Circuit Breaker/Short problem


  #1  
Old 02-08-04, 10:56 PM
kroney67
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Circuit Breaker/Short problem

I own a 25 year old house that I bought 1.5 years ago. Yesterday a 15 amp breaker started flipping off. It affects the childrens bedroom wall outlets and the outlets in my garage.

I found an extension cord that was pushed into the wall outlet pretty hard by a dresser. I pulled it out and flipped the breaker back on and that seemed to work.

However, when I came back into the house, I wanted to verify if that was what was causing the problem so I plugged the extension cord back into the same outlet. I saw blue sparks for a moment and the power went off again.

I went outside to check the breaker and it was NOT flipped off, however, I have no power again.

What could have happened and what do I do?
 
  #2  
Old 02-09-04, 03:10 AM
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Turn the breaker OFF, then turn it back ON.
See if the breaker resets.
 
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Old 02-09-04, 05:35 AM
R
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It sounds like you have found the culprit.

Jughead is suggesting that you turn the breaker off and then back on because it may be tripped even though it does not look tripped. Some breakers do not necessarily look tripped even though they are.

If the breaker does not turn out to be the problem then check the outlet where the extension cord was plugged in. With the power off, remove the outlet and check the connections. Make sure that the wires are tightly connected. If they are attached using the backsatb connections, nove them to the screw terminals.

Also check the extension cord. make sure that the insulation has not been broken or stressed. If so, throw it away. I think you will find that it has been damaged.

In the future, I suggest that you also watch where and how you use extension cords. Be especially careful around furniture, as you have discovered. One other suggestion. Consider using two by fours as spacers, to keep the dresser away from the wall.
 
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Old 02-09-04, 07:37 AM
J
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Also check in the garage for a GFCI receptacle that might need to be reset.
 
  #5  
Old 02-09-04, 01:11 PM
kroney67
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I have flipped the breaker on/off several times, everytime I go outside to the breaker box.

I have checked all the GFCI outlets, they are OK.

I threw away that extension cord.

I have replaced the electrical outlet and breaker.

I bought a little circuit breaker tester, w/ probes and a light. It does not measure the volts or amperage or anything... it simply tells me if there is power to that outlet.

I put the probes into the wall outlet, the red probe in the hot side, and the black probe into the nuetral side and it does nothing. However, when I stick the black probe into the third hole(three prong outlet hole) the tester lights up. When I try plugging a device (ie. lamp, radio, etc) back into the outlet, it still does not work.

The only thing I have not done is to put the wires on the screws instead of the backstab, however, I replaced the outlet with a new one. I tried looking at the wires to make sure they were not broken or burnt and have found nothing.

Could I have burnt out/broken the breaker?
 
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Old 02-09-04, 01:39 PM
R
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You have an open neutral. Follow my instructions and check the outlet in question.

If that outlet is fins then check all the outlets. Somewhere along the way the neutral is open.
 
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Old 02-09-04, 03:21 PM
J
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Bob is right. You have the smoking-gun symptoms of an open neutral. It just takes patience and time to find it. You may need to look in a lot of places, both working and non-working outlets, and eventually perhaps the panel.
 
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Old 02-09-04, 06:50 PM
kroney67
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I really appreciate all of the advice I have recieved.

What am I looking for to find an "open neutral"? Am I pulling the wires off the outlets and testing them, looking for a broken wire, or what?
 
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Old 02-09-04, 07:09 PM
R
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Ano open is when a wire is not connected. An open neutral is when a neutral wire is not connected. The neutral is the white wire in a circuit. It connectes to the side of the receptacle that has the larger slots. This is usually with the silver colored screws.

Look for a broken wire or a failed backstab connection.

Remove the outlet with the power off, but do not disconnect it from the wires. Use your tester and test the wires with the power turned on (be careful). If the white wire and the black wire have power, but the outlet did not read power when using the slots, then replace the outlet.

Somewhere you will find either a neutral wire that has come loose or a failed outlet.
 
  #10  
Old 02-09-04, 09:04 PM
arcspark
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The stab connections on the rear of receptacles are not very reliable. A lot of times when they fail, it is just a very small break between the stab and the wire. Sometimes vibration will make it come and go. A quick check I've found to work sometimes is to plug in lamp or noise maker into the bad outlet. Go around to the other receptacles on the circuit and push in wiggle those receptacles to see if you can make it come and go again. Sometimes you luckout and will get the lamp to flash on. If you do, just turn off the breaker and open up the receptacle and fix the bad connection. If this doesn't work...

Since you know what breaker controls the circuit, turn it off and go around the house and sketch out the location of all devices without power. Now turn the breaker back on and recheck all the same devices. Note which still do not have power. The fault will be between the last device with power, and the first device without power. Try to think like the guy who installed the wiring. A lot of times when you sketch out the rooms w/devices, you can pretty well guess what path he took to get back to the breaker panel.
 
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Old 02-13-04, 10:11 AM
kroney67
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Thank you for all of the advice. I ended up hiring an Electrician to trouble shoot this problem.
 
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Old 02-13-04, 03:44 PM
J
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And what did he or she find?
 
  #13  
Old 02-13-04, 04:34 PM
kroney67
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It was an "open nuetral" like you guys said. However, I could not find it. I had pulled out every outlet and tested every wire. It is hard to find something when you really do not know what you are looking for.

It only cost me $100. It should have cost me $195, however, he gave me a military discount.

Thanks again.
 
 

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