Most electrical wiring jobs are relatively easy to handle, using just a few inexpensive tools.
If you have the skills and interest in doing your own electrical repairs, here are the tools you’ll need for most any job:
Non-Contact Voltage Tester
A non-contact voltage tester allows you to determine whether wires or electrical devices are electrically charged—without having to open up or disconnect wires. The type shown is designed to detect standard voltage in electrical cables, cords, lighting fixtures, switches, outlets, circuit breakers, and wires. It will also detect an electrical charge in low voltage equipment such as security, communications, entertainment, and garden irrigation systems.
Electrical Outlet Tester
Simple and inexpensive, an electrical outlet tester just plugs into a conventional outlet to tell you whether the circuit is “hot” (charged) or properly grounded.
A small, battery-operated continuity tester costs less than $10. It can be used to determine whether wiring is broken or electrical circuits are complete. You can buy a continuity tester here.
A pair of lineman’s pliers is the best tool to use for cutting heavy wire or cable and twisting wire ends together. To twist two wires together, hold them side by side with one hand, their stripped ends aligned, and point the blunt end of the pliers in line with them, clamp down, and twist in a clockwise direction.
Long-nose pliers are great for bending small loops at wire ends or for cutting off wires (most include a wire-cutting section). Use the pointed end of the pliers to form a smooth, 3/4 circle at a wire’s end, designed to circle around a screw terminal (always hook the wire onto the terminal with the end of the bend sweeping clockwise from the wire).
You’ll want to have a multimeter on hand for making a variety of continuity checks, checking voltage, and other similar tasks. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for a thorough understanding of techniques. Multimeters, which do the job of ohm meters, volt meters, and related tools, are sold at consumer-electronics stores for under $20. You can buy a multimeter here.
You’ll want an assortment of electrician’s screwdriverswith insulated rubber grips. Be sure to get both flat-bladed and Phillips-head drivers.
Most electrical wires run inside a sheath of insulation—a plastic, rubber, or paper coating that prevents bare conductors from shorting against each other or shocking you. When splicing wires or connecting them to devices, you must remove the insulation, a relatively simple job when you have an inexpensive wire stripper. The stripper should be set so that it cuts the insulation but doesn’t nick the wire (use the slot that matches the wire conductor’s size).