Circuit partially working.

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  #1  
Old 03-13-01, 04:49 AM
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Some lights on a circuit do not work. On one circuit I have the master bedroom, a second bedroom, and the livingroom (directly below the 2nd bedroom). The master bedroom works fine. The first outlet in the second bedroom works too. Every other outlet in the second bedroom (and also its ceiling fan) and all outlets downstairs in the livingroom do NOT work.
I have been doing a little research on what the problem may be. Could a faulty switch be causing these problems? faulty outlet? Would it then be reasonable to assume that I should check every outlet and switch to see if my connections are intact? Why would the majority of a circuit not work if only one switch or outlet was not connected/faulty?


Thanks
 
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  #2  
Old 03-13-01, 05:44 AM
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A faulty switch could casue problems at the fan/light but you said you also have problems with some outlets, I assume these outlets at not switched but on an always on state, so for that reason the problem may be elsewhere.

Now I assume you do know for sure that the outlets/light/fan are on the same circuit and not on a different circuit. Check all breakers on the electrical panel to make sure one is not tripped.

Now if we are certain it is the same circuit , check any GFI that could be tripped. I don't know where the light/fan switch portion of the circuit is getting its source of power from, lets start with the plug in the 2nd bedroom that works , check all connections inside that box, I would use the screw connections on the plug and not the push in pinch connections on the plug, any fault here (in the event that the plug is not wired pigtail style as code requires and is using the plug as the connection onward) would cause a disruption on everything down further on the circuit. Check any wires twisted together with an insulated wire nut on it. Next to that check the plug closest to the one that is working and check the same.

Repost you findings.
 
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Old 03-13-01, 05:48 AM
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Thanks for the quick response. I will try what you suggest and let you know what happens. Thanks!
 
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Old 03-13-01, 04:02 PM
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OK:

-I checked to make sure the fan is on the same circuit as the outlets in the three rooms. It is. I also verified that no breakers on the circuit panel were tripped.

- Since the fan is on the same circuit I would check the GFI Outlet. I don't think there is a GFI outlet on that circuit. (That would be the outlet with a test and reset button, correct?)

- I checked both the last working outlet on the circuit and the one immediately after it (to the best of my knowledge). I also checked the switches too. Everything seemed connected correctly.


Should I try the rest of the outlets on the entire circuit? Or is the problem nore likely to be on the outlet or switch closest to the last working outlet.


Thanks for your help. I really appreciate it.
 
  #5  
Old 03-13-01, 04:55 PM
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A GFI plug is one with a test & reset button on it, do you have one ?

If we only knew the sequence (order) of the circuit wiring, what I was trying to determine and accomplish is to try to find the last outlet that worked and the next one in line that didn't. If you have a voltmeter you might be able to determine which connection is missing by checking black to ground , and white to ground on the non-working plugs. black to ground will give you 110v , white to ground may give a small voltage if other things are in use in the circuit. That may give us which wire is amiss but we still have to find the location of the break in that wire.

Is all your plugs wired pigtail style, meaning that the black coming from circuit power is connected to black going on to next outlet and a short black wire going to brass color screw of plug. The same with the white, white to white and short wire going to silver color screw of switch.
Or is the 2 black wires on the pinch connectors of plug or screw connector of plug. The pigtail method is code, but you do see the other method being used sometimes. The push in pinch conections are not as good a connection as the screw connections. Without the pigtail you are dependant on the plugs inerts to make the onward connection to the next wire.

I would check the connection on all plugs on the circuit including the wires inside the box that have an insulated nut on them. You must have a lose/bad connection somewhere on the circuit, the only places that wires would connect is in the outlet(plug) boxes, ceiling box , switch box. One of those places must have a lose wire, or if the plugs are not pigtailed , and you are using the pinch push in style connections at the plug that is another source for problems.
 
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Old 03-14-01, 03:43 AM
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I do not have a GFI plug on that circuit.

Unfortunately I don't know the sequence either. I assume that an outlet near the last working one would be next. Could it be on a different floor though? I will check that. (This is probably a dumb question) Using the voltmeter to test the wires on the faulty outlets require the circuit to be hot right? I am confident in my abilities but my margin for error here is zero. I don't know if I am comfortable opening up the outlet and testing with a volt meter.

I will check again this weekend as to what type of connect is being used (ie pigtail or push in pinch). I will look for a loose connection as that is what you are pointing me towards.

I will keep you posted. Thanks!
 
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Old 03-14-01, 05:18 AM
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Yes a test for voltage is with power on, otherwise all readings will be 0v working or not, but I don't want you to do anything your not confortable with. The test itself would not by itself tell us the location of the problem, only the specific wire that lost connection. Yes that would be my first thought is that the plug next to the one that is working would be the next one in line on the circuit, it just sounds logical but logic does not always hold true in all instances, and could even be feed from the working plug to the light switch and back to another plug, to to another floor, I can't predict the orginal electrician's thoughts when it was orginally wired. I would think however it would be wired in such a way that it would use the min amount of wire required to do the job. Do check what kind of connections you have , you can do this with the power off, pull the plug out some to get a good look, find out if it pigtail wired as I mentioned previously , or using the plug to continue the circuit to the next wire, and if that is the case, is it using the push in pinch connections or the screw connections.
 
