/

User avatar
Aaron
Posts: 3516
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2015 4:03 pm
Location: St. Paul, MN

Re: Older wires that are not easily flexible -- questions

Post by Aaron » Wed Jun 27, 2018 1:36 pm

That Reddit is an interesting discussion of wrapping tape around devices. I used to do that, but do not any longer. Regardless of box material (plastic or steel).

jas83
Posts: 7
Joined: Thu Jun 21, 2018 7:59 am

Re: Older wires that are not easily flexible -- questions

Post by jas83 » Sat Jul 14, 2018 9:48 am

I got too busy to properly reply earlier, but just wanted to say thanks for all your help! You really set my mind at ease.

MarkM
Posts: 23
Joined: Sat Dec 30, 2017 1:32 am

Re: Older wires that are not easily flexible -- questions

Post by MarkM » Wed Aug 01, 2018 6:57 pm

Aaron wrote:
Wed Jun 27, 2018 1:36 pm
That Reddit is an interesting discussion of wrapping tape around devices. I used to do that, but do not any longer. Regardless of box material (plastic or steel).
Aaron - why have you stopped wrapping tape?

User avatar
Aaron
Posts: 3516
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2015 4:03 pm
Location: St. Paul, MN

Re: Older wires that are not easily flexible -- questions

Post by Aaron » Wed Aug 01, 2018 10:51 pm

MarkM wrote:
Wed Aug 01, 2018 6:57 pm
Aaron - why have you stopped wrapping tape?
Well, mostly because I find after a couple years it starts to unwrap itself and get undone, then it leaves a very sticky, messy residue of adhesive behind. I suppose you could replace it with a new piece of tape, but eventually the same thing will happen again.

Thing is, tape is really not a permanent solution for anything. It's really a temporary sort of material to use. All devices and splices should be connected in a way that does not require tape.

Post Reply