top of page
  • Writer's pictureStuart Champion

The other way of testing for mains electricity

Updated: Mar 2, 2019

I went to use my spirit level yesterday.

Now we all know that a spirit level is a device we use to see if something is level by lining up the bubble.

I have to accept that it is a while since I used my level. This is for two key reasons:-

i) I have Nick in my life and he knows what he is doing

ii) My "near enough is good enough" attitude to some DIY jobs renders a spirit level redundant

But yesterday was different.

i) Nick has hurt his back so wasn't here to save me

ii) I was trying to work out where some paving slabs would go before I painted a wall in the garden and couldn't wing it as usual

So I fetched my spirit level, lined it up and checked the gauge.

Then I checked again.

And again.

Now look at the picture of the spirit level and see if you can spot my problem:-

Can you see the problem yet?

How about now?


I've been keeping in my shed that handiest of tools - a spirit level with no bubble.

This made me think about the other tools I have which fall into the same "I'm not sure why I still have this" category, and I alighted on my mains tester screwdriver.

It looks like this:-

Mains Testing Screwdriver

For those of you who don't know, this handy screwdriver is heavily insulated and designed so you can test whether a mains wire is live. There are two ways of doing this.

i) The approved way

You touch the tip of the screwdriver onto the wire and place your thumb over the top of the screwdriver

ii) The Stuart Champion way

You set out to use method 1, but instead use the screwdriver to move the live wire to the earthed metal casing of the mains socket

In the first method, the handle of the screwdriver glows as a warning.

In the second method the tip of the screwdriver explodes in a shower of sparks, there is a flash of bright light accompanied by a loud bang and the mains for the entire house trips out.

If you have any doubts that I adopted the second approach the last time I used this screwdriver, here is the tip of it after the event:-

The other way of testing if a wire is live

That was probably 12 years ago.

The warning filament is burned out.

The tip is sufficiently damaged not to screw properly.

There is a piece of metal from the explosion still welded to the side.

Do you know why I still have it in my toolbox?

Me neither.

32 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page