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How to Replace a Fuse in a Fuse Box

Updated on April 5, 2016
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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 with the result always being that changing a fuse is required. As an electrician myself, I have not only replaced more than a few fuses but installed thousands in new construction work - some commercial buildings may have hundreds in just one school or large store.

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.

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.

A mid sized cartridge fuse.  You won't find one this large in a home.
A mid sized cartridge fuse. You won't find one this large in a home. | Source

Types of Fuses That Might Be Encountered

The first thing 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.

Plug Fuses

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 the 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.

Plug Fuses

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A buss fuse of the type used in older homes equipped with a fuse box rather than circuit breakers.This fuse/switch combination is mounted in a garage ceiling to control and protect an attic exhaust fan.
A buss fuse of the type used in older homes equipped with a fuse box rather than circuit breakers.
A buss fuse of the type used in older homes equipped with a fuse box rather than circuit breakers. | Source
This fuse/switch combination is mounted in a garage ceiling to control and protect an attic exhaust fan.
This fuse/switch combination is mounted in a garage ceiling to control and protect an attic exhaust fan. | Source

Cartridge Fuses

These 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 roof top 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 physical 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

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A 60 amp fuse; it is unlikely to find one of these in a home.15 amp cartridge fuse20 amp cartridge fuse.  Note that it is smaller than the preceding photo but will carry more amperage.
A 60 amp fuse; it is unlikely to find one of these in a home.
A 60 amp fuse; it is unlikely to find one of these in a home. | Source
15 amp cartridge fuse
15 amp cartridge fuse | Source
20 amp cartridge fuse.  Note that it is smaller than the preceding photo but will carry more amperage.
20 amp cartridge fuse. Note that it is smaller than the preceding photo but will carry more amperage. | Source

Automotive 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 it's 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 aperages 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 "in line" fuse; a small fuse container that is part of the cord assembly.

Automotive fuses

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Automotive blade type fuses.  Typically, the color indicates amperage.  Mini fuses are a smaller version of these ATC type fuses.Automotive glass tube fuses.  These come in many physical sizes and ampperages; make sure that you have the right size.Closeup of an AGC autmotive style glass cartridge fuse.
Automotive blade type fuses.  Typically, the color indicates amperage.  Mini fuses are a smaller version of these ATC type fuses.
Automotive blade type fuses. Typically, the color indicates amperage. Mini fuses are a smaller version of these ATC type fuses. | Source
Automotive glass tube fuses.  These come in many physical sizes and ampperages; make sure that you have the right size.
Automotive glass tube fuses. These come in many physical sizes and ampperages; make sure that you have the right size. | Source
Closeup of an AGC autmotive style glass cartridge fuse.
Closeup of an AGC autmotive style glass cartridge fuse. | Source

Fuse pullers from Amazon

Changing the 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 non contact voltage detector or voltmeter before proceeding. Do not attempt to remove a cartridge fuse that is 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 other 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. 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 fuse than fingers

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    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      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.

    • profile image

      Andi 8 months ago

      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?

    • wilderness profile image
      Author

      Dan Harmon 8 months ago from Boise, Idaho

      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.

    • profile image

      Paul konkowski 4 weeks ago

      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.

    • wilderness profile image
      Author

      Dan Harmon 4 weeks ago from Boise, Idaho

      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.

    • profile image

      Peachykeen 3 weeks ago

      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!!!

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