3 prong versus 4 prong outlets for dryers. What can be done?
When homeowners with older dryers that have 3-prong connections move into a property with a newer 4-slot outlet, they may be confused about why their dryer cord doesn’t work. Their dryer cord doesn’t plug into the wall outlet and they’re not sure what the problem is. This situation is common and the fix for it is thankfully very straightforward.
In 1996, the wiring for electric clothes dryer outlets changed due to modifications in the National Electrical Code (NEC). Dryer outlets used to have 3-slots and took 3-prong wires before the updated code went into effect. The dryer’s equipment ground was connected to the neutral conductor in the dryer cable – the cable did not have a dedicated ground connection.
New dryer outlets must now be wired with separate neutral and ground wires as a result of the code change. Only 4-prong electrical cords will fit into these outlets, which feature four slots.
If your dryer cord doesn’t work with the outlet in your new home, the easiest fix is to replace the dryer cord. In fact, because of how many homes have 3-slot dryer outlets, most dryers are sold without a dryer cord. This allows the homeowner to select the cord that will work with the wiring in their home.
With a little bit of time and patience, it is possible for the homeowner to replace their dryer cord. If you don’t feel comfortable performing this alteration, you can seek out the services of a handyman or an electrical contractor.
The steps for a typical cord replacement are as follows:
First, unplug the dryer from the wall outlet. Then remove the metal plate covering the cord’s wiring connections on the rear of the dryer. It should be right above the cord’s exit point.
Remove the screws that hold the cord to the back panel of the dryer’s strain-relief fitting. Separate the fitting’s two parts and pull them out of the dryer hole.
Then remove the three screws holding the wire ends to the dryer’s terminal block to disconnect the old 3-prong cord. The hot terminals are the two outer terminals, while the neutral terminal is in the middle.
You will need to disconnect the dryer’s neutral wire from the ground screw to change the wiring configuration from 3-prong to 4-prong.
The next step is to insert the loose wire end of the new 4-prong cord through the hole in the dryer’s back panel and make the following connections:
Green wire is connected to the ground screw.
The white wire is connected to the middle terminal.
The black wire and the red wire are connected to the outer terminals.
(You must ensure that the wire connections you make while connecting the cord to the appliance are correct and secure. Once the device is connected loose connections might cause short circuits and sparking.)
The last step is to reinstall the strain relief fitting and the cover plate.
You can find more information about this condition, and instructions on how to perform a dryer cord replacement, at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XYg0Vf3-dc