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

Person. Author of Director of Rare updater of VK3FJBX

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

  1. Natalia says:

    Ouch! My worst experience was trying to tighten the tip of a hot soldering iron, but your mighty zap must have been worse by several orders of magnitude!

  2. Engineer says:

    Sorry to hear. But your issue is not the power unit, but the adapter. Otherwise the adapter is fine.

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

    • John Boxall says:

      Yes and no. The seller claimed they would have the Australian pins, not the adaptor. Moot really, won’t buy them again.
      MIT? Nice one. Wish I went there 🙂

  3. Paul says:

    I only made contact with 240v once, the only luck was my finger was already touching an earth clip, so I got a zap with no ill effects bar a numb hand.

    A lot of cheap nasty switchmode type plugpacks around, buyer beware the device itself can be well made, but the power supply can be utter junk. Everything from the cable being too short, to shoddy plastic casings that crack and electronics that blow up.

    • John Boxall says:

      Wow – you were lucky. It is getting harder to try and balance cost vs quality when shopping around, especially when there are so many dishonest manufacturers/wholesalers/sellers out there.
      Thanks for your comment and I hope you enjoy the site.

  4. Jasin says:

    I got nailed by 240 volts once. I wasn’t paying attention when a friend decided to plug a non-attached cord into the wall socket to see if it was the right plug for the outlet(USA dryer plug, they make more then one type, go figure). Apparently he had know clue I was holding onto the other bare end of the wires while he was plugging in the wire.

    Foolish on both our parts. Never trust anyone else!!! that is the moral of my story. Luckily like john, I had all three wires in my hand, so there was a quick route to ground. But man did it feel like I got hit by a mac truck. Took 15 mins for the tingling to go away and 5 just for my heart to return to a normal 80 beats a min.

  5. John says:

    All of yall got lucky I deal with 480v 3phase on a normal bases and some are power company fed lines…very unfortunately I got hit by a malfunctioning “pole pig” and got zapped by overhead line voltage, 6000vac jumped through the test leads and my gloves both insulated to 2kv got thrown over 20 feet from the panel. The only reason I survived was the fact that my bare left hand was grounded to the panel frame and the voltage went through my arms instead of my heart. Electrical safety is nothing to play with obey electric safety guidelines at all times.


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