Dan has been a licensed journey-level electrician for some 17 years. He has extensive experience in most areas of the electrical trade.
Replacing a Blown Fuse
Sooner or later, nearly everyone is going to have to know how to replace a blown fuse in a fuse box. Fuses don't last forever, and overloads or electrical shorts are always possible. As an electrician, I have not only replaced more than a few fuses but I have installed thousands in new construction work. Here's what I'll cover in this article:
- One of the first things that is needed is a replacement fuse, but there are literally thousands of different types of fuses available. It is far beyond any single article to look at every style, type, and size of fuse, but some of the more common types of fuses will be covered below.
- Secondly, the fuse must be replaced with a new fuse. The old one must be removed from the clips holding it in the fuse box and a new one installed. Again, every possibility cannot be covered in one article, but common fuses and how to remove and replace them will be discussed.
Different Types of Fuses
The first thing to consider in finding a replacement fuse is not necessarily the physical type or size, but the rated ampacity of the fuse—the electrical size, in other words. Every fuse has a particular number of amps that it will carry; go beyond that and it will blow. Never replace a fuse with one rated at a higher ampacity to prevent blowing it; the wiring carrying the current is carefully sized to the size of the fuse and requiring it to carry more amps than it is rated for is a major cause of electrical fires.
Many fuses are of the "time delay" or "slo-blow" type in that they will tolerate a short period of overload without blowing. This is done to accommodate motors of all types with their high current requirements as they come up to speed, but if that high level of current continues the fuse will still blow. In general, it is not a bad idea to purchase time-delay fuses and in many cases that is all that is available. One of the most common exceptions is for fuses in electronic equipment; quickly blowing a fuse on a circuit board that has been overloaded by a failing component can save the rest of the board.
Commonly used in older homes that were constructed prior to the introduction of circuit breakers, these fuses screw into a socket similar to a light bulb and are easily changed. There are two basic thread sizes; make sure that you have the correct size of thread on the new fuse; take the old one to the store with you when buying. The threads are considerably different and it is easy to distinguish between the two and adapters are available to convert a large socket to a smaller size. Occasionally these fuses may also be found with a switch controlling a remote motor such as an attic ventilation fan.
Some plug fuses are of the "t" type and require an adaptor to use; this is done to prevent tampering with the fuse box. If this is the case, make sure you have the adaptor as well.
Cartridge fuses are less common in home use but are still found in many pieces of outdoor equipment. Appliances such as well pumps, outdoor air conditioner units and even rooftop swamp coolers may have a cartridge-type fuse in a small electrical box.
More care must be taken here in choosing a new fuse as cartridge fuses come in many, many sizes. They can vary from an inch long to a foot or more. They can have a groove at one end that fits into only one of the clamps so that the fuse must be installed in one direction only. Diameter can vary from as little as ¼" to several inches.
Each cartridge fuse will have a number/letter designation stamped on it, along with an ampacity. Matching both is necessary for proper replacement—the same ampacity is absolutely critical and the letter designation indicates the type of fuse, whether it is a time delay or other specialty fuse. Make sure that both match when replacing any cartridge fuse.
Different Cartridge Fuses
Automobiles may have any of three different fuses; a glass tube fuse and "blade" fuses in both regular and mini sizes. All three are again available in various amperage ratings which must be matched exactly between the blown fuse and its replacement.
Blade fuses are typically color-coded, with the color indicating amperage; replace one of these with the same color as is being removed. Blade fuses come in two physical sizes, the ATC pictured here and the smaller "mini" size. The fuse box will only accept one size, however, so make sure you have the right physical size. Blade fuses are commonly available in a variety pack such as shown here and this is a perfect way to purchase them for a car, boat or RV. This kit even came with a tester and fuse puller.
Glass tube fuses come in many, many different amperages and physical sizes. Amperages as low as 1/10 of an amp are available as they are common in electronic circuit boards where only very small amperages are used. Automobiles will use a much higher amperage, typically from 15 to 30 amps. These fuses can even be found in some Christmas tree light sets, as an "inline" fuse; a small fuse container that is part of the cord assembly.
Fuse pullers from Amazon
How to Change a Fuse
Changing a Plug Fuse
It is generally pretty easy to tell if a plug fuse is blown; the glass window will either be blackened or the silver wire inside will be burned in half. If you are unsure, though, the article on how to check a fuse will walk you through checking the fuse.
