It’s pretty frustrating when you’re in your garage doing a project and you plug in a piece of equipment, go to fire it up and wham – your garage wall outlets aren’t working!
I’ve been there – a vacuum, a drill, a saw or air compressor is as silent as can be with no power whatsoever feeding it.
Frustration aside, broken outlets in general aren’t too tricky to diagnose thankfully.
And you can also find solace in knowing that outlet malfunctions are relatively common in garages especially.
Why is this?
Because this is where we use and abuse power-hungry devices in a space that’s exposed to the elements and extreme temperatures.
Luckily, in many cases, you won’t need to call in a professional to fix these outlet problems, as most of the issues are very easy to fix!
Most garage outlet problems are caused by two things: tripped circuit breakers and wiring snafus due to wear and tear along with aging.
Below, I’m going to cover how to check, what to look for and then how to go about fixing whatever your particular problem is.
6 Reasons Why Garage Wall Outlets Stop Working
There are several possibilities behind what you’re facing. You may find one or several outlets within your garage giving up the ghost or even all the outlets on one wall not working.
Let’s check out what’s going on!
1. Circuit Breaker Is Tripped
Circuit breakers control the flow of electricity through your house, including the garage and outdoor areas.
When an excessive electric current flows through a certain outlet, the breakers are designed to trip to prevent the outlets from overheating, causing damage to both the outlet and the device.
In a garage, this is especially useful as you tend to use power intensive equipment and have higher exposures to moisture, which can attribute to more frequent breaker tripping.
2. Moisture Buildup in the Outlets
As mentioned garages are exposed to higher levels of humidity than the rest of the house.
This humidity causes moisture to build up inside the outlets if proper ventilation or enough dry days aren’t occurring.
Since moisture will conduct electric current, electric shorts can happen, which in the worst case can be accompanied by smoke or electrical fires.
3. Ground Fault Interrupter Is Tripped or Broken
The Ground Fault Current Interrupter (GFCI) is a type of outlet that shuts off on its own in the case of an electric short or sudden spike in power being drawn through the circuit.
They’re usually installed in spots where shocks are more likely, such as damp areas like kitchens and garages.
If your outlet has one of these and you suspect a problem here, check out our guide on fixing GFCI outlets.
4. Blown Fuses
Besides tripped breakers, blown fuses in older homes are also extremely common if your electricity is managed through a fuse box.
Like breakers, fuses are small glass tubes with thin wires that blow or burn out when surges and dangerously high electric currents pass through.
5. Loose Wiring or Plugs
Wires are sealed to prevent them from touching and prevent electric shorts. This is obviously good!
In some cases, electricity isn’t high but some type of loose wiring inside the outlet box may cause the electric wires to touch.
When that happens, a hotwire effect takes paces, causing electric shorts that leave the garage outlet not working
6. Hot Outlets
Even when the wires are not loose, a high electrical current may cause overheating issues within the wires or the outlet itself.
This leads to the melting of some parts of the outlet. In that case, the outlet will be noticeably hot to touch and you’ll also notice a smell of burnt plastic.
How to Fix Garage Outlets That Aren’t Working
Fixing a garage outlet can vary in complexity, depending on the problem.
However, here are some general instructions on how to fix most easy problems before seeking professional help:
Switch off Garage Electricity
Before making any contact with the malfunctioning outlet, make sure that you cut off the electricity flowing into the garage to prevent electrocution and shocks.
This can be easily done by shutting off either the garage breaker in the breaker box or by shutting off the main breaker.
Prepare Essential Tools for the Job
The tools required to fix a garage breaker will vary, but some tools are quite essential and common in many fixes, such as a multi-head screwdriver, flashlight, and long-nose pliers.
You may also require a multimeter to test the voltage in some fixes.
In that case, you might want to consider a reliable option, like this one.
Check and Reset the Tripped Breaker
First, make sure that you safely unplug all critical devices in the. After that, you need to locate the breaker panel and open the box.
