Question about open neutral


Old 07-06-04, 06:50 AM
DKG is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2002
Posts: 26
Question about open neutral

Hi guys. I just bought a house (built in 1998), and two of the electrical outlets in the basement workshop area are reading open neutral. I pulled the two outlets out of the box and they appear to be wired correctly. Both are side wired. The first malfunctioning outlet has two white wires connected to the silver screws, and two black wires conected to the brass screws. I believe this outlet feeds the next malfunctioning outlet, which is at the end of the run - it has one white wire connected to silver screw, and one black wire connected to brass screw.

I haven't figured out if there are any more outlets upstream of the first malfunctioning outlet yet, but all the outlets I can find nearby test OK. It is in the basement, with unfinished ceiling, near the panel box. I can see the wires overhead. Thus, tracing it shouldn't be a big problem.

How do I start to diagnose this problem? Could a faulty recepticle cause this or is it a wiring issue? Also, is this a dangerous situation? It's probably been that way since 1998...

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Old 07-06-04, 10:30 AM
scott e.'s Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Anderson, IN
Posts: 412
You need to find the next upstream outlet. I would bet that it has backstabbed connections. Move the wires on the receptacle from the backstab to the screws.
Old 07-06-04, 11:05 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
As Scott said, go upstream until you find a working outlet. The problem will be at or between the last working outlet and the first non-working outlet.

If the problem is not at the last working outlet (usually a failed bacjstab) then it in the wire somewhere, However, unless you have been pounding nails and accidently hit the wire, it is almost certainly at the last working outlet.
Old 07-06-04, 11:47 AM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: United States
Posts: 18,497
Or the failure could be in the panel itself, the farthest point upstream on a branch circuit. But this is a last resort. The other possibilities already mentioned should be exhausted first.

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