how to trouble shoot why an outlet has no power

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  #1  
Old 04-21-05, 03:14 PM
ayck
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how to trouble shoot why an outlet has no power

Hi,

I hope someone can give me some pointer on what to do next.

The other day the automatic garage door suddenly stopped lifting in midstep. After checking we found that all garage doors no longer work as there is no power in the ceiling sockets where the door units were plugged in. The light outside the garage door is not working due to no power. The ceiling lights in the garage are still working as they must be on a different circuit.

No circiut breaker was tripped. (We tried and failed to isolate the breaker that the garage door sockets are on.)

We used tester and confirmed that there is no electricity going into the sockets. We checked the sockets and there does not seem to have loose wires going into the sockets.

Where can the problems lie? Where should we check next? The garage is finished so we can't trace any wiring.

I would appreciate advice on how to proceed next.

Thanks,

Ayck
 
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  #2  
Old 04-21-05, 03:27 PM
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The ceiling receptacle in the garage is not usually GFCI protected, but it might be. So I'd start searching for a GFCI first.

Exactly what kind of tester do you have?
 
  #3  
Old 04-21-05, 03:39 PM
ayck
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John,

Where should we look for the GFCI as none of the 3 outlets have GFCI.

As for the tester we used, it is a little two-prone VAC/DC tester from Home Depot to check for current and found none in all three outlets.

Thanks for your prompt response.

Ayck
 
  #4  
Old 04-21-05, 03:54 PM
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Just to be clear, you are not testing for "current" but for "voltage".

Use your little two-prong tester to test:
  1. Slit to slit.
  2. Wide slit to grounding hole.
  3. Narrow slit to grounding hole.
Do you get nothing in all three tests?
 
  #5  
Old 04-21-05, 03:58 PM
ayck
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John,

We tried all those combos. We even tried in the back/side by touching the components (screws and wire pairs) and got no voltage at all.

Ayck
 
  #6  
Old 04-22-05, 01:54 AM
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Look for a GFCI, as John suggested. Check all receptacles on this circuit. If you don't know exactly what is on this circuit then shame on you. (You should know exactly what is on each and every breaker in your house, and exactly what each and every breaker controls.)

If no GFCI then you will have to backtrack. Follow the wires (if possible) and check each and every receptacle, switch and light on the circuit. You are looking for a loose or failed connection.

You might also try turning each circuit breaker fully off and then on. Some breakers need to be turned off before they can be turned on after they trip.
 
  #7  
Old 04-22-05, 09:16 AM
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could also be a bad backstabbed connection
 
  #8  
Old 04-22-05, 01:17 PM
ayck
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Thank you folks for responding.

We checked and it does not look like they are on a GFCI. We did turn off/on each breaker one at the time to locate which breaker these outlets are on. Unfortunately we could idenity all others in the house on each breaker except these not-working ones. (none were labeled for garage on the panel)

It turns out that all 3 outlets are backstabbed.

As the 3 non-working outlets' wires are not loose and there is only one wire going into each outlet, we thought we should check the switch box (go up the line). As the walls are plastered we can't trace wirings. How can we locate the switch that all these 3 outlets (plus the outside light) are connected to?

Thanks,

Ayck
 
  #9  
Old 04-22-05, 01:49 PM
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Take a look at which direction the cables appear to exit the boxes. This should give you a genreal direction they might be heading. Now try to guess where they all might meet. I suspect they all go to one common junction box which may be your problem.
Are you sure there isn't a GFCI hiding behind the pile of stuff in the garage or at one of your outdoor receptacles.
 
  #10  
Old 04-22-05, 04:41 PM
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There's no GFCI near the circuit panel either? Sometimes there is one there that feeds outdoor/garage outlets.
Maybe the wire that feeds your problem outlets has come loose at the upstream outlet it is connected to. In which case, I would think that that outlet could possibly still be working - I'm no electrician so I'm not sure if this possible.
As racraft alluded, maybe this would be a good time to map all of your breakers, since you'll be turning them off & on to solve this problem anyway.
 
  #11  
Old 04-22-05, 05:51 PM
AdamLPerry
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Check for any other outlets that don't work

In my daughters house, something similar happened and we found an outlet upstairs in the master bedroom that did not work either. We found back-stabbed connections there that were faulty and when this was fixed, the garage outlets came to life again!
 
