Lights won't turn on

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Old 08-20-08, 07:37 AM
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Lights won't turn on

Can one of you guys tell me what's wrong?

There is a ceiling light fixture which was working fine, no problem. One night, I flipped the switch to turn on the light. Nothing happened. I flipped it back and forth, nothing happened. So I climbed up and unscrewed one of the bulbs. It didn't look burned out. Neither did the other one. Nevertheless, I switched one of the bulbs with a brand new one right out of the box. I flipped the switch again. Nothing happened. I replaced the second bulb. Again, nothing happened. I went to the basement and flipped the breaker back and forth. I went upstairs and flipped the switch to turn on the light. But nothing happened.

So this morning, I removed the light fixture and replaced it with another one. Flipped the switch, nothing happened. I replaced the bulbs in the new light fixture. Again, nothing.. I replaced the second light fixture with a third light fixture. Nothing. I replaced the bulbs in the third light fixture. Nothing.

I have tested for current and with all three light fixtures I have tried, there is current. The light on the tool flashes and it makes a noise. There is current all the way from the breaker to the switch and also to the light fixture. But for some reason, and this is what I need advice on, the current is not turning on any of these light fixtures.

I've included pictures below in case it helps you to understand what I'm talking about.

Maybe I have wired the third light fixture I have tried wrong? But none of the other two worked either.<br>
<br>
As you can see, the light is flashing to indicate current present.<br>
<br>
Is there anything wrong with these wires?<br>
<br>
 
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Old 08-20-08, 07:46 AM
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A couple of items, those testers test for voltage, not current. The second thing is electricity needs 2 paths, one to get there and a return path, on the white wire.

You may have an open neutral creating an incomplete circuit. Do you have a simple neon test light? Do you have a way to test from black to white and black to ground? These result could help narrow down your problem.
 
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Old 08-20-08, 08:01 AM
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Originally Posted by pcboss View Post
A couple of items, those testers test for voltage, not current. The second thing is electricity needs 2 paths, one to get there and a return path, on the white wire.

You may have an open neutral creating an incomplete circuit. Do you have a simple neon test light? Do you have a way to test from black to white and black to ground? These result could help narrow down your problem.
What I have is a Greenlee GT-11 Voltage Detector. It tells me if there is power present. That's all I want to know, so I don't get shocked when I'm working on something.
I had some other tools, but I returned one to the store because I didn't know how to use it (it causes explosions) and the other one gives out random information. I don't find it useful. I don't know what it's called. It's a no-name product from China. It's made of clear yellow plastic and it's supposed to show a faint orange glow when it's working. But it is random. I already had this discussion last week.

I may have an open neutral? Wouldn't that mean that one of the white wires is not connected to anything? But they are all connected to each other in a marette. I have tried 3 different light fixtures and connected the whites together, just like they were before, when the original light fixture worked. I haven't gotten creative or tried to do anything differently on the subsequent 2 fixtures which I have tried.

And no, I don't know how to test from black to ground or black to white. Which tool do you use for that? If you could tell me the name of the tool, maybe I could find one.
 
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Old 08-20-08, 08:17 AM
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Have you checked the switch?

If it's backstabbed, it may have come loose and the wires just need to be moved to the screw terminals.
 
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Old 08-20-08, 08:28 AM
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Smile

Folks doing their own minor electrical work should get a 24 dollar "Wiggy" ie voltmeter. Check black to ground and black to white. If you read 0 volts from black to white then "yes" you have a open or a poor connection somewhere on the white wire. Wire nut connections often need to be "remade".
 

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Old 08-20-08, 08:46 AM
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Originally Posted by sidecutter View Post
Folks doing their own minor electrical work should get a 24 dollar "Wiggy" ie voltmeter. Check black to ground and black to white. If you read 0 volts from black to white then "yes" you have a open or a poor connection somewhere on the white wire. Wire nut connections often need to be "remade".
Do you mean one of these things? Because I have one.

 
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Old 08-20-08, 08:56 AM
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Ok, I took off the marettes and checked the current with my multimeter.

