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Changing an Electric Dryer’s Power Cord from a 3-Prong Plug to a 4-Prong Plug

August 17, 2006

Q: We recently purchased our first brand new house and we moved in last night. When I tried to plug in my dryer the outlet is different than my dryer cord. My dryer cord has 3 prongs and the outlet has 4 holes. Should I change the outlet or the dryer cord and how do I do this?

A: Congratulations on the purchase of your first new house. This is a question I receive a lot. You CANNOT change the receptacle (outlet), this is a National Electrical Code® (NEC®) violation. You need to change the cord on your dryer. You need a 4-wire dryer cord and you can get one of these at Home Depot, Lowe’s or your local appliance parts store for about $15.00.

The 1999 edition of the NEC® first introduced the requirement for a separate ground wire for ranges and dryers. This is also in the 2002 edition as well as the current 2005 edition. This is in Article 250 and specifically section 250.140.

All dryer and range receptacles installed after 2000 are required to be the 4-wire type. This would require the 4-wire cord. All dryer and range receptacles installed before 2000 are the 3-wire type. If a 3-wire receptacle goes bad, you are permitted to install a new 3-wire receptacle. However, if the cable for the 3-wire receptacle goes bad or if you change the location of your 3-wire receptacle, you are required to upgrade to the new and safer 4-wire type.

Dryers and ranges are not sold with a particular cord attached because of this requirement. When you purchase a new dryer, the appliance store will ask if you want a 3-wire or a 4-wire cord. Both cords are rated 250 volts and 30 amps as are all household electric dryers.

The tools you will need for this installation are:

  • 1 – phillips screwdriver
  • 1 – standard screwdriver
  • 1 – 3/8″ nutdriver
  • 1 – 5/16″ nutdriver
  • 1 – 1/4″ nutdriver


Lets get started

3-Prong Dryer Cord Plug

To change your dryer cord from a 3-wire to a 4-wire you first need to disconnect the old dryer cord. To do this make sure your dryer is unplugged and open the access panel cover on the back of the dryer.

This cover is all different sizes and shapes depending on the manufacturer of the dryer, but it is typically very close to where the cord enters the dryer. The cover is typically held in place with 1 – 4 screws. See image below of a Maytag Performa dryer access panel.

Dryer Access Panel
Click to enlarge

With the cover open you will see a terminal block with three wires. Black on one end, white in the middle and red on the other end. Use your 3/8″ nutdriver to remove the nuts or a phillips screwdriver to remove the bolts (depending on your dryer) and remove each dryer cord wire from the terminal block. When you remove the nuts or bolts, be careful not to drop them down into your dryer.

Dryer with 3-Wire Cord
Click to enlarge

Now you need to disconnect the bonding jumper on your dryer. The bonding jumper is either a metallic strap (typically copper or copperclad) or a green wire that is connected between your dryer’s neutral (white wire) terminal and the green ground screw connected to your dryer’s frame.

Removing this bonding jumper is an extremely important step when changing from a 3-wire to a 4-wire cord to prevent electrical shocks when touching anything metallic on your dryer.

If you removed a ground wire instead of a bonding strap from the neutral terminal, you need to connect this ground wire to your dryer’s frame.

Dryer Bonding Strap
Click to enlarge

Loosen the screws at the connector and pull the cord out. Now thread your new cord through the connector and tighten down. This only needs to be snug do not over tighten. Sometimes the old connector will work with the new cord and sometimes not. If not, your new cord will include a connector that you may use.4-Prong Dryer Cord Plug

To hook up your new 4-wire dryer cord, connect each wire to the dryer’s terminal block matching color for color (white to white, black to black and red to red). Connect the green wire to the green ground screw on your dryer’s frame.

Dryer with 4-Wire Cord
Click to enlarge

Replace the access panel cover and your new 4-wire dryer cord is installed

Before plugging in your new dryer cord, I recommend turning off the breaker to your dryer receptacle. Then plug in your dryer. Now turn the breaker back on. This is not fool proof, but it is a safer way to turn on the power to your dryer if you made a mistake connecting your new dryer cord.

Update 11/9/09

The purpose of this article was to teach everyone that the ground and neutral wires need to be separated when changing your dryer to a 4-wire configuration. All ranges and dryer ship from the factory with the ground and neutral connected. If you change your range or dryer to a 4-wire configuration, then the ground and neutral connections need to be separated.

