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Dying to Change Plugs and Sockets? - Page Two

Changing the Plug

If you have decided that you really do want to go ahead with changing the connectors on your equipment yourself and you are satisfied that you are competent to do so, you will need the following items:

  • A flat headed electrical screwdriver
  • A set of electrical wire cutters
  • Cable strippers or hobby knife
  • The relevant number of rewireable Schuko plugs

This article assumes that you will use the standard Schuko plugs as seen on our web site. If you purchase plugs elsewhere the basic principles will be the same but the specifics may differ slightly.

First make absolutely certain that there are no connections between the appliance and the mains power supply. Then take the UK plug and turn it over so that the pins face towards you. If there is a screw in between the pins you have a rewireable plug and it can be disassembled and the wires removed from inside the plug. If there is no screw on the underside then you have a moulded (non-rewireable) UK plug, and you will instead need to use the cutters to cut the plug completely away from the cable.

To remove the wires from a rewireable plug insert the screwdriver into the cover screw and turn it anti-clockwise until the cover of the plug comes loose and can be removed. Now turn the plug back over and you should be able to see inside the plug assembly. You should see three wires coloured Brown (Live) Blue (Neutral) and Green and Yellow (Earth) - if there are only two wires you are reading the wrong article, and should be using an EU 2 pin connector instead of a Schuko!

Insert the screwdriver into the slot on each of the internal screws and again turn anti-clockwise until they are loosened sufficiently to allow the wires to be removed. The cable grip is sometimes a screw down clamp and sometimes two flanges which the cable has been pushed into to make it secure. If the cable is held in place by a flange grip simply lift the cable out from the flanges. If the plug has a cable clamp fitted you will need to turn the plug over so that the pins face you again, and unscrew the clamp screws in the same way that you unscrewed the cover. You should now be able to pull the cable away, and discard the unwanted UK plug.

Now take the Schuko plug and remove the screw at the side that holds the casing together. Open the casing to expose the connection terminals and using the screwdriver loosen all three screws by turning them anti-clockwise. Do this until there is sufficient space to insert the cores of the individual wires of the cable, but not enough to allow the screw to fall out of the terminal. Using the screwdriver, unscrew the cable clamp and set the clamp and the screws carefully to one side - you will need them later!

If you removed the cable from a rewireable UK plug, cut the two longer wires to match the shortest wire. All three cores should now be the same length.

Holding the cut end of the cable next to the Earth terminal of the plug, line it up with the exit point and mark it just before the spot where it would pass through the cable clamp. Take the cable away from the plug and using a cable stripper, or a sharp knife, carefully remove the outer sheath from this portion of the cable at the mark you have just made. Be careful not to cut through the insulation of any individual wire! If you accidentally cut or otherwise damage any of the inner insulation you will have to cut the cable back beyond the damage and then start again.

You now need to measure the individual wires. Position the flex in the plug, with the end of the sheathed part on top of the flex clamp and the coloured wires pointing into the plug. Each wire should be long enough to connect firmly to the terminal, but not so long as to require folding back on itself when the plug casing is closed. Cut each wire at the appropriate point.

Next strip approximately 5mm of insulation off the end of each wire, preferably using wire strippers for safety although you can do it carefully with a sharp knife. When you have stripped each wire, carefully twist the strands of copper together.

Now we need to insert the individual cores into the terminals and tighten the screws down. Because the Schuko plug is a hybrid it DOES matter which wire goes to which terminal inside the plug, so take care to follow these directions implicitly.

It is essential when fitting the wires into place that you ensure that there is little or no bare copper wire visible outside the terminal and that the screw clamps directly onto the bare cable and not onto the insulation. You must also ensure that there are no loose strands of wire outside the terminal point and that the screw has been tightened down sufficiently to prevent the cable coming loose. If you do not tighten the screws properly and the wires work loose this could lead to arcing inside the plug, to fire, or even to death or serious injury. This is why we say that the job should only be done by someone who is competent - if you are in any doubt it’s not too late to have the job done by a professional. If you decide to go ahead, take great care!

Position the Schuko plug so that you can see inside it with the polarity point for the French socket at the top. Connect the Earth wire (Green and Yellow) to the centre terminal. Connect the Live wire (Brown) to the right hand terminal. Connect the Neutral wire to the left hand terminal. After termination pull firmly on each wire to make sure that it cannot come loose, and check again that there are no stray wire strands visible.

Once this is completed we can begin the final stage, re-assembling the Schuko plug ... make sure that the side of the plug where the cable clamp fits is fully closed and at right angles to the base. Make sure the outer sheath of the cable is in the correct position and that the inner cores do not pass over the area where the body screw will fit. Screw down the cable clamp to hold the wire in place.

Carefully close the other side of the plug, checking again that the inner cores are nowhere near the path of the body screw and that they are not accidentally trapped by any part of the plug body. Insert and screw down the body screw.

That should be it - job finished!

Chris Bray
Managing Director, Leads Direct