By touching the contacts to the wires, which are all still wrapped around each other, I get:

Black to Ground: 120V
White to Ground: 120V
Black to White: 0V

So now what am I supposed to do? I don't know how this happened or what do do now. The lights were working just fine, I didn't do anything, and now I find out this information with the multimeter.
 
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Old 08-20-08, 09:07 AM
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Were these measurements taken at the switch or the fixture?
 
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Old 08-20-08, 09:12 AM
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Originally Posted by tlogan View Post
Have you checked the switch?

If it's backstabbed, it may have come loose and the wires just need to be moved to the screw terminals.
Ok, here's the switch,

<br>

I don't see any connection between the whites. I am only seeing a black connection (and a ground connection). But I don't have any idea where the whites are connected. They are not connected to the switch or in a marette or anything that I can see.

I don't know if this means anything, but I did not touch the wiring in the switch before or after the light fixture stopped working. I haven't changed any of the wiring. So if there is no white connection anywhere, and I didn't change anything, why would it work and then just stop working out of the blue?

What I mean is, do I have to rip down the wall to find the cable and where the whites are? Why? The light was working fine before. Why would I have to change the wiring configuration? Why can't I just replace the light fixture with the exact same configuration it was in when it was working? Why would I have to rip out the switch, and/or the wall to get at the cable?
 
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Old 08-20-08, 09:16 AM
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Originally Posted by pcboss View Post
Were these measurements taken at the switch or the fixture?
At the fixture. -----------------
 
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Old 08-20-08, 09:41 AM
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Look down the hole in the bottom of your switch box. You will probably find that the whites are connected with a wire nut and stuffed down the hole because the box is too small for all them wires plus the switch...OR maybe you'll find that the wire nut fell off and the neutrals are no longer connected properly (longshot!).

As the others have said, you seem to have an open neutral somewhere. Did you do any other wiring in the house at the time?

If not, the open neutral could be anywhere in the circuit. Do you know if anything is connected to this circuit - receptacles, other lights, etc - and do they work? That would help nail down where to look for your open neutral.

But first, lets be sure of the readings at your ceiling box before looking elsewhere. When you tested for voltage at the fixture, did you stick your probes into the wirenuts or did you take the wirenuts off? The best thing would be to shut off the circuit breaker, remove the wire nuts and your fixture wires, make sure the black and white are not touching anything, turn the breaker and light switch back on and test for the same readings on these power wires coming into your box.

If you have 120V from black to white, then your wire nuts are the issue. If you don't, then you need to look elsewhere for your neutral problem...


willis
 
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Old 08-20-08, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by williswires View Post
Look down the hole in the bottom of your switch box. You will probably find that the whites are connected with a wire nut and stuffed down the hole because the box is too small for all them wires plus the switch...OR maybe you'll find that the wire nut fell off and the neutrals are no longer connected properly (longshot!).

As the others have said, you seem to have an open neutral somewhere. Did you do any other wiring in the house at the time?

If not, the open neutral could be anywhere in the circuit. Do you know if anything is connected to this circuit - receptacles, other lights, etc - and do they work? That would help nail down where to look for your open neutral.

But first, lets be sure of the readings at your ceiling box before looking elsewhere. When you tested for voltage at the fixture, did you stick your probes into the wirenuts or did you take the wirenuts off? The best thing would be to shut off the circuit breaker, remove the wire nuts and your fixture wires, make sure the black and white are not touching anything, turn the breaker and light switch back on and test for the same readings on these power wires coming into your box.

If you have 120V from black to white, then your wire nuts are the issue. If you don't, then you need to look elsewhere for your neutral problem...


willis
There are a ton of things connected to the same circuit. It's one of the main circuits. But the other lights and outlets work. Or at least the ones I looked at were still working. Maybe I will have to go test all of them.

When I tested for voltage at the fixture, I removed the wirenuts. Then, I touched the contact probes from the multimeter to the wires. That's the only way I know how to get a reading.
So next, I'm going to try one of your suggestions. I'm going to unwrap all the wires connecting the fixture to the wires coming out of the ceiling. Then, I'm going to touch the probes to all the blacks and whites separately. I think that's what you are suggesting.
 
