dead circuit - skeptical wife


Old 05-05-07, 08:29 AM
THM is offline
Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 1
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
dead circuit - skeptical wife

I am trying to troubleshoot a dead circuit.

The circuit is a kitchen/dining room/family room / basement one - the house was built in the early '70s and wired 'creatively' - and there's a GFCI mid-run by the sink.

Every once in a while the circuit would blow when there was a temporary overload (somebody would make toast while the coffee pot, TV, and lights were on). I'd turn off the coffee pot and lights, go to the basement, flip the circuit and everything would work fine for a month or two.

I went down the last time and nothing happened when I reset the breaker.

What I've done so far:

1 - I read the GFCI post on this forum earlier and the one about phantom voltage.

2 - I tried resetting the GFCI with power on the circuit and everything else unplugged, but nothing happened. I tested for the presence power using a Fluke VoltAlert. (I need to find my analog multi-meter) The thing beeps and glows red which indicates voltage.

3 - There's Voltage present at the other outlets and lighting fixtures, but nothing works.

4 - I turned the breaker off - replaced the GFCI with a new one - wired it per the directions - reset the breaker, there's voltage indicated, but it's still not working.

I also checked the 15 amp breaker itself, taking it out of the panel to see if there was continuity with it closed - there is.

I'm going to go buy a GFCI outlet tester to see how exactly I screwed this up - It's a three wire set up - I'm only using the one set of wires- they're connected firmly. The copper ground wire had a 2" extension twisted onto it - I made sure that the extension was tight before landing it on the green screw.

If the GFCI checks out - and I don't know of any other GFCI's on the circuit - and the circuit still doesn't work, I'm going to have to and check outlets for breaks at outlets or other fixtures.

Is there any advice on what to look for in the box? Is there an order to the process? Work upcircuit, down circuit- just do them all?

I hired an electrician to wire a home office I put in the basement, he also put in some 'bugs' to connect the aluminum wiring that's in the second floor (the house has half aluminum/half copper) to some outlets.

The dead circuit is all copper.

Any advice, up to and including 'hire an electrician' would be appreciated.
Old 05-05-07, 10:40 AM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: New Bern, NC
Posts: 1,621
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
first buy a gfi tester if you like, but while you are there buy an analog meter or wiggie that uses a spring silinoid.

Digital meters are a bit more confusing to use for this type of troubleshooting.

turn the breaker on and note which recepticls and lights work and which do not.

Turn the breaker off and see if it is the same set of devices that still do not work.

get ready to get your excercise in for the week. I will not mention it every time, but you must keep turing off the breaker before making changes, and only leave it on when doing actual tests. (those stairs are gonna get tiring.)

Note the devices that worked with the breaker on and with the breaker off. The fault will be in the last one that works or the first one that does not, or in between.

Open the devices one at a time and test hot to ground and hot to neutral.

Post back with the results so we can tell you what next.

As there will be more than one cable in each box, we need to know hot to ground and hot to neutral for each cable. Each cable will have one ground one neutral and maybe one or two hots...

We will be here when you are ready.
Old 05-05-07, 11:11 AM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 15,247
Received 111 Votes on 97 Posts
The non-contact voltage detector is good, but it does have limitations. You can have power to the device, but if the return path is not there the circuit will not work. You may have lost a connection on the neutral part of the circuit. Look for a lose white wire any palce that you regularly used a high draw appliance like the toaster.

Does any part of the circuit work?

You may get better results with a 3 light plug-in tester. They offer more troubleshooting options.

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Your question will be posted in: