What may have happened?

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  #1  
Old 02-24-06, 04:59 AM
Arl
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What may have happened?

Hello,

The other night when using a shop vac at my house, something odd happened. I had used the vac for a short amount of time with no problems. I shut it off, went to do something then came back to finish vacuuming. When I tried to turn the vac back on, it only went on for a second or two then quit. Checking to see what was wrong, I proceeded to the electrical box. On my way I noticed that there were lights not working all of a sudden either. I went to the box to find that there were no switches tripped. Everything was in the on position. Knowing what switch I was expecting to find tripped, I shut if off then turned it back on with no luck.

On this 15 amp circuit:
-2 kitchen lights
-5 or 6 outlets
-2 basement lights
-Front yard light

What is odd, is that there is one of the two kitchen lights that still works! I would think that either nothing works on this circuit, or everthing works. Something else odd; the outlets on that circuit have power to them though nothing is operable when plugged in. We took an electrical tester wand (The wand that lights up if it detects electricity) and tested the sockets to find that the wand lit up for both the "hot" and the "neutral". (Almost like all of a sudden I have 2 hots and no neutral.)

I hope I have explained the situation well enough to at least see if anyone has heard of anything like this happening. I need suggestions on what to check to help further diagnose this problem.
Any responses are greatly appreciated!!!
 
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Old 02-24-06, 05:13 AM
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You have a bad connection somewhere in the circuit. With the power off, check to be sure all wire nuts are tight, and that no wires have slipped out. Also be sure to check that you have no backstabbed connections at the outlet. Move the wires to the screws if they are backstabbed.
 
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Old 02-24-06, 05:39 AM
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As Andy said, you have an open connection. This is not unusual. Most of the tine it is an open neutral, usually caused by a failed back stab connection.

The failed connection will be at the last working location or the first non-working location on the circuit. If it's not obvious what is the last working location or the first non-working location, then you will have to check all locations on the circuit until you find it.

It will help you know what you are looking for if you use a plug in type tester or two wire tester and determine if it is the hot wire or the neutral wire that is open.

Look for a failed connection. Check all wire nuts to make sure they are tight. Move any back stabbed connections to the screw terminals.

Please let us know what you find.
 
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Old 02-24-06, 06:34 AM
Arl
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Thanks for the very prompt responses gentlemen!
I will be doing some more trouble shooting tonight and tomorrow with your suggestions, and I will let you know what I find probably tomorrow.

-Andy
 
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Old 02-24-06, 06:51 AM
Arl
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I just spoke to my brother that went to my house earlier this morning to check this out. (He has some some electrical backround from being in the HVAC business.) He told me this morning that with his multimeter, he read 120 volts from BOTH ground to Hot, and ground to Neutral from one of the outlets on this circuit of the same phase.
Would an open Neutral cause this?
 
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Old 02-24-06, 07:17 AM
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> Would an open neutral cause this?

Yes (if there is any load at all on the circuit).
 
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Old 02-24-06, 03:20 PM
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Your brother's tests are indicating an open neutral. If you know the route the cable takes the problem is in the last working box or the first not working box. It could be in a light, switch, receptacle or junction box.
 
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Old 02-25-06, 05:21 PM
Arl
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Just want to say thanks to all for the responses! It was for sure an open neutral like you had said. We found the problem with the wiring behind one of the switches to the basement. One of the neutral wires was a little tarnished and not making a good connection inside the screw on cap.
Easy fix! I had nightmares about what the problem could have been!

Thanks again,
-Andy
 
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Old 02-25-06, 08:30 PM
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One of the neutral wires was a little tarnished and not making a good connection inside the screw on cap.
Aluminum?

I find this hard to believe. The problem have been no pressure or something like that.
So far as I know, copper carries electric -- shiny, tarnished, or green.
 
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