Testing a dryer outlet

Just found something in my own home, and it made me think…:ack!:
Our clothes dryer suddenly blew the breaker. On inspection, found the plug scorched, with one blade loose- must have broken off inside the plug.
I replaced the dryer cord, still blew the breaker!
Then I found that the 220V outlet it plugged into was scorched - pulled it out and found cable supplying the outlet scorched and insulation melted.
It has all been repaired, but I started thinking, How would I have found this on an inspection? I could flip the breaker on and the dryer run for a few minutes.
How do you check a dryer outlet? Just run the dryer for a minute or two? My tester is only good for 120V outlets…

I use a multi meter to check for proper voltage and wiring, nothing more.


If the dryer is plugged in that is about all you can do, However if you are not going to pull the plug on it you can use a Non-Contact Tester to hold against each side of the ungrounded plug points…this should light your tester…now do the same on the bottom or grounded conductor side and it should not light up…thats about all you can do on that end.

If you are pulling the plug out or notice upon inspection that a plug appears to be discolored or scorched…write it up…better safe than sorry but also remember to note that to yourself when you visit the panel…

Check the connections at the panel visually and see if their is an discoloration on the grounded terminal…heck check all the terminals for that matter…again safer it best…note anything sticks out…heck if you are really concerned snap a picture of it…take it back and when doing your report…call me or another electrician you may know and send them a picture…I am sure they wont mind…I know I dont mind.

Other than observation it is hard to diagnose anything without seeing it or smelling it or having a trained EYE to it…

The more experienced inspectors like Mr. Allen feel very comfortable using a meter and others don’t so the non-contact tester works nice for that…again you are simply confirming voltage…and making sure you are NOT confirming voltage readings on the grounded conductor…

Then in the end…it comes down to observation…I actually personally pull the plug out…but thats me…if it is present…because I want to see the color of the plug blades, the retention strength which means more to me on larger items like that than a receptacle for the most part on an inspection and look for signs of any scorching or arching…which usually accompany a loose plug or bad cord…all this only takes less than 1 minute to do…

But again not everyone will do it…and thats up to them and their methods…personally I dont have a problem with it…but again my personal license affords me the ability to go beyond some points…

You simply do not want to step over the line from a generalists to a specialist…this situation personally would not cross the line in my mind…It is just another careful step a well skilled HI can do to give their client their monies worth…

Now with that said…if the plug is in behind a dryer…and I cant reach it…do not move the dryer…just check the connections in the panel and so on…but most of the time I can extend my non-contact down to it enough to test each side…about all you can do…and only takes a second to do.

I forgot to add…Non-Contact Testers cost like $ 18 bucks…If you dont have one…GET ONE…:slight_smile:

Some times the probes on my tester are not long enough to make contact. Do they have extenions? Any approved methods of correcting this?


are you speaking about the non-contact tester or a normal voltage meter leads?

Voltage meter

I just want to be aware of this on future inspections. My wife asked if I would have caught this in an inspection. I told her I didn’t think so, as the plug is unreachable without moving the dryer.
I really feel though, that I would have heard about it later!
Thanks for all the info…

Multi meter leads

If you can’t get tester leads in a dryer receptacle how on earth would you get them in a normal receptacle…yes they make leads of different lengths and so on.

Lots of leads

I generally only use the volt meter on 2 prong outlets or 220 outlets. For 3 prong 110 outlets I used a three light tester with GFI. With the dryer outlets, the plastic of the probe runs into the plastic of the outlet before making contact.

I can’t be the only one.

Thanks for the link. I’ll try one of those.

just teasing ya Jeff…I am sure you are not alone…:slight_smile:

That link is fluke only if you have a different meter go to ther site for the appropriate leads.

excellent advice… I only use the multi-tester when no
one is looking. but I have found bad grounds about 10% of the time , so you might want to upgrade or you can keep it at the SOP. The choice is yours.

I have bucoo ex with multi meters so I can get away with it. Hell, I use a sure test, multi meter, gas sucker when I smell something,… I have yet to find a reason for a moisture meter… I do loive in a desert though.

Long screwdriver and a tic tracer:twisted: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock:

Not really

lol…brian…now I am not racing you to 2,200…

well…not really…:slight_smile: