Light switches that grip the back side of drywall

Repair help for the do-it-yourselfer.
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Posts: 158
Joined: Tue Jul 02, 2013 6:06 pm

Thu Oct 16, 2014 11:42 am

I have a few electrical outlets and light switches that are being very stubborn. They are the type that grip the back side of the drywall with plastic clips as you tighten the screws. Most of them around the house work fine, but a few are giving me problems. I pull the electrical component out of the wall, make sure the plastic clips are a good half inch away, put the component back in the wall and very carefully try to screw it in tight. But the plastic clips are not turning like they should, and I can see nothing wrong with them when the electrical component is out of the wall. I hope this makes sense. Anyone experience this same problem? If so, do you have any ideas?


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Posts: 5688
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 8:01 pm
Location: Weedsport, NY

Thu Oct 16, 2014 7:17 pm

Check to make sure the back of the locking screw is in place. I have had some of the screws come out of the seat and the whole screw and tab just seem to twist instead of tighten. It should sit into a small hole in the box. it may have come out of the hole when you unscrewed it.

"If I can't fix it, I can screw it up so bad no one else can either."

Norm Frechette
Posts: 193
Joined: Fri Aug 05, 2011 7:34 am
Location: Norwich, CT

Fri Oct 17, 2014 9:27 am

I just put one of these in with no problems

easy to install


Posts: 52
Joined: Fri Dec 20, 2013 1:12 pm

Fri Oct 17, 2014 9:53 am

I to have installed 4 of these, I cured the lack of wall plugs in this wonderful Karsten, anyway
not knowing the quality of the factory drywall , I added a short piece of paint stir stick to the top and bottom, on the back side of the wall, a little contact cement holds them in place till screws are tightened. Works great, strengthens the drywall around the box. I figured the plugs would get a lot of use pushing and pulling, just a little add security.

Posts: 622
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2008 6:12 pm
Location: wisconsin

Sun Oct 19, 2014 8:42 am

Those mobile home outlets and switches are horrible. I don't know how they are allowed to sell a home with them. I personally haven't had issues with the plastic tabs besides when they rip out of the drywall. But I have had issues with wires they stab in these devices. It doesn't make a good connection. I've replaced a bunch of them and they are easy to do. A box like shown above and then wire in your new outlet.

Posts: 52
Joined: Fri Dec 20, 2013 1:12 pm

Sun Oct 19, 2014 4:56 pm

A little insurance never hurts especially if it only cost a few pennies, stir sticks are free.

Posts: 246
Joined: Tue Feb 26, 2008 8:33 am
Location: Anna, Tx

Sat Nov 01, 2014 5:39 am

Got to agree that the clip-on, wing-on outlets and switches are beyond crappy and cheap. Add to it that usually the outlets and switches are stuck out in the middle of a 1/4" wall with nary a stud anywhere near.

I've also used the 'paint-stick' reinforcement. Cut the stick in half, add a bit of adhesive, and then wriggle it into position on the backside of the cutout. BUT!! (there's always a but!) I did get rid of their stupid clip-on devices! The cutout was already there - so I put in a regular wall box, and then regular screw-terminal devices. I guess there is no end to how cheap some of these outfits can be. Is it any wonder mobile homes get a bad rap??

FWIW - if your outlet/switch just happens to be up against a stud, you can use the winged-boxes - and then run a couple screws through the side of the box into the stud. It helps to pre-drill small holes before you put the box in.

FWIW - somewhere in my house one clip-on outlet has lost its neutral connection. I started replacing the outlets, and of course the source of the problem has not been found. Which means...its bound to be one that is behind a shelving unit, entertainment center, etc..... Murphy's Law, of course.
Opportunity has a shelf life.