With the right replacement fuse on hand, changing a plug fuse is a very simple task. Simply unscrew the blown fuse just as you would a light bulb and screw the new one in. In very rare cases, the fuse may be stuck; very careful use of pliers may be required to break it free. Extreme caution is the name of the game here as if you crush the fuse with pliers it is probably time to call an electrician to dig it out of the fuse box.
Changing a Cartridge Fuse
This is a little more difficult as removing the old fuse isn't quite so easy. A fuse puller is extremely handy here and are quite inexpensive. Examples of some fuse pullers are shown above, available from either Amazon or eBay.
If there is any question that power is still on at the fuse, check with a noncontact voltage detector or voltmeter before proceeding. Do not attempt to remove a cartridge fuse that still has power to it!
If a fuse puller is available, grasp the fuse near the center with the puller and pull the fuse straight out of the clips holding it. If you have waited too long to buy a fuse puller, these fuses can often be removed by prying with a screwdriver or using pliers, but be aware that squeezing too hard will crush the fuse and shatter a glass tube fuse.
Holding the replacement fuse in place, push the bottom end into the clips. A hammer handle can be used for large fuses or another tool for smaller ones if finger pressure won't do the job. Be sure to press hard on only the metal ends as the fuse can be broken by pressing hard in the center. If the fuse has a groove on one end, make sure it is not upside down as it will not fit the spring clamps if it is. With one end fitted into the clamps, push the top end in as well. The fuse should be centered as well as possible in the clamps, without having one end protruding; many clamps will not accept a fuse that isn't aligned properly.
Changing a Blade Fuse
A fuse puller is almost a necessity here as these fuses are difficult to grab with pliers and tweezers usually can't supply the force necessary to remove it. Grasp the center of the fuse with the fuse puller, then, and pull it straight out. The new fuse is simply pushed into place, again making sure that it is aligned reasonably well.
Replacing a Glass Tube Fuse
These fuses will again need a fuse puller unless the ends are very accessible and can be reached with a screwdriver to pry them out. The use of pliers will almost inevitably result in a broken fuse, with broken glass scattered throughout the fuse box.
Grasp the fuse in the center with the fuse puller and pull the entire fuse out. Insert the new fuse into the fuse puller and push it into place in the clamps using the tool. It is often easier to use the fuse puller on these small fuses than fingers
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: My fuse box is very warm to the touch. Is this a problem?
Answer: It might be. Fuse boxes are often warm, meaning they're about 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, perhaps even more. But if it is too hot to touch, then there is a definite problem that needs to be addressed.
Question: I have a 15-amp fuse in my fuse box that is powering lights and electric heaters in my house. The 15 amp has blown twice. Can I replace it with a 20-amp fuse?
Answer: No. It is never a good idea to replace fuses with larger ones, for everything "downstream" of a fuse is sized for only the amount of current the fuse will allow.
If you put a larger fuse in, then, you may be putting 20 amps through a wire that is designed to carry only 15 amps. Or to an outlet designed to carry only 15 amps. That's how fires start. The old "penny behind the fuse" people used to do decades ago resulted in a lot of ashes and homeless families.
You need to reduce the draw on that fuse then. Plug one of the heaters into a different circuit, for instance, or purchase smaller heaters (smaller as in current requirements, not physical size).
Never replace a fuse with a larger size.
Question: I have an old school fuse box. The fuses are like a light bulb. The fuse has broken off inside of plug. How can I get it out?
Answer: Turn off the power to the fuse box. The entire house will go dead. Check with a meter to make absolutely sure there is no power anywhere.
With a pair of needle nose pliers or other tool dig it out, in pieces if necessary. You're going to be putting metal pliers into the contacts of the fuse, so make absolutely SURE there is no power there.
Question: I am trying to replace a plug fuse in my electric panel. I have been using "P" type 20 amp fuses. Now all I can find is "TC" type 20 amp fuses. This new kind is referred to as a "Dual Element Fuse" and is apparently designed with a time delay. Am I correct in thinking that the "Type" ("P" vs "TC") doesn't matter, but the "Amps" are what matters? Am I safe to replace the Type P with the Type TC as long as it is the same amount of amps? Thanks very much!
Answer: The ampacity of the fuse is certainly the most important thing. Replacing a time delay fuse with one that does not have a delay can cause problems with motors starting up, and putting in a time delay into a dedicated electronic circuit can cause that circuit to fail catastrophically when the fuse does not blow in time.
