How Often Should Extension Cords Be Inspected? (Explained)

Extension cords are designed to be used in specific ways and for specific purposes. They’re not intended for permanent use, and they certainly can cause many problems when broken.

If you’re not sure whether your extension cord is safe to use, read on to learn how often you should inspect the cord for damage and wear.

In this article we’ll show you how often extension cords should be inspected and what you need to look out for when doing so.

Here’s How Often Extension Cords Should Be Inspected:

Inspect your extension cords every year depending on how long the cord is, how often it’s used and what it’s connected to. If you have any concerns about the condition of your extension cords or if you notice one that could be hazardous, contact an electrician immediately for inspection.

Worker looking at a cut electrical wire

How Long Do Extension Cords Typically Last?

Extension cords can easily last for decades, but the general rule is to inspect your extension cord before each use. Especially models that are used outdoors.

But it’s also important to check the condition of your extension cord after each use, especially if it has been exposed to extreme weather conditions or if there’s been any sign that the insulation has been damaged or frayed.

This is especially true for outdoor cords that might have been exposed to rain or snow, which can cause moisture damage inside the insulation casing.

If you use your extension cord on a regular basis, then you should check it more often than that because it gets used more frequently as well.

When it comes to extension cords, the two most important things to keep in mind are how often they should be inspected and if they can be left unchecked for extended periods of time – more on this later.

The answer to both questions lies in the cord’s gauge. The lower the gauge number, the thicker and more durable the cord is. For example, a 14-gauge cord has more than double the thickness of an 18-gauge cord. This is because lower numbers mean thicker wires which can withstand more wear and tear, whereas higher numbers indicate thinner wires which are less durable.

Check out this blog about 13 things you should not plug into an extension cord.

The Fire Risk Of NOT Inspecting Extension Cords

Although most manufacturers recommend replacing extension cords after three years of regular use, it’s important that these cords are inspected much more frequently than that.

Because they are made up of many different materials (including rubber, plastic or metal), they can easily become damaged by overuse or misuse. Damaged cords can lead to safety issues such as electrocution or fires.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, extension cords account for an estimated 2,900 fires per year. This number accounts for 25 percent of all reported residential electrical fires and 13 percent of all reported home structure fires.

That’s why it’s important to use surge protectors with all of your electronics. Surge protectors help distribute power evenly between all connected devices so that none of them get overloaded with electricity and cause damage to themselves or other devices in your home theater system.

Can You Leave Extension Cords Unchecked for Extended Time?

You may be wondering if it’s okay to leave your extension cords uninspected for an extended period of time. The answer is yes, but only under certain circumstances.

The NEC does not specify any time frame for when you should inspect your extension cords. 

If you notice a frayed or damaged cord, immediately replace it with a new one. This could cause an electrical shock or fire hazard if the cord is used further.

Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t leave them unchecked for extended time:

  • The cord may become damaged from outside elements like weather and animals. If it’s too damaged, it could cause an electrical fire or shock when you use it again.
  • The insulation on the wire can become brittle, especially if exposed to extreme temperatures or sunlight over time, which could lead to an electrical fire or shock.
  • The wire could break inside the cord’s insulation, causing electricity to escape and shock anyone who touches it.
  • Outside factors like rain or animal urine can damage the cord’s outer covering and make it brittle.

How Exactly Do You Inspect an Extension Cord?

Do do this yourself you can look at a few things like:

  • First, look at the plug at the end of the cord; if it’s been bent over or damaged, throw it out immediately.
  • If it looks okay, carefully inspect the entire length of the cord for damage. Look for cuts or holes in the outer casing, which could expose wires inside to moisture and dirt that could cause a short circuit.
  • If there are any cuts or other problems with your extension cord, replace it immediately before using it again.
  • Look for cracks around the plug prongs and socket holes where electricity may be escaping from the cord’s insulation casing (and potentially causing a shock).

However, there could be other problems which will need a thorough inspection. In this case you will need to see an electrician or if you feel comfortable enough open up the cord plugs to see the condition inside.

How Do I Know If an Extension Cord Is Bad?

Check the Color of Your Extension Cord.

A good rule of thumb when you’re buying an extension cord is that black means hot, white means neutral and green means ground.

If your extension cord has any other colors than these three colors, make sure that the wires inside of each color match up with their respective labels on the outside of the cord.

If they don’t line up properly, this may indicate that there was damage caused by someone trying to tamper with your cord and reconnect it incorrectly after repairing it.

Look for Cracks or Damaged Parts.

If there are any signs of cracking or melting on your extension cord, throw it out immediately! This indicates that there could be exposed wires inside of your cord which could cause electrocution if they come into contact with water or moisture in any way.

Is It OK to Leave Extension Cords Plugged in Over Night?

There are several different opinions on this topic. Some experts say that it’s fine to leave extension cords plugged in over night without unplugging them first.

Others say that this is a bad idea because we don’t know how long they will last until they start sparking or smoking.

You might think it’s OK to leave an extension cord plugged in overnight since it’s not being used, but doing so is dangerous because it could cause a fire.

If you’re using an extension cord for lights or other low-wattage appliances, unplug them when you’re done using them to prevent overloading the outlet and creating a hazardous situation.

Do Extension Cords Have an Expiry Date?

Extension cords don’t have an expiry date, but they should be replaced after about five years of regular use because they may become less flexible over time.

Which could lead to a risk of electrocution if they come into contact with water or another conductor like metal or wood.

When To Inspect Outdoor And Indoor Extension Cords?

As both these two types of cords have different standards they will also have different durability ratings. So for indoor and outdoor extension cable, there are differing inspection times:

Indoor Extension Cords

Indoor extension cords should be inspected every three months, in order to make sure they are in good condition and free of any damage or wear. You should also check that they are properly grounded. Any electrical appliance that has an exposed metal part needs to be grounded so that there is no risk of electric shock.

If your cord is frayed or there is any other sign of damage or wear, it should be replaced immediately with a new one that meets the required safety standards.

Outdoor Extension Cords

Outdoor extension cords should be checked at least once per year, preferably before the start of each season.

During this inspection, you should check all three parts of the cord: plug end, cord insulation and electrical connections at both ends.

If any part of your outdoor extension cord appears worn or damaged in any way, it must be replaced immediately with a new one that meets current safety standards for outdoor use (this may mean replacing an indoor cord with an outdoor one).


Extension cords come in a variety of sizes and shapes, but they all have one thing in common — they will eventually wear out over time. While some extension cords last longer than others, most cords need to be inspected every few months to make sure they’re still safe to use.

If you’re wondering how often should extension cords be inspected? Then we hope that this blog answered all you questions.

Read our blog here about can extension cords be left outside?


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