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Old 08-20-08, 10:11 AM
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Originally Posted by doublezero View Post
When I tested for voltage at the fixture, I removed the wirenuts. Then, I touched the contact probes from the multimeter to the wires. That's the only way I know how to get a reading.
So next, I'm going to try one of your suggestions. I'm going to unwrap all the wires connecting the fixture to the wires coming out of the ceiling. Then, I'm going to touch the probes to all the blacks and whites separately. I think that's what you are suggesting.
There's no voltage between black and white at the fixture. So now I have to rip down the ceiling and wall, to find out where the wire is cut, right?
 
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Old 08-20-08, 10:15 AM
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When you took the measurements at the fixture you should not have gotten significant voltage between neutral and ground. The 0 volts between black and white tells you the neutral has been lost somewhere.

Looking at the switch photo I can see that the work that has been done is not up to Code, at least in the US. I doubt that Canada is all that different regarding metal box bonding, or box fill or that splices need to be contained in boxes, not stuffed through knockouts. I also don't see cable connectors being used.

I am going to suggest that you get a professional to come in and start fixing these issues.
 
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Old 08-20-08, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by doublezero View Post
There's no voltage between black and white at the fixture. So now I have to rip down the ceiling and wall, to find out where the wire is cut, right?
There's no voltage at the switch, either.

So I have to follow the path from the circuit to the switch. At some point along that path, I'm going to find either: 2 whites which are either cut or; have become un-wrapped around each other in a wire nut. Is that right?
 
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Old 08-20-08, 10:21 AM
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Since all the splices are supposed to be in accessible junction boxes there should be no need to start tearing out walls to find an open splice.

However, given the appearence of some of the work hidden splices are a possibility.

Again, I would suggest a professional to help you with your problems.
 
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Old 08-20-08, 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by pcboss View Post
When you took the measurements at the fixture you should not have gotten significant voltage between neutral and ground. The 0 volts between black and white tells you the neutral has been lost somewhere.

Looking at the switch photo I can see that the work that has been done is not up to Code, at least in the US. I doubt that Canada is all that different regarding metal box bonding, or box fill or that splices need to be contained in boxes, not stuffed through knockouts. I also don't see cable connectors being used.

I am going to suggest that you get a professional to come in and start fixing these issues.
What do you mean about the not getting significant voltage between neutral and ground? Do you mean the neutral and the ground have become switched somehow? I swear, I didn't touch anything. The light was working one minute and the next time I turned it on, nothing happened.

I will rip out the receptacle box and re-attach it to the nearest stud. I will use a cable connector and a larger box so everything fits inside it. I understand these issues. I have not replaced every single box in the house because there weren't problems with all of them. Or at least I didn't think so. Maybe they are all wrong. I think maybe the previous owners were hoping the house would burn down so they could collect the insurance.

Thanks for the suggestion, but I'm not calling a professional for these minor issues. Replacing a panel, sure, I'll call a professional. But every little thing in my house? Everywhere I look, in every room, there's some kind of problem. Plumbing, electrical, floors, walls, heat, windows, bricks disintegrating; everything. I can't just go into the phone book and write cheques for everything. I already paid for the roof and the heating to be replaced. $15,000, gone. And I got good deals on those things.
 
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Old 08-20-08, 10:44 AM
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Originally Posted by doublezero View Post
There's no voltage at the switch, either.

So I have to follow the path from the circuit to the switch. At some point along that path, I'm going to find either: 2 whites which are either cut or; have become un-wrapped around each other in a wire nut. Is that right?
I mean, there's voltage, but no current. I mean there is power at the switch. There must be, because the voltage tester makes a noise and the light flashes. But I get 0V from the multimeter.
 
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Old 08-20-08, 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by doublezero View Post
I mean, there's voltage, but no current. I mean there is power at the switch. There must be, because the voltage tester makes a noise and the light flashes. But I get 0V from the multimeter.
No, not really anything useful. Search the forum for ghost voltage and phantom voltage. Voltage is often described as pressure. Amperage as quantity. Here is an analogy. You are watering the lawn. First you shut off the sprayer you are using then the faucet. If you open the sprayer again there will be a short burst of water till the pressure is exhausted. Now if the faucet leaks just a bit, maybe a drop or two with the sprayer closed pressure will again build up but opening the sprayer will only result in a small trickle .

