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Convert 4 Prong Dryer Cord to 3 Prong Outlet


4 Prong and 3 Prong Dryer Plugs

4 Prong and 3 Prong Dryer Plugs

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When moving a newer dryer into an older house, one common problem is that the dryer has a 4 prong plug yet the outlet is the older type that accepts only plugs with 3 prongs. Can you convert, and if so, how do you convert?

Yes, luckily you have two options.

Convert Outlet from 3 Prong into 4 Prong

The first option is to convert the 3 prong outlet (to clarify, an outlet that accepts 3 prongs) into a more modern 4 prong outlet that is up to code. While this is not absolutely necessary, as the 3 prong outlet will be grandfathered in, it's always preferable to update older electrical systems whenever possible.

Convert Dryer Cord from 4 Prong into 3 Prong

The second option is easier: convert the dryer cord so that its plug is 3 prong. That way, it will fit into your 3 prong outlet.

For this you need a 10/3 cord specifically labeled as a dryer cord. The "10" refers to the wire gauge, and the 3 refers to the number of individual wires within the cord.

How to Convert Dryer Cord from 4 Prong into 3 Prong

  • Remove safety plate (usually attached only by 1 or 2 screws)
  • Remove old cord and restraint with a hand or cordless drill. I find that I tend to strip these softer screws with the cordless drill, and they are short enough that they can be easily unscrewed by hand. The restraint is the collar that fits tightly around the cord to hold it firm to the dryer.
  • Connect the center wire of the 10/3 cord to the center silver terminal. Turn screw in firmly but not too tight.
  • Now you have two wires remaining which are attached on either of the two terminals beside the silver terminal. It does not matter which wire goes on which terminal, as both wires are hot. Screw in firmly.
  • The hardest part is always the restraint collar. From the outside of the dryer, you need to slide the tab end of one of the collar halves into the 10/3 cord wire hole. Do the same with the other half of the collar, except on the other side of the hold. The two screws will, theoretically, easily draw the two halves together to tighten against the cord. However, the two halves of the collar never seem to be parallel, and it takes quite a bit of effort to get the screws to catch. As long as even the tips of the screws have "caught," you're good to go: turn the screws and they will slowly draw the halves together, even if the halves are not really parallel.
  • Replace safety plate.
  • Special Note: To avoid the possibility of shock, you must ground the dryer. Return the frame ground strap to the center terminal post (neutral). When a 4 conductor cord is used, the frame ground has been located to its own dedicated terminal.

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