In your case though, there should be no problem with putting in a time delay fuse. The TC fuses are specifically designed to provide superior protection for residential circuits.
Question: I got an old warehouse with an old small panel rated at 60 amps, with spots for two main fuses and led to a small new breaker panel. 1) Do we put a 60 amp cartridge fuse in the two slots vs. 30 amps each? 2) Is it a bad or good idea for them to be time delay fuses if that breaker box is going to be pushed with electric stoves, heaters, fridge, dishwasher, etc.?
Answer: It's impossible for me to tell you what size fuses should be: it depends on the size of the wire and what they are being used for.
In general, time delay fuses are used for motors or other equipment that has a high demand when started but then settles down to a lower amperage requirement. If the cartridge fuses are feeding the panel, I wouldn't recommend a time delay; any high current draw should be well under the capacity of the fuse anyway as there are multiple devices on it.
Question: How do I remove a glass fuse that turns but will not come out in my house fuse box?
Answer: It sounds like something is broken in the fuse; you are only turning the inner part, with the threads not moving. As a last resort power can be removed from the panel and the fuse removed in pieces, but unless you have a master fuse that will "turn off" all power to the panel this will have to be done by an electrician coordinating with the power company.
Question: When changing a plug fuse does the main power need to be off ?
Answer: As long as it unscrews, no. It is fine to leave the power on.
If, however, it has been there for so long it is rusted in place and has to be broken and dug out piece by piece, then absolutely turn the main power off. This is rare, but I have seen it happen with fuses 50 years old.
© 2012 Dan Harmon
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on July 12, 2020:
If you can find some kind of adapter (I've never seen one) or re-wire the circuit to a plug fuse, there should be no problem.
There IS a problem though, and that is why the circuit won't hold. Either there is a poor connection/short somewhere or the dryer has a problem. This needs found and fixed before any other changes are made.
Rayman Bacchus on July 11, 2020:
I have a fuse box with a mix of dual cartridge fuse holders and plug fuses. My dryer is currently on a cartridge fuse connection (30 amps total) but keeps blowing. Can I replace the cartridge fuse holder with a plug fuse holder? My house is quite old (built in the 70's) and the only issue is with the dryer fuse.
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on January 02, 2019:
Unfortunately, none that I'm aware of. It may be necessary to remove power from the entire panel and use pliers or other tool to get the old fuse out. If absolutely necessary it could be removed in pieces, breaking it apart little by little. But make sure the whole panel is completely dead before trying such a thing!
Will on January 02, 2019:
Can't remove the round screw in type fuse from my home fuse box. Very difficult to unscrew. Is there a tool to unscrew such fuse??
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on October 21, 2018:
Turn off all power to the fuse box and the house. Using needle nose pliers, screwdrivers or other tools dig it out. In pieces if necessary.
But make absolutely SURE there is no power anywhere before sticking anything into that socket!
Angie on October 21, 2018:
How can I get the inner part of fuse out that has broken off inside the plug in.
Peachykeen on July 05, 2017:
Thanks for your helpful site! I almost used a 20 amp to replace a 15amp,thinking it was better! Thanks so much!!!Very informative, and possibly prevented an electrical fire!!!
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on June 28, 2017:
The groove is not important if it physically fits, but the numbers on the fuse are. Not only the amperage, but other characteristics of the fuse. You may need a slow blow fuse, for instance and putting a quick blow in it's place will result in the fuse blowing.
Paul konkowski on June 28, 2017:
I have a eagle cartridge fuse and it seems that the fuses to replace it have a groove on one side . Can I use them to replace the non grooved cartridge fuse? Size matches.
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on November 22, 2016:
They are certainly related; most likely the fuse box is being powered from the circuit breaker box.
But that does not mean that breakers need turned off to change a fuse - fuses are intended to be changed while the box is hot. You can, if you wish, find the circuit breaker that powers the garage and turn that off, but it should not be necessary.
Andi on November 21, 2016:
I have a breaker box in my house and a fuse box in my detached garage. My question is: are they related ? Meaning do I need to turn of breaker box and fuse box to change a fuse?
Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on May 03, 2012:
What a thoroughly informative Hub. It's just great! So totally useful for every adult. Looks nice too, easy to read so it is easy to remember the facts.
Voting up and interesting and useful.