Frayed And Frazzled

By Simone Slykhous

April 8, 2016 5 min read

According to Nielsen's Total Audience Report, Americans over the age of 18 spend more than 11 hours a day engaged with media -- listening to the radio, watching television or using smartphones and other electronic gadgets. And in this world of nearly constant online communication, the fear of being cut off from the Web is real. Where will you get cat videos? How will you see the response to your latest blog on the evils and joys of pasta? What happened on the latest episode of "Empire" you were trying to stream?!

Luckily, there are some quick fixes that can prevent this separation from the Internet -- at least when it comes to a frayed or dysfunctional power cord; unpaid power bills or server issues are completely different animals. Speaking of animals, some of the most common culprits of damage to power cords are pets.

According to Dr. Arnold Plotnick of Manhattan Cat Specialists, animals chewing on power cords can be dangerous for two reasons: "First, it can be a danger to your cat (or other animal) because of potential electrical burns. Second, it can be a danger to your home, as an exposed wire can be a fire hazard." As many cats and dogs are attracted to the ribbon-like appearance of cords, some of the best things to do are put away cords when not in use, tape down cords and wires that won't be moved, and stuff cords that need to be out in large hollow tubes, such as a cut garden hose, PVC pipe or electrical conduit tubing. There are also cord covers designed specifically to deter pets. CritterCord has a cover infused with a citrus scent and bitter taste. Apparently, most cats and dogs hate the smell of citrus. You can also add your own repellent to your cords by spraying them with a homemade concoction of Sriracha sauce, Tabasco, cayenne pepper, lemon juice or Vicks VapoRub. Apply this liberally to your cords (though not on exposed wires), and repeat often to teach your pets to avoid these nasty-tasting "snakes."

Proper cord storage is another important measure in ensuring a fray-free cord. Incorrect coiling can stress the cord, exposing wires or even breaking them, possibly creating a fire hazard. According to the editor-in-chief of Lifehacker, Alan Henry, "joints between the cable and your electrical device fray because people coil them all the way down to the joint, which is bound to decrease the useful life of your device." He adds that making a small loop at the joint before coiling "is actually a worthwhile tip" for many devices -- Macs, PCs, headphones and mouse cables.

And what about if it's too late for these preventive measures? According to Brian Nadel of Computerworld, after a power cord frays, "it's important to get a new cord or fix it right away, because it not only can damage the system's battery through intermittent charging, but it can also be a fire hazard."

If the damage is to the wall end of the power adapter, replacing the cord's three-pronged plug is your best bet. According to the self-proclaimed Mr. Fix It of YouTube (on his "RichsMethods" channel), it should only take about five minutes and $5 to do it yourself. To begin, you'll need electrical tape, a utility knife or a wire stripper, a screwdriver and a replacement head for the three-pronged end you are removing. Start by simply unscrewing the replacement plug. Once the cover part is removed, you will have a green (ground) screw, a brass screw and a silver screw. They will connect to the green, black and silver wires that you will expose from the power charger, respectively. Next, you will cut off the bad plug, right below the damage to the wire. You will then strip the wire carefully with your utility knife and wire stripper, only about a quarter-inch down. Take the exposed wire and place it around the screw it belongs to so that when you tighten the screw clockwise, you will pull the wire with it to secure the attachment. After the wires are secured around the screws neatly, make sure none of the wires are touching and remove any excess wire with wire cutters or scissors. Screw the plug cover back on, and your charger should be good as new. For additional safety, add electrical tape to where the replacement plug and the cord meet.

However, if the damage is to the other end of the power cord, doing a complete repair yourself might not be possible. Adding electrical tape or a silicone sealant can insulate and protect the charger from further damage and postpone the need to dole out between $50 and $100 for a new charger. When all else fails, buying a replacement is worth it. Think of all the cat videos you need to watch!

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