Trouble shoot dead circuit


Old 06-16-05, 02:11 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 115
Trouble shoot dead circuit

I am looking for some insight to identify problem with a circuit in my home. I have a couple of outlets and a few light fixtures that just quit on me. I tested the outlets with a tester and I get no readings. The circuit breaker is operating. I tested that the breaker is actually hot when it is on.

What is the most logical next step to find the source of the problem? The circuit contains a few plugs and light fixtures with the wire running from the box in the basement into the attic to service this portion of the house. The breaker for this circuit is also wired with a transformer for our doorbell. No work has been done recently and the circuit wasn't in use when the problem was noticed.

Any ideas to where I should be checking next???

Thanks in advance.
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Old 06-16-05, 02:29 PM
ElectricalMan's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Harrisonburg
Posts: 744

I guess the first thing I would check is to make sure the circuit is not on a GFCI somewhere...even if you did not state anything about it....does not harm to check as it might be right at the panel area or who knows.....

After I ruled that out I would suggest you try to determine the first plug or switch in the circuit but process of it could be a faulty device or backstab gone bad in one of the recepts that is keeping the current from getting past the faulty unit.

Is the doorbell connected to the panel???? or in a box next to the panel .....if it is a box then check it for lose connections....

To be honest with you a good electrician will try to rule out things in the circuit...meaning we usually try to find the closest recept or switch to the panel that is now not working.....and through a process of elimination we would check each device one at a time to narrow it down and I also suggest that for you.

Also...sounds dumb but make sure the wire is in the breaker snug and correct.....they do work lose over time.

Also one thing to think about is if you are sure the line is in attic you may have a junction box up their as well you will need to check......but again you may not....just a thought.

Let me know how it goes.....
Old 06-16-05, 04:14 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 115
Thanks for the advice. I checked the hot wire at the breaker to make sure it was tight, but I suppose that the neutral could be loose as well. Although, if the neutral wasn't connected that should show up with the tester if the ground was connected, right?? I'm guessing the problem is at a receptacle, switch, or junction box. I'll start with the receptacles because I did have a backstab that caused problems previously on another circuit.

Old 06-16-05, 07:02 PM
Mr Fixit eh's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Ontario, Canada
Posts: 94
Do you have a map of every electrical device in your home. If not, now is a good time to do this task. Until you know *for sure* what is on this circuit and what is not, you will not be able to effectively troubleshoot. Make sure there is not a hidden GFCI device in the garage behind all the boxes, or in a bathroom, or outside somewhere. A tripped GFCI will de-energize every device downstream from the GFCI.

You can narrow things down a little bit.... you should have 120V between hot and neutral, and between hot and ground. If you have 0V in both cases, you have an open condition in the hot wire circuit. If you 0V between hot and heutral, but 120V between hot and ground, then you have an open condition in the neutral wire.

It's helpful if you can follow the cable from the panel. You will find a loose wire to screw termination, or a loose wirenut connection, or a backstabbed receptacle. As you work your way downstream from the panel, the problem will be at the last working receptacle/light/device or the first non-working device.

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