Blow dryer killed the outlet? How can I fix it?

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  #1  
Old 09-30-12, 12:37 PM
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Blow dryer killed the outlet? How can I fix it?

Hello,

I'm new here and wanted to say hello - I also need help and hope someone could help. I don't know much about electricity.

Basically, mom was using the blow dryer when the outlet she had the blow dyer plugged in went dead. The breaker did not trip. We have a light switch that controls the outlet and only this outlet. All other outlets in the room work.

What I have done so far:

1) Tested the outlet with a voltage tester - Power light of the tester does not come on (no power)
2) I've changed the outlet and tested it - Still no power
3) Tested each breaker in the basement - they all seem to work
4) Tested the light switch - no power
5) Replaced the light switch and tested it - no power
6) Removed the outlet and light switch and tested all the wires separately - still no power

There is a black and red wire that go into the outlet. There is no neutral wire going to the green screw. Currently, the black wire is on top right side (bronze) and the red wire is on top left (silver side).

There are 2 black and 2 red wires for the light switch that turns the outlet on or off. I believe it's called single pole? One screw on top and one on bottom. Both screws are on the right side. Currently, one black wire is screwed into the top and one to the bottom. There is no neutral wire going into the green screw. And the 2 red wires are twisted together and capped. I don't see why anything needs to be switched around with the wires, but I was desperate so I even tried screwing both black wires to the bottom of the switch and screwing one of the red ones to the top screw. It didn't work.

Some pictures of the light switch below. I did not take pix of the outlet since it just has one black wire and one red wire.

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  #2  
Old 09-30-12, 01:22 PM
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Welcome to the forums! Neutrals don't go to the grounding screws. The "red" wires you refer to are "white" and are your neutrals. If you note they were twisted together to each other. The blacks have loops in them and were attached to your switch, one on top and one on bottom, and it doesn't matter which way. With the wires pulled out as you have them, can you restore power to the switch via the breaker and determine if you have power there?

Do you have GFCI protection in any other room adjacent to this one, or on the outside of the house close to this location?
 
  #3  
Old 09-30-12, 01:36 PM
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Thanks for responding. I've turned each breaker off and on and tested the two black wires from the switch. There is no power.

I have a GFI outlet in the bathroom adjacent to this bedroom. An electrician installed it last year. I've tested and resetted the GFI. Do I need to do anything else?
 
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Old 09-30-12, 01:42 PM
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Nope, did it restore power to the switch for the recpetacle?? In most instances it will.
 
  #5  
Old 09-30-12, 01:45 PM
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Nope~ It did not restore power.
 
  #6  
Old 09-30-12, 02:02 PM
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Then you may not have found the correct GFCI yet. It could be anywhere inside or outside the house or hidden and forgotten behind something that hasn't been moved in years.

tested the two black wires from the switch. There is no power.
There should not be. That is not how you test for power. Using an analog multimeter or test light test between each black and each neutral (white). Do NOT use a non-contact tester. It is useless for this kind of testing.
 
  #7  
Old 09-30-12, 02:21 PM
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Ok - I just did a walk through of the whole house and did not find any other GFIs; not surprising since the house is from the early 50s.

I am using this - Is this the right tool? By the way, I tested the wires from two other light switches and outlets in the house using this tool and they worked.

110/220 VAC Voltage Tester-MS8900H at The Home Depot
 
  #8  
Old 09-30-12, 02:25 PM
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Your tester is correct for the troubleshooting you are doing.

Make sure to turn the breakers all the way off, then to on.
 
  #9  
Old 09-30-12, 02:34 PM
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I have turned the breakers on and off many times while I was playing with the wires. I don't even know which is the right breaker for this outlet, so I've shut down the Main too to be safe.

Could the problem be inside the walls or something?
 
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Old 09-30-12, 03:11 PM
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Tester is correct. What were the results of the tests I asked you to make. Do you have a "3-prong" receptacle with a known good ground? If so run an extension cord from there to the switch box and repeat the tests, this time between the extension cord ground and each wire in the switch box.
 
  #11  
Old 09-30-12, 05:40 PM
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I don't have a multimeter, unfortunately. I used the tool I got from HD (link below) to test the wires and it showed no power.

The only 3 prong receptacle with a ground is the new GFI outlet in the bathroom. Do you want me to plug a 3-prong extension cord to the GFI outlet and then you said from there to the switch box? Am I understanding this correctly? How do I do that? The other end of the extension cord has receptacles...
 