  #12  
Old 04-23-05, 04:36 AM
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Strange that you would say each recept in the garage only has one wire to it as man I can't imagine a electrician running a circuit for each one or much less doing a junction box and tapping them all from it...sounds like a total waste of time to me...my guys better not do that....anyway.....


I would find it rare the Ceiling Recepts for Garage Doors being on GFCI....but I can see both of them being tied together....so I would start by taking out the recepts in the ceiling and checking the wires directly rather than with a tester to the slots.....if the first one it bad...sure enough the second will be also.....by proxy...lol.....thus why both are not working.

Also since you say a light is also not working outside you may want to check the switch box that leads to the light as they may have junctioned their and then went up to the ceiling recepts.....I don't see many older homes with GFCI on the ceiling recepts and outside lights also so......go figure but I would say it might not be a GFCI....

I would say somewhere in the switchbox or ceiling recepts you have a bad device......backstabbing or so on bad...but you can check all that with a good meter.

On the panel thing...how many people really know where all the breakers go that are the home owners....I would blame the Electrician for a bad labeling job versus you the home owner...we expect as much from the home owner but I expect my guys and myself to label a panel correctly and in detail and in fact we have a program for that ....we label the panel with numbers and then attach a detailed sheet for the home owner....not everyone does that but we do..........but hard for a home owner to break down where every breaker feeds what circuit and be real precise......

Just my opinion on that........sorry

P.S. Sure enough...I say that and they find a GFCI making me look bad...lol..right
 
  #13  
Old 04-23-05, 05:28 AM
ayck
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Based on the advices, I opened the wall switch which controls the outside light. As I was just unscrewing the screw of that switch control, sparks came out.

I then enlisted my husband and he used the tester to touch the side screws connecting to the switch. Then major sparks came out.

Suddently there is electriicity for the light and the automatic garage door unit that we did not unplug.

So all lights are working now and we traced out which breaker they were all on.

But there may still be an issue.

As my husband was putting back the garage door unit outlet which started the whole chain not working, (don't yell at us), at that time we had not figured out which breaker they were on so there is electricity on the wires. But he figured just putting the screws in should be fine. But he felt voltage on the whole outlet unit. So he stopped and we then figured out the breaker and turned it off before proceeding.

So my question is even though it is working now, should we be concerned that there are sparks coming from the switch and have wild electricity running outside the outlet. Is this something we can fix or we should call in the professional (even though it was installed by a professional)?

BTW our house is only 5 years old.

thanks,

ayck
 
  #14  
Old 04-23-05, 06:02 AM
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Let's presume that inside the switch outlet-box there is 1 "Feed-In" cable, 2 "Feed-Out" cables, and 1 switch-controlled cable to the exterior fixture.Proceeding from this presumption, there are 4 White wires and 4 Black wires inside the O-B.

The 4 White wires connect together, and if you remove the "wire-nut", the White wires should be twisted together. "Tighten" the twist with a pair of side-cutting pliers and replace the wire-nut- the wire-nut should "bite" into the connection into a tiight-fit.

One Black wire teminates on the switch, so we have 3 Black wires and 1 Black wire-lead connected together."Re-tighten" this connection as described for the White wires.

Good Luck & Enjoy the Experience!!!!!!!!!!
 
  #15  
Old 04-23-05, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by ayck
So my question is even though it is working now, should we be concerned that there are sparks coming from the switch and have wild electricity running outside the outlet. Is this something we can fix or we should call in the professional (even though it was installed by a professional)?
Did you completely remove the switch from the box and inspect it?
Did you find where the sparks were coming from and repair the problem? If not then you still have a problem. There is a loose connection in that switch box that needs to be fixed.
 
  #16  
Old 04-23-05, 04:14 PM
ayck
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Smile

Thanks to you all I think we are in the clear now.

We did find the screw where the sparks came from slightly loose and tightened it. Other connections seemed to be tight. (One of them also has a red wire which I have no idea what it is for.)

At least for now we no longer see sparks.

I really want to thank the board members. Without your help we would not be able to solve this problem. This is our first experience and it feels so great.

Thank you alll again.

Ayck
 
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