Bad Outlet? Bad Breaker? Bad DIYer?


Old 03-02-07, 03:08 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 2
Bad Outlet? Bad Breaker? Bad DIYer?

I have a very limited electrical background and vocabulary so please bear with me.
A week ago I was trying to map out my breakers (they were never labeled by the previous homeowners). Just the good ol trial and error method. I have not finished mapping every breaker so there are a couple blanks. The other day I noticed that two separate outlets in my garage were not working (my digital sprinkler system was off and it was plugged in). Not sure why they are not working? Maybe I fried something testing my breakers?
I put a volt tester (a $4 ac/dc electrical tester screwdriver that simply lights up) to the bare white and black wires feeding the two outlets. One outlet gets no voltage (no light) and the other (the proximal outlet) gets a very weak voltage (a very dim light). Of course these particular outlets were never successfully mapped. All the breakers are in the "on" position.

How do I troubleshoot bad outlet vs. bad breaker vs. bad whatever? These outlets have always worked and I am suspecting I did something when I was tripping my breakers. Just a thought. I'm the novice.
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Old 03-02-07, 03:23 PM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
Test for voltage at these receptacles between the black wire and the ground and between the white wire and the ground.

You either have a tripped GFCI, or you have an open, or you have a tripped breaker.

Once again, make sure that ALL your breakers are firmly ON. Turn each one off and then on, and make sure that it clicks.

If you have GFCI receptacles or breakers, make sure that they are all reset.

Finally, check each and every receptacle on the circuit that it out and look for back stabbed connections, loose connections of any sort. Remake any and all wire nut connections and move any back stabbed connections to the screw terminals. The problem could be at a working receptacle or switch, or it could be at a non-working location.

Since you do not know what circuit these are on, you will have to check every junction box in your house. Start with the non-working ones (naturally) and then try logical other locations. Since these are i the garage, check the other receptacles in the garage and the lights in the garage first.

Too bad you didn't do your circuit mapping when you moved in. The information would be a tremendous help right now. It's good you're doing it now. The information could save your life some day.
Old 03-02-07, 03:25 PM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: United States
Posts: 18,497
98.3% chance it's a tripped GFCI, and 92.7% chance that that tripped GFCI is somewhere in the garage.
Old 03-02-07, 03:27 PM
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: NA
Posts: 1,065
Rich it is possible that a gfci receptacle is protecting those non-working outlets. Start looking for outlets that are the gfci type (they have reset and test buttons on them) and reset them if they are tripped out. Common places they are used where they protect garage outlets are the garage itself, basement, bathroom and outside outlets. There is no particular place however and it could be anywhere so move all the boxes or whatever and look behind everything till you find the one that is tripped. In my home the garage receptacles are protected by the bathroom gfci.

Old 03-03-07, 08:53 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Near Philly
Posts: 553
My garage outlet is protected by GFCI outlet in upstairs bathroom. You may have similar issue.
Old 03-03-07, 08:55 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 2
Well, when you're right.... you're right.... and you guys were right. I was so puzzled because I checked the GFCI receptacles and they were not tripped. I only have a couple throughout my house. I didn't think to check the GFCI on my second floor bathroom that is on the opposite end of the house. Well, I did this morning and it was tripped.

You guys rock! So it WAS a 98.3% chance it was a tripped GFCI BUT a 7.3% chance it was not in the garage.



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