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Old 10-01-12, 12:32 PM
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I don't have a multimeter, unfortunately. I used the tool I got from HD (link below) to test the wires and it showed no power.
That tester should work for this test. Here are a couple of suggestions; if they've been suggested earlier, I apologize.
  • First, plug your tester leads into a known good receptacle to make sure the tester is working;
  • Turn off the power, remove the switch and separate the wires attached to it. Pull the neutrals splice forward, remove the wire nut, and position the uncovered splice well away from the two black wires;
  • At the panel, make sure all the breakers are on. To do that, turn every breaker that you think might be supplying the bathroom all the way OFF and then all the way ON - a tripped breaker is not off. it is tripped, and must be turned off before it can be reset;
  • At the switch box, test between each of the black wires and the pair of neutrals; if the box is metal, test between each black wire and the box.
If the tester checks to be working and you still don't see any power at the switch, the problem is probably a loose connection at the next device upline. See Troubleshooting a dead receptacle or light...
 
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Old 10-01-12, 04:45 PM
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Nashkat1 -

Thanks, I did everything you said and read the guide you linked to before I posted. Still a no go. What did you mean by "a loose connection at the next device upline"? You mean another outlet in the same room? Other outlets in the room work. How do I check?

I got a quote from an electrician. The estimate says: "Fix (1) existing duplex outlet with missing neutral." Does that mean anything to anyone?

I'm still also interested in Ray's comments but I don't think I understood it correctly.
I'm about to go bonkers.
 
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Old 10-01-12, 05:53 PM
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Which remark of mine needs clarification. Please let me know and I'll be glad to clear it up for you if I can.
 
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Old 10-01-12, 05:56 PM
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What did you mean by "a loose connection at the next device upline"? You mean another outlet in the same room? Other outlets in the room work. How do I check?
That other outlets are working does not mean that power in continuing from them. See Troubleshooting a dead receptacle or light...
 
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Old 10-01-12, 08:06 PM
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I got a quote from an electrician. The estimate says: "Fix (1) existing duplex outlet with missing neutral." Does that mean anything to anyone?
I am curious where you got a firm quote for a job that could be less than an hour labor or could possibly be 4 or 5 hours labor. Around here we always called that a service call and the customer would be charged for the exact time and materials required to repair the problem.
 
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Old 10-02-12, 04:48 PM
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Ray -

You were saying something about running an extension cord but I didn't understand the instructions, so I had responded with: The only 3 prong receptacle with a ground is the new GFI outlet in the bathroom. Do you want me to plug a 3-prong extension cord to the GFI outlet and then you said from there to the switch box? Am I understanding this correctly? How do I do that? The other end of the extension cord has receptacles...


Thanks George - I'm thinking all of this might be beyond me and to just bite the bullet and hire an electrician or just leave the outlet alone. I'm gonna try to get one of those outlet testers over the weekend though.
 
  #18  
Old 10-02-12, 05:39 PM
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The cord is used as a ground reference to check each of the black and white wires in the switch box. This is done with the wires disconnected. Sometimes this will identify an open (bad) neutral. Given the age of the house though the GFCI may not be grounded so you first need to check for voltage between the narrow slot of the GFCI and the ground of the GFCI to see if it is grounded.
 
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Old 10-03-12, 05:08 PM
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So what to I have to do exactly with the extension cord? I still don't follow, sorry. Thanks.

With the GFI, when I put the black probe in the ground hole and the red in the right hole, the tester lights up. It also lights up with I put the black probe in the left hole and the red one in the right hole. Is this a good thing? Thanks.
 
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Old 10-03-12, 05:40 PM
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There is no left and right hole. A receptacle can be oriented anyway you want, ground on top, ground on bottom, even sideways.There is the wide neutral slot, the narrow ungrounded conductor slot (hot) and (in newer receptacles) the semi-round ground hole. (In your receptacles probably no ground hole.)

In a properly functioning circuit you should have 120 volts between hot and neutral and 120 volts between hot and ground. If you don't get 120 volts between hot and neutral but do get 120 volts between hot and ground that indicates the hot is good but the neutral is bad. Obviously you need a ground to do the test. If no ground at the receptacle you must get a ground from somewhere else. An extension cord in a properly grounded receptacle is one way to do this.
 
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Old 10-03-12, 09:11 PM
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With the GFI, when I put the black probe in the ground hole and the red in the right hole, the tester lights up. It also lights up with I put the black probe in the left hole and the red one in the right hole. Is this a good thing?
Probably. That should be showing that you have power both hot-to-ground and hot-to-neutral.
 
  #22  
Old 10-05-12, 08:23 PM
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Arlight, thank you guys. I'll get the other voltage tester this weekend and if all else fails, have to call the pros.
 
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