The voltage you are seeing with the non-contact tester has almost no current behind it. It may even be induced by other circuits near yours. Frankly the non-contact voltage checker is little more then a science toy with only limited value as a tool. (Yes there are uses but not usually relevant to repair and other testers are often better choices.) In fact using it to test a circuit may give you a false negative. It may show the circuit live when it isn't. Then you waste time trying to figure out how to kill a circuit that is actually already dead.
It's a no-name product from China. It's made of clear yellow plastic and it's supposed to show a faint orange glow when it's working. But it is random. I already had this discussion last week.
Actually that is a very good tester. It has enough resistance (load) to eliminate phantom voltage problems. It (neon tester) is almost as good as the multimeter you are using..
had some other tools, but I returned one to the store because I didn't know how to use it (it causes explosions)
What? Can't think of any properly used tester causing an explosion.
 
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Old 08-20-08, 11:58 AM
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Since the neutral and ground are bonded together in the main disconnect there should be no reading of voltage between them. You may see a couple of volts but you should not be seeing the full system voltage.

You ground connections at the fixture are improper. You need a marette to mechanically join the two together.

Here is a link to the other testers the OP was having troubles with. I believe that the larger screwdriver is basically a non-contact voltage detector.
http://forum.doityourself.com/showthread.php?t=355620
 
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Old 08-20-08, 12:24 PM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
No, not really anything useful. Search the forum for ghost voltage and phantom voltage. Voltage is often described as pressure. Amperage as quantity. Here is an analogy. You are watering the lawn. First you shut off the sprayer you are using then the faucet. If you open the sprayer again there will be a short burst of water till the pressure is exhausted. Now if the faucet leaks just a bit, maybe a drop or two with the sprayer closed pressure will again build up but opening the sprayer will only result in a small trickle .

The voltage you are seeing with the non-contact tester has almost no current behind it. It may even be induced by other circuits near yours. Frankly the non-contact voltage checker is little more then a science toy with only limited value as a tool. (Yes there are uses but not usually relevant to repair and other testers are often better choices.) In fact using it to test a circuit may give you a false negative. It may show the circuit live when it isn't. Then you waste time trying to figure out how to kill a circuit that is actually already dead. Actually that is a very good tester. It has enough resistance (load) to eliminate phantom voltage problems. It (neon tester) is almost as good as the multimeter you are using.. What? Can't think of any properly used tester causing an explosion.
Ok, I see your analogy about ghost voltage and then I looked it up. My multimeter is analog, not digital. In the forums, it says digital multimeters might give off a ghost reading. But mine is analog and it is showing the full 120V between ground and neutral.

As for the non-contact voltage tester, I know you guys consider it to be a toy, but it works. It is the only tool I know how to use to see whether or not the power is reaching something such as a light fixture or an outlet. I know about the false positives, so I always test it on something which is obviously on, then something which is obviously off, before using it for real on whatever it is that I'm working on.
But you seem to be saying that I may be getting a false positive anyways, from both the switch and off the light. So if I grab the wires when the circuit is on, nothing would happen? When I turn the circuit off, the tester makes no noise and the light doesn't flash. It is clearly working in this case, even though it may be a toy.
The neon tester gives me random results, and the circuit tester, I don't trust it. It causes explosions and I won't use one again. I would never use one of those things around an outlet or a light again, much less anywhere within 10 feet of a panel.
So there's already a thread with all these questions in it, but I'll ask again. How, and with which tool, do you test to make 100% sure there either is or isn't power reaching something? Is it the neon tester you are supposed to use? But the neon tester doesn't always give any glow even when there is power reaching a light or outlet 100%. For example, I can turn a light on, and touch the neon tester to the contacts, and there will be no glow. And I can plug a radio into an outlet, turn it on and hear the music, and stick the neon tester into the other outlet in the box, trying all three holes just to make sure, and it won't glow.
So how do you know when the neon tester is working? It doesn't appear to give me any useful information, ever.
 
