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3 Prong Cord Wiring For An Electric Dryer


By Dave Rongey - Summary:

Connecting 3-Wire and 4-Wire Dryer Cords: How to Hook Up 3Wire and 4Wire Dryer Cord.


Wiring a 3 Prong Dryer Cord

Electrical Question:I have an electric dryer with a 3 prong cord but my wall outlet is a 4 prong.

  • I bought a 4 prong cord to switch out but before I installed it on dryer I wanted to make sure plug would fit.¬† (I who knows nothing about electrical wiring or dangers).
  • The cord was on the ground with all 4 wires exposed when I plugged it into the outlet. Of course it arced and fried the ring terminals.
  • I turned off the circuit breaker to unplug the cord. I realize I could have fried myself now but my question is now that the new 4 prong cord has been installed on dryer and we plug it in, it does not work. Did I fry the plug?

Background: Toni, a Other from Santa Cruz, California.
See more about Home Wiring for California

Additional Comments: Your website was helpful in showing me how to switch out a 3 prong to a 4 prong dryer cord.

Dave the Electrician’s Reply:
Thanks for your electric wiring question Toni.

Connecting 3Wire and 4Wire Dryer Cords

Application: Wiring a Dryer Cord.
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced – Best performed by a Licensed or Certified Electrician.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools and Voltage Tester.
Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience, ability to work with tools and connect the 240 volt dryer cord.
Precaution: Identify the dryer circuit at the electric panel, turn it OFF and Tag it with a Note before working with the dryer cord wiring.
Notice: Wiring a dryer cord and making the electrical connections should be done according to local and national electrical codes and using approved materials.

How to Hook Up 3Wire and 4Wire Dryer Cord

  • Safety First – Unplug the Cord
    • Always make sure the dryer cord is not plugged into the receptacle when making the wiring connections.
  • Damage from Shorted Wires
    • NOTE: As with this question, shorted wires typically do not damaged the 220 volt receptacle outlet.
  • Resetting the Dryer Circuit
    • If the dryer circuit breaker trips off, make sure to fully reset the circuit breaker, all the way off, then back on after the wiring and connections are completed.
    • If a 240 volt dryer circuit should trip off It is very possible that just one side of the breaker has tripped, or half of the circuit breaker. In this case the circuit breaker should be turned all the way off before making any wiring connections.
  • Ring Wire Terminals
    • For best results, the ring terminal connectors should not be damaged, however if they are damaged they may be cut off and replaced with new ring terminal connectors which may be obtained from your local¬† hardware store.

More about Wiring a Dryer Cord

The following resources will help you with the electrical wiring connections for your dryer.

Wiring a 3 Prong and 4 Prong Dryer Cord
Dryer Wiring

Dryer Cord Electrical Wiring

  • Electric dryer installation with a typical 220 Volt electric power cord wiring system.
  • You may find yourself with either a 3-wire or 4-wire electric dryer.
  • Or a 3-wire or 4-wire outlet.
  • Lets look a how the electric dryer is wired.
  • What to do if your cord does not match the plug.
  • Fully explained electrical wiring diagrams for dryer cords.



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Wiring Home Electrical Circuits
120 Volt and 240 Volt Outlet Circuits
Wiring 3-Wire and 4-Wire Electric Range
Wiring 3-Wire and 4-Wire Dryer Cord and Dryer Outlet
Troubleshooting and Repair Electrical Wiring
Wiring Methods for Upgrading Electrical Wiring
Electrical Codes for Home Electrical Wiring
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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

13 Responses to “3 Prong Cord Wiring For An Electric Dryer”
  1. Pam McMurray says:

    Bought a new whirlpool Cabrio dryer. It has 3 prong plug connection so I used plug from old dryer (also 3 prong). The instructions that came with the dryer say that the ground wire on the dryer should be disconnected and added to the center ground wire of the three plug connector. Then it says to connect the dryer ground using a separate copper wire “to an adequate ground”. What would that be?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Pam,
      The source for an adequate ground for a dryer plug or receptacle would be the ground wire of the dryer circuit. This ground wire is typically the bare copper wire or a green insulated wire which is part of the dryer circuit cable. A ground wire is required for all 120/240volt home electrical circuits. The only exception would be where the circuit wiring is inside a continuous electrical metallic conduit which has been installed with methods which are compliant with all applicable electrical codes.
      I hope this helps,
      Dave

