Why damaged electrical cables need to be replaced


Why damaged electrical cords and cables need to be replaced

Electrical cords, cables, wires and flexes can all get damaged over time. We’ve seen our fair share at Hawkesworth. 

However, damaged cords not only look unsightly, but are dangerous too.

Why do electrical cords and cables get damaged?

  • Excessive temperatures: Excessive cold, heat, pressure and moisture will cause a cord to get damaged more quickly
  • Animals and pests: Domestic and wild animals can mistake a cord for food and try and chew through it
  • Contractor/DIY damage: A contractor or enthusiastic DIY-er can accidentally drill through or snag a cord when carrying out maintenance or installation work
  • Day to day wear and tear: Regular tugging, pulling and friction mean that all cords will eventually degrade
  • Internal damage: Damaged wires can cause overheating, which can cause a cord to melt or warp
  • Overloading: A too-high electrical load (for example, in an extension lead) can cause the plastic sheath to melt

A melted cable

Why are damaged cords dangerous?

Most modern cord sheaths are coated with PVC or cotton. These materials are non-conductive which means that electricity can flow through them safely.

If a cord is damaged then the wires inside are exposed. This means you are more likely to come into contact with the wires, which can cause an electric shock.

If one of our engineers identifies a damaged cord during an electrical equipment inspection (also known as a PAT test), the appliance will fail the inspection and be removed from service.

A damaged cable on a food blender

What do I do if have a damaged cord?

We recommend that you quickly check any electrical cords before using them. If they are damaged in any way or feel warm to the touch, they should not be used. 
When you look, check for:

  • Tears
  • Cracking
  • Bulges
  • Abrasions
  • Fraying
  • Exposed wires
  • Melted plastic
  • Burn marks

The best course of action if the cord is damaged is to replace it entirely. 

If the appliance is old and/or cheap, it may be easier and more cost-effective to replace the whole appliance.

Disclaimer: If you have a damaged cord, we strongly advise that it is replaced by a qualified electrician.

Damaged flex on an iron

How can I extend the life of my electrical cord?

  • Don’t run cords under carpets or rugs. People stepping on them can cause the wires to compress. If you have to run a cord across an area, use a protector strip
  • Take care when carrying out DIY projects. A stud detector can help identify wires in walls
  • Keep appliances away from sources of heat and water
  • Keep the cord away from the appliance when it is running. For example, if you are using a vacuum cleaner, don’t let the vacuum run over the cord as this will damage it
  • Don’t wrap cords around an appliance when storing it. This can cause damage
  • When using an appliance, extension reel or extension lead, make sure the cord is unwound and detangled to prevent overheating

Not all issues with cords are visible

Although a damaged cord is a definite indication that something is wrong, some issues can be invisible. This is where electrical equipment (PAT) testing can help.

Electrical equipment testing will identify any problems within the electrical wires, meaning that you can get them fixed before they cause major issues.

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