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Old 03-18-01, 12:41 PM
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I found my break in continuity

Ok, please bear with me as I try and describe my findings.

I went to the outlet immediately after the last working outlet on the circuit. In the outlet box I found three sets of wires coming together. Wires 1 (on the left)and Wires 2 (on the right) coming in from the top, wires 3 from the bottom. All three wires had their grounds (copper wire) connected together with that being connected to the bottom of the outlet plug.
Wire 1 (top left) has its positive (black) connected to the bottom right (when facing the front of the outlet plug)of the outlet plug. Wire 1 has its neutral (gray) connected to the bottom left of the outlet plug.
Wire 2 (top right)has its positive connected to the bottom right of the outlet plug. Wire 1 and 2 are connected to the bottom right of the outlet plug. The difference being wire 1 is "hooked" around the screw on the outside whereas wire 2 is inserted (like a speaker wire). Wire 2 has its neutral NOT connected to anything, hence my lack of power to the remaining points in the circuit?
Wire 3 (from the bottom) has its positive connected to the top right of the outlet plug, and its neutral to the top left.

Ok, wire 2's neutral is not connected. I assume I would connect it to the bottom left of the outlet plug, inserting it like a speaker wire as wire 1's already hooked around the bottom screw. Whats the difference between hooking a connection around a screw or inserting it? I won't be trying to connect this loose wire until I hear confirmation from you or until I see conclusive information on the web somewhere from another reliable source. Thanks.
 
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Old 03-18-01, 01:22 PM
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dkerr's assumption of "pinch-push" , or what is commonly called a "backstabbed" connection is probably right.

UL has recently taken the #12 wire listing away from such devices,as it makes for a poor connection, especially under a load condition .

The best approach would be to "pigtail" all the whites, and blacks seperatly. This means 4 blacks under a wire nut, the three in the box, and one to said receptacle. Also do the whites in this manner.
 
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Old 03-18-01, 02:33 PM
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Before I ask you to do anything,

on that plug (not working) that you refer to one closest to the one that is working ? The one that you checked.

1st I don't like the way that plug is hooked up with some on push in pinch connections , some on screw connections and one not connected at all. And nothing pigtailed.

1. The white (or gray as you put it) on wire 2, does the end of it appear stripped as if it would appear that it was meant to be conencted to something ?

2. The plug confirm it has no broken joining tabs on either side of the plug (between the 2 brass screw or between the 2 silver screws).

If there is no broken tab on either side of the plug, then I suspect that the white (gray) wire on wire 2 that is not connected is the missing neutral link to the rest of the circuit. I can't confirm this without checking for voltage between the black and white on wire 2, if there is voltage, we have our answer. The pinch connection may have become weak and released the wire. If that is the case then the hot is connected to all parts of the non-working portion and is missing a neutral.




 
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Old 03-18-01, 02:53 PM
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1. yes, the neutral wire not attached to anything is stripped. The wire is straight, not hooked, implying it was connected to the insert part of the outlet plug.

2. as far as I can tell there are no tabs missing. Something is not right though as when I check one of the other wires than has been inserted, it doesn't come out. The loose neutral that I reinsert won't stay in place.


I was going to run up to Home Depot and buy some wire plugs and some additional wires to join them as per "wirenuts" post. Is that the best solution or can I just reconnect neutral wire to its missing place?

Thanks for the speedy response.
 
  #12  
Old 03-18-01, 03:07 PM
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It would appear that the pinch push in connector is no longer pinching and holding the wire. What I would do is to do like wirenuts said, use only the screw connectors , NOT the push in pinch connectors on the plug.

Like wirenuts said (assuming that no joining tabs are broken) is to put all whites together , put the proper size insulated wire nut over the connection, included in that is a short piece of white going to the silver color screw of plug. The same with the blacks , all black together with a short piece of black going to brass color screw of plug, insulated proper size wire nut over connections.

ALl bare wires together and grounded to grounding screws of box and to grounding screw of plug (possibly green).

There is a release tiny slot on the underside of the plug that may release the remaining pinch wires so you won't have to cut them off.
 
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Old 03-18-01, 04:19 PM
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Hmm. I didn't know there were different kinds of plugs.

Great! I will get to work. Hopefully this will solve my connectivity problem. Thanks for all your help. I have definitely learned alot (as well as saved some $$).
 
  #14  
Old 03-18-01, 04:20 PM
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An easy way to test your theory about the dis-
connected white wire. Go to the fixture that is not
working, Open the junction box and with the power
on, use a multimeter or a voltage tester and see if
you have voltage from the hot,(black) to ground (bare)wires
Then check from the hot to the neutral. If no power you
have found your problem. You can also see if that disconnected white wire is the culprit by doing a continuity test on that wire to the dead fixture.
 
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Old 03-18-01, 04:59 PM
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assessment method #2..

get one of those plug-in 3 light testers at the store.
they are $5-$10
find a receptacle that is not working.
plug it in ( it plugs in like any 3-prong plug)
read the indicator lights.
if it says "open neutral", that's it
 
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Old 03-18-01, 05:54 PM
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Luckster: I just didn't want to work on a hot circuit at all.

Conclusion: It worked! My circuit is restored and all the outlets are working. The hardest part was fitting the 3 groups of wires and ground into the one outlet box (receptacle). Thanks for all your help!
 
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