Seriously – don’t buy a cheap plugpack…

Hello readers

Instead of a normal day involving fun and learning with electronics, I got the scare of my life and a very sore back. You’re probably thinking it was something to do with the bedroom, but (un)fortunately no. It was revenge of the cheap plug pack. (In Australia we call wall warts plug packs).

In the recent past I wrote about a couple of cheap plug packs from eBay – here. Foolishly I kept using the other working plug pack. Not any more!

Consider this photo:


Notice how there is the adaptor with the Australia pins – this slides on and off relatively easily. Today I went to unplug the whole thing, by gripping the small adaptor which would pull the lot out at once. However my grip was not strong enough and my fingers slipped, pushed down and pulled at the plugpack itself – just enough to leave a gap and the pins exposed. (see below) At which point my fingers slipped and grabbed the live pins.


Although I consider myself to be a large physical specimen (185cm tall, 120kg) the shock was amazing (in a bad way). I fell arse over and ended up flat on the floor, and some strange feelings in my chest. After a few moments I sat up and had a walk around. Luckily my doctor is only ten minutes walk away so she gave me a once-over and told me to relax for the rest of the day.

So – the morals of today’s story:

One – don’t cut corners on safety by using substandard equipment

Two – no matter how familiar you are with electronics or electrical work – ELECTRICITY CAN KILL YOU!

Three – always see a doctor, even for the slightest shock.

If you have a tale of woe to share, please leave a comment below or in our Google Group. And if you made it this far – check out my new book “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

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John Boxall

Founder, owner and managing editor of

8 Responses to “Seriously – don’t buy a cheap plugpack…”

  1. Natalia says:

    Ouch! My worst experence was tryng to tghten the tp of a hot solderng ron, but your mghty zap must have been worse by several orders of magntude!

  2. Engineer says:

    Sorry to hear. But your ssue s not the power unt, but the adapter. Otherwse the adapter s fne.

    If these are from eBay I know them, I have and bought nearly 20 over the years, ne’er a problem wth them. Stay safe.

    • John Boxall says:

      Yes and no. The seller clamed they would have the Australan pns, not the adaptor. Moot really, won’t buy them agan.
      MIT? Nce one. Wsh I went there :)

  3. Paul says:

    I only made contact wth 240v once, the only luck was my fnger was already touchng an earth clp, so I got a zap wth no ll effects bar a numb hand.

    A lot of cheap nasty swtchmode type plugpacks around, buyer beware the devce tself can be well made, but the power supply can be utter junk. Everythng from the cable beng too short, to shoddy plastc casngs that crack and electroncs that blow up.

    • John Boxall says:

      Wow – you were lucky. It s gettng harder to try and balance cost vs qualty when shoppng around, especally when there are so many dshonest manufacturers/wholesalers/sellers out there.
      Thanks for your comment and I hope you enjoy the ste.

  4. Jasin says:

    I got naled by 240 volts once. I wasn’t payng attenton when a frend decded to plug a non-attached cord nto the wall socket to see f t was the rght plug for the outlet(USA dryer plug, they make more then one type, go fgure). Apparently he had know clue I was holdng onto the other bare end of the wres whle he was pluggng n the wre.

    Foolsh on both our parts. Never trust anyone else!!! that s the moral of my story. Luckly lke john, I had all three wres n my hand, so there was a quck route to ground. But man dd t feel lke I got ht by a mac truck. Took 15 mns for the tnglng to go away and 5 just for my heart to return to a normal 80 beats a mn.

  5. John says:

    All of yall got lucky I deal wth 480v 3phase on a normal bases and some are power company fed lnes…very unfortunately I got ht by a malfunctonng “pole pg” and got zapped by overhead lne voltage, 6000vac jumped through the test leads and my gloves both nsulated to 2kv got thrown over 20 feet from the panel. The only reason I survved was the fact that my bare left hand was grounded to the panel frame and the voltage went through my arms nstead of my heart. Electrcal safety s nothng to play wth obey electrc safety gudelnes at all tmes.


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