5 receptacles not working-adjacent rooms

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  #1  
Old 07-17-03, 10:29 AM
TracyMc
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Unhappy 5 receptacles not working-adjacent rooms

This is my first time posting here. I was so glad that I found this site!!
I have 5 receptacles that just stopped working. 3 are in the dining room and 2 are in the kitchen (adjacent to the dining). None of them are the GFI outlet. I only have 2 in my house. One in the garage and one in the kitchen. They are both working. I was trying to read past questions to get an idea of what could be wrong. I bought a receptacle tester. On the 5 bad outlets they all show no lights. Therefore I have an open hot. Hot wire not grounded. I opened up every receptacle that's not working and checked all the wires. They are all connected firmly. Although they are all backstabbed except one wich leads me to believe there has been trouble before. The house is 10 years old, I've lived here 7.
I changed the outlet in the kitchen that was not backstabbed with a new outlet. It's a continuing outlet and also the other kitchen outlet (on an island) that is an ending outlet. Nothing... Could I have a hot contact not connected in a working outlet?

I do not know how to tell which breaker is the breaker that goes to these outlets since they don't work and the breaker box is poorly labled. Nothing is tripped. I do have the GFI breaker labled and thought maybe I should change that breaker. I have changed all the other breakers (one by one with a new breaker) but they were 15 amps and the GFI is a 20. So I didn't do that one yet. I would really like to figure this out without calling a pro.
Funds are limited! Thanks to all who have some helpful advice!!! TracyMc
 
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Old 07-17-03, 12:01 PM
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Hello!
Try swapping out the GFCI breaker with a regular, just to see if it corrects the problem. While you have all of the receptacles out, put the wires under the screws, not have them backstabbed.
If you want to spend a few $, get new receptacles, preferable commercial grade, they should be ~$3.00 in homeDepot/Lowes.
The residential grade ones ($.50 type) are horrible.
Your on the right track, perhaps get a "ticker". (offical name: inductive probe)
It has a sensor in the end, and if a hot wire is live, ti chirps and blinks. This will tell you when something is live before you work on it, or want to troubleshoot, or identify a wire. $10-15


gj
 
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Old 07-17-03, 08:45 PM
TracyMc
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receptacles

Thanks for replying Green Jacket.
I will be changing the outlets tomorrow. I could not find an inductive probe per say at Home Depot. But I did buy a Greenlee voltage detector. Is this the same thing? Do I need this to test the wires for power to see if there is power coming through to work the outlet or for safety for myself? I turn every breaker off when working with electricity! Could you answer me this question? Can a GFI outlet still work whats plugged into it (a microwave) even if its bad? and... Could the open hot be in an outlet that's still working? Thanks for trying to help me! TracyMc
 
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Old 07-18-03, 09:22 AM
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I suspect it's a faulty connection in a backstab. Try this - with the breaker on to that circuit, plug a radio into one of the dead receptacles. Now take a 3-prong extension cord which the male end will be used as a tool. Plug it into every receptacle, one at a time, that you even remotely suspect may be on the same circuit as the dead ones, and wiggle firmly. When the radio comes on you found the receptacle that's causing the others to be dead. Reconnect the wires from the backstabs onto the side screws. If the recep doesn't have side screws replace the recep with a new one that does. I'd try to eventually re-connect every recep in the house onto side screws and would never, ever use backstabs. I'm not aware of any stories of fires caused by these, just major homeowner annoyance when the finally fail, and they eventually will. Note - black goes on the brass colored screws, white on the silver. Hope that helps.

Juice
 
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Old 07-18-03, 12:00 PM
TracyMc
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Hi Juicehead,
Thanks for the idea with the radio. I have an idea it might be in the outlet that I use to vaccuum with. It's on an adjacent wall to one of the outlets not working. I understand that vaccuums cause a lot of these problems. I had all the non working outlets out of the boxes this morning getting ready to change the backstabs when my realtor called to say someone was coming to look at the house in the hour! Needless to say I had to scramble to put everything back and clean the house up. Stressful, stressful! So now that they are back in I'll try the radio deal before I take them back out again! Keep ya posted. Thanks. TracyMc
 
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Old 07-18-03, 12:35 PM
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TracyMc, glad to help. I almost mentioned the vacuum, it's the amperage draw on motors especially that strains an already poor connection. Motors can draw 300% or more of their rated current, and that's what usually causes the problems to these back backstabbers. Good luck.