I’m not a dryer repair expert. I’ve installed several dryer cords and repaired dryers for myself, friends and family, but that’s the extent of it. If you have a dryer repair question, then I recommend Appliance Parts Pros – They offer live help, a repair forum, part photos, diagrams, same day shipping and you can return any part.

Do you want to do the reverse? I also wrote How To Change a 4 Prong Electric Dryer Power Cord To a 3 Prong Electric Power Cord.

Do you have questions about the above process? Please read FAQ to Changing an Electric Dryer Power Cord from a 3-Prong Plug to a 4-Prong Plug


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141 Responses to “Changing an Electric Dryer’s Power Cord from a 3-Prong Plug to a 4-Prong Plug”

  1. Jayme on September 17th, 2009 10:59 am

    I just want to say thank you for the picture step-by-step. It was very helpful.

  2. Angila Adams on October 23rd, 2009 1:16 am

    I have a really big problem; I have a Signature 2000 Dryer by Norge! I was going to change the power cord to a four prong but, can’t cause I lost the bolts for the wires! I’ve bought all different size bolts and can’t find the right size and just wondering if you can help me with that. I would be very thankful cause I got some clothes I would like to dry at home instead of a dang laundry mat lol

    Till later,

  3. Carlton on October 25th, 2009 6:25 pm

    I changed my 3 prong to a 4 prong today. I tested it when I finished and it ran fine, so I put a load in to dry. It stopped working not long after it started judging by the wetness of the clothes, though they are still almost completely wet. Now it will not start. I saw a couple of others with this same question but no answers. Thank you!

  4. jason henry on November 5th, 2009 4:34 pm

    i have an estate dryer when i went to convert it to a 4 prong there is 2 white wires one on the board with the red and black one and the other is conected on a screw. what do i do with the other white wire and the green wire?

  5. Todd on December 3rd, 2009 1:03 pm

    Thanks for the instructions.

    However, my dryer has a red, white, and off yellow wires on the panel with a green ground screwed in on the exterior of the panel. My new 4 prong cord has red, white, black, and green wires. I called Lowes last night and they said to wire it as follows…

    My 4 prong cord red to red on panel, black to red on panel, white to white on panel, and green to green on the exterior. My dryer still doesn’t work… Is that the right way to wire this thing? Thanks for the help! : )

  6. Wayne Gilchrist on December 3rd, 2009 8:08 pm

    DO NOT put the black and red wires under the same terminal. This will create a “dead short” applying 240 volts to this one point. This will ruin your dryer and probably hurt someone. Call Lowes back and tell that bozo that he is not qualified to give electrical advice and he should stop doing so before someone gets hurt.

    I need to know more about your dryer before I can tell you how to wire it. My recommendation is for you to either use my DIY Electrical Wiring Help from a Master Electrician service, contact the dryer manufacturer for instructions or hire a licensed electrician locally.

  7. Duncan on December 11th, 2009 12:02 pm

    Thank you, very helpful. Other than having to take off the top of the dryer to access the terminal block and the neutral wire being a huge pain to disconnect your instructions really helped. Seems like manufacturers could do a little more to make this process a bit more user friendly!

  8. Greg Bockweg on January 2nd, 2010 7:46 pm

    Thank you very much for this most-helpful tutorial!!!!!

    My daughter got a dryer from a friend, to replace one that was taken when a roommate moved out, and the “new” one had the old three-pronge plug.

    Of course we didn’t notice this until we spent 30 minutes getting the “new” one squeezed into its spot. At which point, neither of us was really surprised…I have the worst luck and have unfortunately passed this onto her!

    But!!! The day was saved and the general bad mood was turned around after I found your posting, took a trip to Home Depot and spent a few minutes following your EXCELLENT directions…I truly appreciated the pictures and the wording of your directions…This made them easier to follow than almost any directions I ever come across with new gadgets, parts or repair attempts!

  9. james on January 16th, 2010 6:06 pm

    Just wanted to say thank you. Big,big help!!!

  10. roger martin on April 20th, 2010 7:11 pm

    how to ground an in ground pool no latters or steps just one light pool is fiberglass

  11. rodondoe on April 25th, 2010 9:24 pm

    Thanks for the great article. …the internet is amazing… who knew you could Google something as random and lengthy as “Changing an Electric Dryer’s Power Cord from a 3-Prong Plug to a 4-Prong Plug” and get an exact match??!