  2. Jose says:

    I don’t have a green ground wire or a bridge ground for my three prong dryer cord. Is it safe to hook it up without grounding the dryer?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Jose,
      It would not be safe to hook up a dryer without the protection that an approved bond to the ground system will provide. The dryer must be properly grounded to an approved ground source using approved wiring methods. A dedicated circuit for a 240 volt electric dryer should be installed as required.
      Be Safe!
      Dave

  3. Robert Bergstrom says:

    I would like to add another circuit breaker to an existing panel to wire a clothes dryer. The panel only has room for the six single breakers currently in use. Can the breaker mounting strip in the panel be replaced with one containing more breaker inserting positions ? If so where can they be obtained? Replacing the entire panel with a larger one would require disconnecting all the wiring and modifying the conduits. Is my only other option adding a sub-panel.
    Thank you.

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Robert,
      Every electrical device including panels go through a series of tests before they receive a UL Listing which insures safety and integrity, so electrical panels may not be modified because this would void the UL Rating and could greatly affect the safety and integrity of the panel. Your situation is not uncommon at all, and may be solved by simply installing twin or tandem circuit breakers if they are allowed for your specific panel. Quad circuit breakers are also great for this application as well because a quad breaker would allow 4 circuits to be fed from 2 full circuit breaker positions. In this case a quad with a 240 volt 30 amp configuration and the two additional circuits would be sized according to the circuits that would be consolidated into the quad. The documentation label inside the panel will describe the circuit limitations and if tandem breakers can be installed. Be aware that the load of the panel should be tested to see if the panel has enough ampacity for the additional load of the clothes dryer circuit.
      Enjoy your dry clothes!
      Dave

  4. Steve says:

    I took off a surface mounted 3 prong dryer outlet and purchased a new one to put into a new plastic box in the new wall that was built. When I removed the wires from the old 3 wire outlet, it had black, red and white connected and a bare ground wire unconnected inside the metal box. With my new 3 prong receptacle, should I wire it the same way or as I read elsewhere here, connect the ground and cap the white. I am confused.

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Steve,
      The bare ground wire should be wired to the ground terminal. When I am faced with a situation like this I would go to the panel and make sure the ground wire is connected to the ground terminal, of course I could also verify this by using a voltage tester and testing the black and red prong slots to the ground slot. The concern to verify the neutral and the ground wires is especially important if the dryer circuit is fed from a sub-panel where the ground and neutrals are separated, however they are bonded together at the main panel as required by code.
      Dave

  5. Michael Wolf says:

    I have a newly wired system but still using an old 3 prong Whirlpool dryer. The dryer hasn’t been used much over the years so I’d like to use it in a secondary room.

    My question is: The hard shell 3 prong receptacle doesn’t have a grounding screw for the 10-3 line w/a ground. Can the ground wire from the cable be slid onto the neutral screw and then attached back to the electrical panel via the neutral bus bar?

  6. Woodrow Wallace says:

    I have a Kenmore Elite dryer that has a 3-prong plug. There is no color code on the connecting wires. My old dryer, which is broke, has a 4-prong plug, with a color code, each wire is colored. How do I connect my 4-prong plug to this 3-prong dryer. Do I use the same color code on the 3 terminals as on the 4-prong.

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Woodrow,
      Most 3-wire dryer cords are flat, and the two outside wires of the flat dryer cord provide the two power wires which correlate with the black and red wires and the terminals in the dryer that have the red and black wires as well. The center wire if a 3-wire dryer cord is the ground wire.
      If the 4-wire dryer receptacle will be replaced with a 3-wire dryer receptacle then the white neutral is capped off and not used, the ground wire is attached to the angle plug of the receptacle typically identified with a G , and the red and black wires are connected to the remaining X and Y terminals which are on the outer portion of the receptacle. The positioning of the black and red wires onto the X and Y terminals does not matter for 220-240 volt dryer wiring.
      Dave

  7. James says:

    Help me figure out my 220 dryer hook up. It will run for 20 sec and shut off?It will throw the breaker.

    • Dave Rongey says:

      James,
      If the circuit wiring for the dryer has recently been installed then I would recommend that the voltage is tested at the receptacle outlet where there should be 220-240 volts between each power leg, and 120 volts to ground and neutral from each power leg.
      Next check to make sure the dryer cord is wired correctly.
      If this dryer is existing and has been working fine at this location then there may be an internal problem with the dryer, where the dryer motor and heating elements should be checked.
      Also make sure the dryer vent and entire duct passageway is open and not clogged with lent.
      Dave


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3 Prong Cord Wiring For An Electric Dryer


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