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Old 08-20-08, 12:53 PM
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Is it possible that when using the tester you say causes explosions that the tip touched and energized part and a grounded surface? Doing so would create a dead short that some might consider to be an explosion.

Having reviewed the other post I am concerned both about the quality of work being performed and the potential impacts this could have on both you and any owners further down the road.
 
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Old 08-20-08, 01:05 PM
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Alright, I think I found the problem. And I didn't have to rip any walls or ceilings down, I'm very happy about that.

The neutrals, there are 4 of them, in the ceiling box which leads directly to the switch and light fixture, at least one of those had come out of the marette. I reconnected all of them and tested for voltage - now, I get:

At switch: black to white, 120V
white to ground, 0V
black to ground, 120V

And the same results at the light fixture.

The marette must be too small for these 4 wires to fit into it.
I tried a black marette and a yellow one. They both seem to be too small. So worst case scenario, I go back to the store and buy some extra large marettes.

I'm going to put the wires for the light fixture back together and I'll post the results; they should be successful, but you never know...
 
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Old 08-20-08, 01:24 PM
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The light works now, just like before.

Many thanks, especially to pcboss for your multiple responses.
Even though you think I'm not qualified to do this type of work, I'm learning something everytime you answer one of my questions. Thanks.
 
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Old 08-20-08, 01:54 PM
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You are welcome.

I am glad that you are learning. I can appreciate you trying to rehab a house. I just don't want to see any mistakes made that could have dire consequences down the road. Too many times I see less than Code compliant work and wonder if the homeowners knew how close they were to a fire.
 
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Old 08-22-08, 12:12 PM
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Sorry, I ve been out a few days and just got back to check on this thread.

Glad to hear you got it working. For future reference....

I don't know if this means anything, but I did not touch the wiring in the switch before or after the light fixture stopped working. I haven't changed any of the wiring. So if there is no white connection anywhere, and I didn't change anything, why would it work and then just stop working out of the blue?
I spent a half day and over $100 to replace a garbage disposal that just stopped working. One minute it worked, the next it was dead. I figured it was 15-16 years old and just gave up the ghost. Put in a new one, still dead. Turned out it was 49-cent wall switch. I replaced the switch and it worked fine. But I wasn't about to try to put the old one back in!

Switches, especially cheap ones can fail at any time.
 
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Old 08-23-08, 02:05 AM
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I been watching this thread and seems you got it good so far but my main condersation that the swtich box that is too shallow due the numbers of wires in there and senice you are in Candna.

The CEC { Candan Electrical Code } they do count the wire and marette for box space and IMO you are allready over the limit on box sizewise.

So next time when you replace switch box make sure get the deepest part that can fit in the wall cavity.

Merci,Marc
 
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Old 08-23-08, 10:34 AM
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Originally Posted by french277V View Post
I been watching this thread and seems you got it good so far but my main condersation that the swtich box that is too shallow due the numbers of wires in there and senice you are in Candna.

The CEC { Candan Electrical Code } they do count the wire and marette for box space and IMO you are allready over the limit on box sizewise.

So next time when you replace switch box make sure get the deepest part that can fit in the wall cavity.

Merci,Marc
Yes, I don't like working with these small boxes either. I''ll replace the box and attach it to the stud before I bring in the inspector, which should hopefully be within a few weeks.
 
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Old 08-23-08, 11:14 AM
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Originally Posted by tlogan View Post
Sorry, I ve been out a few days and just got back to check on this thread.

Glad to hear you got it working. For future reference....



I spent a half day and over $100 to replace a garbage disposal that just stopped working. One minute it worked, the next it was dead. I figured it was 15-16 years old and just gave up the ghost. Put in a new one, still dead. Turned out it was 49-cent wall switch. I replaced the switch and it worked fine. But I wasn't about to try to put the old one back in!

Switches, especially cheap ones can fail at any time.
Good point --------------------
 
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