GFCI outlet won't reset

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  #1  
Old 11-23-04, 10:18 PM
MacGuffin
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Question GFCI outlet won't reset

My wife was using a vacuum cleaner plugged into a GFCI outlet upstairs in the bathroom. Not the best idea, I know.

Anyway, it (I believe) tripped. Now nothing in the bathroom (GFCI outlet, fan, lights) as well as all the light fixtures and about half of the outlets (regular kind) do not work upstairs.

The GFCI will not reset. I checked the voltage at the breaker, it is fine. I even manually turned the breaker to off and back on several times. There is no voltage reading at the GFCI outlet, or any of the other outlets. I checked the two GFCI outlets outside, they all reset fine. I do not have a garage, and the other GFCI outlets in the kitchen and basement reset, no problem.

I have read about an "open neutral" on this forum. I do not have a tester to check for that, but will get one tomorrow.

A few questions:

Will the tester work to check for an open neutral in any of the outlets? Or do I have to find the affected outlet first?

Is it possible I could have an open neutral at a light fixture or breaker box? How do I check for that?

If I find the open neutral and tighten the connection, will power be restored to the circuit after the breaker is turned on, or must the GFCI be reset first?

Could the GFCI be broken? I don't know how that would explain why I can't get a voltage on the hot wire into it.

Any other possible explanation? I don't believe I have any backstabbed connections, the previous owner was a home inspector and he redid the entire house before selling it. All the outlets I have checked seem to have the wires screwed to the receptacle.

Thank you for your help in advance.
 
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  #2  
Old 11-24-04, 05:59 AM
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The tester will identify an open neutral at any receptacle where an open neutral is present. Since an open neutral means that the neutral is not eventually connected back to the power company return, it will show the open neutral at any of the effected receptacles.

The open neutral can be anywhere, at a receptacle or at a light fixture. It could even be at the main panel, but that is unlikely. They usually occur at receptacles that have been backstabbed.

Once you correct the open neutral power will be restored to the entire circuit. The GFCI may or may not have tripped and may or may not need to be reset.

It's possible, but unlikely that the GFCI is broken.


You most likely can test for an open neutral. Somehow you are testing for voltage at receptacles, so you can test for an open neutral. Test for voltage between the hot terminal and the neutral terminal on a receptacle. Test also between the hot and ground.

Do any of the receptacles or lights on the circuit work? If so then the problem is not at the main panel.

The problem is most likely at one of the receptacles that are on the circuit before the bathroom.
 
  #3  
Old 11-24-04, 06:27 AM
MacGuffin
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Thank you, I am at work today and hope to have this solved by tonight.
 
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Old 11-24-04, 06:36 AM
MacGuffin
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I just thought of another question:

Will the tester show the open neutral if the breaker is turned off? Or does it need to be switched on?

Thanks again.
 
  #5  
Old 11-24-04, 06:41 AM
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The breaker has to be on for any tester that shows voltage (or lack of) to work.
 
  #6  
Old 11-24-04, 04:15 PM
MacGuffin
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Now I am mystified. The tester does not light up at all when plugged into the affected outlets.

There is power at the breaker.

Time to call an electrician?

Thanks for your help.
 
  #7  
Old 11-24-04, 06:26 PM
SkyKing
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Pull the plate off and use a multimeter to diagnose the problem back to the source.
 
  #8  
Old 11-25-04, 05:07 PM
mbrother11
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Help!! I have the same problem, need more info

Please, what is a backstabbed connection? What is an "Open neutral"?
 
  #9  
Old 11-25-04, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by mbrother11
Please, what is a back stabbed connection?
It is a means of terminating switches and receptacles, trademarked quickwire, by pushing the wire into a hole in the back of the device were a copper coated spring is supposed to provide adequate mechanical and electrical contact with the copper conductor. The have a much higher rate of failure then screw binding terminals do.

This is not to be confused with Rapidwire devices were after inserting the wire you have to tighten the screw to draw a brass pressure plate against the conductor. These are relatively easy to use and yet make a good connection.

What is an "Open neutral"?
An open neutral is the failure of the grounded current carrying conductor that most of us in the craft call the neutral even when it isn't. It means that the neutral conductor has opened or is discontinuous usually at a connection. A very common place for such a failure to occur is at a quickwire or back stabbed device.
--
Tom H
 
  #10  
Old 11-25-04, 07:58 PM
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You can actually have an "open hot" just as easily as an open neutral. Casued by the same reason...failure of a connection such as a wire backfed on an outlet.

Just using the vacuum on the GFCI receptacle, tugging on the cord for example, could have loosened a wire that was ready to go.
 
  #11  
Old 11-29-04, 05:52 PM
MacGuffin
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Originally Posted by 594tough
You can actually have an "open hot" just as easily as an open neutral. Casued by the same reason...failure of a connection such as a wire backfed on an outlet.

Just using the vacuum on the GFCI receptacle, tugging on the cord for example, could have loosened a wire that was ready to go.
That is what it actually was.

Thanks everyone who responded.

We called the guy who owned the house before us and he led us the direction of a kitchen outlet. Eventually thru some trial and error we got the hot connection back on. The GFCI was fine. Now I have an extra just in case.

Only fried the dining room lights and dimmer switch! (My father, in town for Thanksgiving, did that).

Still a lot cheaper than getting an electrician.

Thanks again.
 
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