Besides the main breaker, you’ll find separate breakers that control specific rooms or areas in your house (often labeled).
If the garage breaker isn’t lined up with the other breakers or set to “Off”, this is a clear sign that your outlet isn’t working due to a tripped breaker.
To fix that, simply push the breaker firmly to the “On” position. You may also reset the breaker if you want to avoid any other problems.
If the breaker pops back to the off position, there’s a problem with the wiring that needs professional help.
Check and Replace Blown Fuses
Take a look at the fuse box and look for any fuses that have charred, cracked, or broken glass, which are clear signs of a blown fuse.
In some cases, the fuses may not be blown, but the wire inside is tripped or the glass color changed. Both of these cases mean a bad fuse that also needs a replacement.
Check the type and amperage of the fuse, and buy a new similar one, then follow this guide to replace the fuse:
Reset Tripped GFCI Sensor
If the outlet has “Test” and “Reset” buttons, it’s a GFCI one, which might be causing the malfunction as a protective measure.
If you have several garage outlets but only one is GFCI, other outlets will be connected directly to it, and they might be causing a power leak.
To fix that, simply press the “Reset” button, and see if the garage outlet is fixed.
If the sensor trips again, you should contact a professional to check for any serious wiring problems.
Inspect the Wiring Integrity
Lastly, you might want to inspect the wiring for any loose connections that cause the problem.
Sometimes, when outlets are installed, wiring can get stuffed or kinked in too tightly.
Despite an electrician’s best intentions, wire nuts or screw connects can come loose and reveal exposed wiring.
This is especially true if the wrong size connector is used – see more info on wire nut sizes.
Before taking a close look, remember to turn off the garage electricity from the main breaker box.
Remove the outlet cover to reveal the wiring system inside the outlet.
After that check for any burnt-out wires or loose connections that may be the culprit here.
Loose wires will look out of place and won’t be held down by the screws on the side of the outlet.
Tips to Keep in Mind While Troubleshooting Garage Outlets Issues
Now that you know more about garage out problems and how to address them, here are some valuable tips and points that you should consider while troubleshooting:
Make Sure It’s the Outlets Fault
This may sound like a no-brainer, but a lot of people jump to conclusions and assume that the outlet is not working when the culprit is actually the device connected.
To make sure that it’s the outlet’s fault, test both the device and the outlets with different connections that you know work.
Check for Simple Issues First
Although there are some complex issues that may cause garage outlets to malfunction, the most common ones are remarkably simple.
For that reason, never skip or overlook simple issues while troubleshooting, such as checking the breaker or replacing a blown fuse.
Some Problems Are Best Left to Professionals
Electricity requires a lot of experience and safety precautions while handling. That’s why problems regarding garage outlets can only be solved by calling a professional.
In addition to safety hazards, adjustments to electrical wiring can also cause eclectic shorts and may damage some devices if not done correctly.
For that reason, always make sure that you seek professional help when in doubt.
Learn How to Properly Replace the Outlet
Many of the previously mentioned problems can be solved if you simply replaced the outlet with a new one with proper connections.
If the garage outlet keeps breaking or it’s quite old, upgrading to a new one will save you a lot of hassle. Check out this guide on how to install a new one:
Are GFCI Outlets Good for Garage Use?
GFCI outlets are the best types of outlets for garage use because they’re designed to prevent dangerous electric shorts using sensors that keep track of the electric flow.
Not only that but they’re also required by the law in many regions due to their safety and shock prevention.
GFCI is an excellent choice for areas where moisture is likely, such as kitchens, bathrooms, and garages.
How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Garage Outlet?
The answer here depends on the type and specifications of the outlet you’re installing as well as the cost of labor if you’re hiring a professional to get the job done.
Ideally, you should expect the outlet to cost you anywhere between $100 to $500 in total, including labor costs.
As you can see, the most common reasons why garage outlets are not working are blown fuses and tripped circuit breakers, so make sure that you follow the previous guide for solutions to fix them!