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Need to replace existing three wire plug with new four wire plug. there are only three terminals to connect to. what do i do?

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  • Dryers Master
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Based on your description....you have a Code compliant dryer (with it's 4 wire cord and plug)....and have moved into an older home that is not Code compliant (with it's 3 prong receptacle outlet)....and this is fairly common.

At this point - you have two choices....replace the wiring from the dryer's breaker to the receptacle with all new 8/3 with ground romex (it more then likely only has 8/2 with ground now)....and replace the receptacle with a 4 prong grounding receptacle to match your dryer's cord....OR - as an alternative - you can replace the cord on your dryer with a 3 prong cord to match the existing dryer receptacle outlet.

Out of the 2 choices....the first one will bring the old wiring in the home up to current Codes (all NEW homes must have this 4 wire/4 prong set-up per Code...but older homes are grand-fathered)...but it is clearly the most involved, time consuming and most costly approach...and it is recommended only an electrician do this work. If this approach is taken....your dryer cord can stay as is...it will now fit the new receptacle outlet with no modifications.

The second approach - is to pick up a 3 wire 3 prong cord at your local hardware store to match the existing 3 prong receptacle.....and replace the 4 wire cord on your dryer with it. Although this is the least desireable - it is an allowed approach because this is an older home with existing wiring. This is a much less involved approach...all you need to buy is the 3 wire dryer cord (they come all ready to go) remove the 4 wire cord and install the 3 wire cord to your electrical connections at the back of the dryer. Hopefully...when the 4 wire cord was installed on your dryer, the ground strap wasn't removed completely (this is a metal strap that will connect the white wire to the metal frame of the dryer)...because now you will need to re-use the ground strap. For more on this....see the images of the differences of the 3 wire and 4 wire dryer hook-up at:
http://www.applianceaid.com/general.html#3to4


NOTE: the only real difference between the 3 wire cord and the 4 wire cord is now the white neutral and the ground are kept seperate in a 4 wire..the green ground will connect directly to the dryer frame....where in a 3 wire there is no seperate ground wire - ground and neutral are one and the same...the ground strap connects the frame to the white neutral. The 4 wire permits a better safety measure...in the event of an electrical problem (ground fault) in the dryer...the fault now has a seperate path to your panel's ground...and less chance of a shock from touching the metal frame of the dryer.



The choice of how to proceed is up to you....if you go with completely updating the dryer wiring from the breaker outward...I recommend an electrician do this work for you (it's about an hour's work...plus materials). Then your exisiting dryer's 4 wire 4 prong cord can stay as is....the electrician will install a 4 prong receptacle made to fit your cord.

If you go with simply replacing the dryer's cord....changing it to a 3 wire so it will fit the receptacle...make sure the ground strap is re-utilized as seen in the images at the site above.(also make sure all work is done with the dryer breaker (or fuse if a really old home) off before starting any work. If you change the cord yourself...make sure to reconnect in exactly the same manner as the previous cord was connected...(make a note on paper or take pictures so that there are no mistakes)..and that you tighten the nuts securely to the posts once the wire lugs are on them. Where you state you do not have a background in electrical work...you can have an electrician change this cord for you...(typically in under a half-hour)....or you can do it yourself - by carefully following the pictures.

The choice is yours...if it was me - I'd change the wiring from the breaker outward...making the older home meet today's current Codes and be complaint for this dryer..and then you wouldn't need to change a thing on the dryer....but you can go either way....Codes allow this grandfathering in older homes with existing wiring.

Posted on Feb 09, 2010

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Four-Wire: Green

The green wire is the ground wire, and it is the difference between a three-wire and a four-wire cord. (In the three-wire system, the ground wire and the neutral wire are the same.) The green wire connects to the dryer frame. Look at the cord-connection terminals on the back of the dryer. Very close by, you should see a screw sticking out of the metal panel. It will be labeled "external ground connector" or something similar. Connect the green wire to that screw.

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Most appliances in your house run on 120 volts of electricity, some on 240 volts. The dryer needs both--240 volts to run the drum and heating element, and 120 volts to run the timer, thermostat and other components. For this reason, the dryer cord has two live or "hot" wires--one black, one red--rather than a single hot wire. The dryer draws 120 volts from each hot wire to get the 240 volts it needs for the heavy work, then pairs one hot wire with the neutral wire for the 120 volts to run the smaller functions. Look again at the connection terminals on the back of the dryer. There should be three screws in a horizontal row. Connect the black hot wire to the terminal on the left.

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Connect the other hot wire, the red wire, to the terminal on the right. (In truth, you could connect either hot wire to either hot terminal, but it's standard procedure to put the black on the left and the red on the right, so do so.)

Four-Wire: White

The white is the neutral wire, and it connects to the center terminal. There may be a metal strap attached to this terminal. That's a ground strap. When a three-wire cord is attached, it serves the same function as the ground screw mentioned above.

Three-Wire: Gray

If you have a three-wire cord, then all three wires will be gray. They're arranged side-by-side with the hot wires on the outside and the neutral wire in the middle. Attach the hot wires to the left and right terminals and the neutral wire to the center terminal. Make sure the ground strap is attached to the center terminal.

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1. Remove the access cover on the terminal block on the back of the dryer. This is where the existing power cord is installed.

2. Remove the existing power cord from the terminal block.

3. Remove the power cord restraining clamp (if equipped). This secures the power cord at the entry point on the back of the dryer and prevents it from stressing the terminals and prevents chaffing of the outer insulation on the power cord. NOTE: Its a good idea to have this installed for safety reasons.

4. Remove the old power cord and install the new one following this color scheme at the terminal block:

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NOTE: If the power cord or wires at the terminal block are not color coded, the outer two wires (LEFT and RIGHT) are the two hot leads. The center conductor is Neutral.

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On a three wire configuration, the ground and the negative are tied together at the center position, using the dryer ground strap. Following is a description of the difference between three and four wire. Hope it helps you.
These two pictures illustrate the power wiring on a the terminal of an electric dryer. The one on top/left is the old-style three-wire configuration. Most people have this type in their homes. New code changes, though, require that dryers now have a four-wire cord, shown on the bottom/right.
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