  12. nancy on April 27th, 2010 9:40 pm

    converting 4 to 3 I had a bonding strip using the green 10awg. I hook everything as instructed and my dryer did not work.

  13. Tucson Electrician on May 22nd, 2010 11:38 pm

    Wayne, you are an invaluable resource and your time, energy, and effort here are greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  14. Mechelle on May 30th, 2010 11:33 am

    We have a maytag performa and the wires are black and yellow together, two white ones in the middle and a blue one. We bought a universal 4 prong from sears and the wires on that are black white red and green. We have connected the black and yellow wire with the black, the white with the two white ones and the red with the blue, we put the green one on the ground screw , but the dryer will not work. What are we doing wrong? Please help

  15. Chris on June 14th, 2010 7:52 pm

    Thank you very much! It took me forever to find the right web site. Once I landed on yours, I knew it was trustworthy. I am a divorced mom and had to do this myself. You made it sooooo easy! And, when I was done, I was confident I wasn’t going to burn my house down. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

  16. Carolinn Devos on June 21st, 2010 7:54 pm

    Hey, man! Thanks so much for the info on how to hook up the new 4 prong cord! My husband and I thought it was correct, but just wanted to make sure…it didn’t look exactly like your pictures, but it was close enough that we could figure it out without electrocuting ourselves!! Awesome!

    Carolinn & John:)

  17. ken on July 4th, 2010 9:03 am

    Thanks so much for the advice..this made it so easy I wish I had found this before trying initially

  18. Colton on July 8th, 2010 9:06 am

    Hi, I just changed a 3 prong to a 4 prong. After purchasing it, i put the black and red on the outside and the white in the center. There is a green cord currently in the top left corner connected under a screw and I have a green one on my end as well but does not reach the top left corner. I called Lowe’s where I bought it and they said that I can put the green with the white because white is neutral. Is this correct? Or do I need to somehow get the green one up to that top corner?

    Thank you in advance for your help!


  19. Davida McMullen on August 19th, 2010 7:23 am

    Thank you so much for the instructions to change the 3 prong to a 4 prong. I am an army wife and an army mom. I just bought a new washer and dryer for my daughter whom is deployed to Iraq. I am taking care of the house and the children while she is gone. I am not one to work on appliances. With my children deployed to Iraq, I am starting to be the jack (Jill?) of all trades and starting to master them all. Thanks so very much.

  20. joe on September 1st, 2010 3:31 pm

    i have a kenmore washer combo model 41794712400 and it has a 220 pigtail from factory, it claims it can run on a 120volt, when connecting my 120 pigtail to back of contact board it shows line 1 and nuetral in middle and to right line 2 which wires on my 120 pigtail go to these leads?

  21. Carmen on September 1st, 2010 9:08 pm

    WOW! I have an older model GE dryer which used the 3 prong. We recently moved to a newer home that has a 4 prong outlet. I purchased the 4 prong plug & happened upon your post for hooking the 4 prong up to the dryer. I followed your instructions & I am happily drying my 1st load of clothes in my new home with my 4 prong plug. Thank you for taking time to share your knowledge. Carmen

  22. Jean C. on February 16th, 2011 9:42 pm

    So i did the 3 to 4 prong conversion. It was really easy. My dryer had a grey cable so i didnt know what color was which. The dryer did however had a diagram that said ground, l1, 2, 3. So i figured, black, white, red. My dryer did have the green cable and not the plate. I just took the green cable for the 4 prong cable and connected them both to the body of the dryer that the existing greem cable was on. Piece of cake.

  23. N.K. on March 11th, 2011 12:30 pm

    The wires on my 3-prong cord were all the same color. I realized I could unscrew the termination plate and look behind it to see the wires going from the plate to the interior of the dryer. These were all the same color so I was able to match the colors. I had a green wire not the bonding plate. With the connection terminal unscrewed, I could also trace the green wire – it looped back and was joined to the white wire at the back of the terminal. Now, this article implies you can connect this to the ground screw of the dryer where the green wire of the 4-prong is to be connected. But wouldn’t this mean the white wire in neutral and the ground are connected? Isn’t that what we are trying to avoid? So what I did was to cut the green wire at the point it connected with the white one. Now all the wires are going to the right spot and so far so good.
    One thing the article didn’t mention – you can use a multimeter to test the resistance between the round pin (ground) on the new power cord and the green terminal where you connect green wire to dryer ground. It should be very low resistance if properly grounded. I suppose in the same way you can test for shorts between say the red and black wires.

