Breaker works, Complete circuit not working, why?

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Old 04-03-14, 08:47 AM
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Breaker works, Complete circuit not working, why?

I have a tricky situation that I can't seem to figure out. Over the past couple of months the breaker in the basement would trip off every 2 weeks or so, sometimes with nothing in use(no lights on or any outlets in use). I was usually able to flip the breaker back on and it would be fine for a few weeks again. Occasionally i would try to flip it and it would trip right back off(not allow me to push it back on). Last night the entire circuit quit working, however the breaker was not tripped. I only noticed it quit working because the wireless router we have is plugged into this circuit and the internet stopped working. So I go downstairs, the circuit that is out controls about half the basement outlets and the basement lights, the breaker is on and the circuit is not working.

Things I have tried:

1. With breaker on check all outlets, light switches and light fixtures with a digital voltage detector and all seem to have power coming to them.

2. There are no GFCI's on this breaker/circuit, however I went around the house and reset and tested all the others in the house.

3. Took all the outlets and light switches off and checked them. They all seemed to look ok, however I took a few that had been backstabbed and reattached them by wrapping them around the screws. So no more outlets and backstabbed. This did not solve the problem.

4. Shut off the main power to the house and tried the circuit in another breaker that I know works, it did not work. So the breaker should not be faulty.

Things I have not tried:

1. Taken down the recessed/can lights and checked the connections at the light.

Am I missing something? What else do I need to look for? I spent a few hours doing these things last night and am getting frustrated.

Thanks for you help. I appreciate any and all responses.
 
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Old 04-03-14, 09:05 AM
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1. With breaker on check all outlets, light switches and light fixtures with a digital voltage detector and all seem to have power coming to them.
If you mean a non contact tester it is useless for this. It could show power when there is really nothing, just an induced magnetic field. If you mean a digital multimeter check it on a known good circuit.
I took a few that had been backstabbed and reattached them by wrapping them around the screws. So no more outlets and backstabbed.
Excellent.
4. Shut off the main power to the house and tried the circuit in another breaker that I know works, it did not work. So the breaker should not be faulty.
Good testing. The can lights need to be checked. Remove and replace all wire nuts. Also check the switch(es).
 
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Old 04-03-14, 10:21 AM
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A connection in the panel could also be loose. Even with the main breaker off there are still live parts in the panel.
 
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Old 04-03-14, 10:23 AM
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Things I have tried:

1. With breaker on check all outlets, light switches and light fixtures with a digital voltage detector and all seem to have power coming to them.
When you say "digital voltage detector," are you referring to your digital voltage meter? If so, what voltage did you find when you tested each hot wire to neutral and to ground? If not, pick up a multimeter - a decent analog one should cost less than $10 and will be more reliable in some ways than many digital ones - and test for voltage at each location.

When ungrounded power is present and devices aren't working, that's usually an indication that the neutral conductor is loose or open somewhere. That can be dangerous as well as annoying.

Let us know what you find.
 
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Old 04-03-14, 01:12 PM
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I will go out and get an analog multimeter to check the voltage. I was simply using a non contact meter which then i'm guessing may not have been accurate.

I will also get some new wire nuts and redo those. There was one outlet and one light switch that was pigtailed with wire nuts. I checked them and they didn't seem to be loose however.

Is this the type of multimeter I need to check the voltage?
 
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Old 04-03-14, 03:00 PM
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I was simply using a non contact meter which then i'm guessing may not have been accurate.
There is no non-contact meter that I know of. A non-contact tester tells you if power is present or not. Most of them will light up when there's much less than 120V present, as Ray said, and none of them can tell you the amount of power or whether the neutral is in good shape.

Is this the type of multimeter I need to check the voltage?
It's hard to be sure from the small image, but I think so. Just ask for the least expensive analog multimeter that they have. I know you can find them easily at Sears, but most home improvement and hardware stores should have them.

ECHO, Echo, echo, [SUB]echo...[/SUB]
 
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Old 04-03-14, 03:01 PM
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I was simply using a non contact meter which then i'm guessing may not have been accurate.
It is not even a meter. It is just a crude detector of magnetic fields that may or may not indicate the presence of significant voltage. Yes, that type of multimeter is fine just don't pay more then $10-$15 and don't buy one that is part of a kit. The kits usually contain junk you don't really need.
 
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