Juice
 
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Old 07-19-03, 10:57 AM
TracyMc
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Juice,
I tried the radio and the extension cord tool, but no luck. I then traded all the non working receptacles with working receptacles and put the wires around the screws, not back stabbing. No luck. I've changed all the backstabs in the kitchen except for the GFI outlet, and all the ones in the dining room. I changed the outlet that I use for vaccuuming to the screws too. No luck. Tomorrow I will change the GFI outlet to the screws. Besides that I'm stummped. Any other ideas?? TracyMc
 
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Old 07-24-03, 09:26 AM
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TracyMc,

1. Did you replace the recep that you use for vacuuming, or just move the wires to the screws?

2. At the same recep, did you check the voltage on the wiring inside the box? If if there are pigtails and a lousy connection job was done on one of them, the wires could be not properly connected inside the wire nuts - I've had that happen.

3. Did you kill the breaker to this circuit and go around the house making note of every recep on that circuit? Some on the same ckt. may have been working, and the bad connection can definitely be at one that works but feeds the "downstream" receps that presently don't work. The vacuum is pulling large amps through every upstream recep connection as well as the one you plug into. The "line side" wires at a working recep may still have good connection integrity, but the "load side" of same recep may be compromised backstab connections. Killing breaker identifies all receps and you can use the radio and extension cord wiggling method to try those too.

4. Could be a faulty GFCI upstream from affected receps. Replacing that GFCI recep may be the trick, but may not be it at all.

5. Octopus wiring. This is a method where a line feed is brought to a cieling light box from the panel and distributed radially from the box to the surrounding walls to connect to receps. I have seen a number of instances where the wiring was not tightly connected in the pigtails in a ceiling box and receps dropped out all over the house. This is usually not the case, but during the crappy economy of the '70s this method was common in dwelling wiring. Also, during this period a lot of aluminum house wiring was used. Bulb wattage exceeding the max rating on the light fixture sticker caused the aluminum wire to heat beyond its design threshold and cracked up the insulation on ones I've seen. May be worth a visual check. Killing breaker to the bad recep ckt. may also show you that some ceiling lighting is on same ckt. as those receps and if so ceiling wiring may be worth inspection.

That's about all I can think of at this point. Keep on trying there *is* a solution to this! Let us know how its going.

Juice
 
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Old 07-25-03, 10:00 AM
TracyMc
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Hey Juice,
Thanks for all ideas. I tested the outlet where I vaccuum with a voltage reader. It tested 120v so I moved the wires to the screws.

Haven't killed the breaker to this circuit yet. As I said earlier, the panel is very poorly labeled. I'm waiting for a neighbor to come help me so it won't take me forever running back and forth thru the house and breaker box. At this time I think I will be changing all outlets to the screws.

I only have 2 GFCI outlets. They both are testing good, and have been changed to screws.

Octopus wiring is new to me. My neighbor knows a good bit about electricity and I'll mentionit to him when he come to help me again. He was stumped too.

All of the breakers in the box are testing 120v so we don't think any breakers need changing.

We do have something that's odd. I have 2 ending outlets not working.(1 pair of wires) Which would indicate 2 seperate circuits right?? So do I have 2 problem circuits? Also when we were testing voltage at the outlets one outlet hiding behind a cabinet in dining room I forgot about. We tested the bottom half no voltage, then the top half it had voltage...for a minute then none. We thought we found the problem. Worked on it, but never restored power.

It's driving me a little crazy! Going to the mountains for the weekend so it will be middle of the week before I can get to the breaker box and find the outlets on the circuits. I'll let you know what comes about. Hopefully we'll find the problem! Thanks again for all your input! Watch for me next week. TracyMc
 
  #10  
Old 07-25-03, 10:18 AM
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2 end-of-line receps could be on the same circuit if (a) the line feed comes into the middle of a room or area and splits in two directions, or (b) octopus wiring method.

Sounded like that hidden recep might have been the cause. I'd replace it anyway if you didn't already.

One thing I thought of that happens fairly often is the dead receps are fed from a GFCI which nobody knew existed. Sometimes in the garage behind a shelf or stack of wood, in the basement, in a cabinet or behind a piece of furniture that never moves. I always recommend going on an extensive GFCI hunt, checking every wall of every room inside and outside the house and in the garage and basement. Ya never know.

Anyway, hope you and your friend find the problem. I'm sorta dying to find out what it is! Let us know or write back for more clues or with more clues.

Juice
 
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