  24. David Pontes on April 7th, 2011 11:42 am

    Thank you for your posting of how to rewire a dryer from three wire to four wire. I
    had my dryer up and runningin twenty minutes

  25. T K on April 8th, 2011 12:58 pm

    Hey thanks for this article! My dryer works now and I couldnt have done it without your help!

  26. JAMES NICKELBERRY on April 9th, 2011 10:37 pm

    just wanted 2 say thnx,, a whole lot, you guys give the right answers when needed n i was able to get done ,, lol finally with the correct results…..

  27. Tea on May 29th, 2011 12:51 pm

    Thanks for the instructions…very helpful

  28. Laurie on June 4th, 2011 5:19 pm

    Hi. I just found this site. It’s great!
    My mom has an old 220 receptical for an electric dryer. Problem is, the bottom center prong is shaped like the number 7 and most of the dryer plugs I’ve looked at are shaped the oppossit, a backward 7. What can I do? I am shopping around for a dryer for her & this has made it very difficult.
    Thank you much.

  29. magnus thorsteinson on June 18th, 2011 6:35 am

    i am replacing a three wire with a 4 wire. the dryer wiring is not color coded. i need to know which wire goes where. green black white red. thank you in advance for your reply

  30. Annette on June 23rd, 2011 7:10 pm

    Thank you so very much for this article. I just moved from Fort Stewart, Ga to Fort Carson, Co. I thought I had to buy a new dryer becasue the outlet was different from my dryer plug. Thanks to you, I was able to change the electrical cord myself without the huge repair bill. Thanks so very much…

  31. Brian on July 6th, 2011 7:05 pm

    Hey thanks for the post… great info. I was switching from a 3 prong to a 4 prong on a dryer I bought off a friend and when I pulled the cover off the back there is NO bonding strap OR ground wire!!! only the black and red hot wires and the white neutral. Does that mean this dryer was not grounded at all?!?!? That can’t be safe… Kinda glad I had to switch to 4 prong and not just plug it in if it wasn’t grounded.

  32. Josh on August 14th, 2011 1:25 pm

    Dryer is wired now and works perfectly!!

  33. Changing the Cord on a Dryer - VolNation on August 20th, 2011 2:14 pm

    […] Connect it to the ground (green). Changing an Electric Dryer's Power Cord from a 3-Prong Plug to a 4-Prong Plug | How To Articles […]

  34. Prentice Darnell on September 17th, 2011 12:17 pm

    My washing machine has stop working. I just moved into a new apt and plugged it in. It started to go thru its cycle and all of a suddent it stopped. I seen a little smoke come from the back of it around the area were the controls are. Is there any thing I can do to check this issue before I decide to purchase a new one. Is there something I can buy to prevent this or some sort of maintenance. Thank you for your time.

  35. D Humph on October 4th, 2011 12:04 pm

    This info on three to four prong plug is the best I’ve read!


  36. Andrew on October 5th, 2011 11:45 pm

    I followed your instructions on changing my 4 prong dryer power supply cord to a 3 prong. Now, i have that in place and instructions were way easier than i would have thought but what do you do if the 3 prong power supply cord will not plug into the receptacle more than 1/2 an inch? That’s as deep as the receptacle goes. I can’t find any power supply cords with the prong length that size anywhere or even on the world wide web. Thank you for your time, Andrew.

  37. Pradeep on October 25th, 2011 1:04 pm

    Brilliant tutorial and greatly helpful.

  38. Gail on November 13th, 2011 1:41 pm

    When changing from a 3 prong to a 4 prong how do you know where to install the wires if they are not marked black, white, red or green on your dryer

  39. Ryan on January 7th, 2012 4:02 am

    Rock on!!

  40. Thanks on February 2nd, 2012 8:47 pm

    Just wanted to say thank you very much! I love that the Internet and people like you make these DIY tasks easily available to everyone. Again Thank You!

  41. Jason Nagy on February 20th, 2012 11:17 am

    Hello there. I just picked up a used Maytag dryer (De8200) I am trying to connect the power cord to it and the dryer has a ground connection with a black, white and blue wires on the connection point on the back of the dryer. Do I match up colors off the power cord to the back of the dryer? All colors match up blac to black wgite to white and ground wire but does the red wire off my power cord go to the blue connection on the dryer terminal? Thank you very much