Need help with diagnosis

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  #1  
Old 10-27-14, 02:59 PM
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Need help with diagnosis

Yesterday my master bedroom circuit got finicky. Turned on the vacuum cleaner, everything died. The breaker did not switch to off, but I switched it off and then on, and things worked again. The problem continued, with smaller and smaller voltages blowing the breaker. Once, the power even tried to flicker back on a few times on its own. Then today, absolutely nothing working on that circuit. Turned everything off, and flipped the breaker. Even LEDs on the switches didn't light. Volt meter shows same voltage to that breaker as all of the others. Replaced the breaker, anyway. No difference. Volt probe shows that (some) current is getting to all switches and outlets. Receptacle tester doesn't light at all.
I would be very grateful for any advice.

Thanks!
 
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  #2  
Old 10-27-14, 03:43 PM
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Welcome to the forums! I know you have a plug in detector, and possibly a proximity tester. Both are limited in their accuracy to do good testing. Is your volt meter digital or analog? Analog is better and is not susceptible to phantom voltages.

A likely scenario is your receptacles have stab back connections which are suspect at best. If you can determine the first receptacle in line from your panel, remove the power from the circuit, and pull the receptacle from the box, you may find one or more of the stab back wires have become loose. Let us know what you find there.
 
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Old 10-27-14, 04:14 PM
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I just to get come terminology straight so we all know what you are referring to:

Voltage does not trip a breaker, amps (or current) does.
A voltage probe only shows you have voltage, it does not tell you anything about current. For that you need a clamp on meter.

When a circuit breaker trips, it will not trip to off, it trips to the middle position. You then have to turn it to off, then back to on.

Follow Chandlers direction and post back and we can help you further.
 
  #4  
Old 10-27-14, 06:41 PM
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Thanks guys. More to think about.
The breaker didn't even trip to the middle position. I don't know if that matters.
The circuit is comprised of two different constructions. Original in 1957. Last year we had some built in closets added, and code required outlets on those outer walls. The 1957 outlets weren't three-prong, of course. And I'm ass-u-ming that the new ones are (true) three prong. Does that give us (you - really) any idea which is the first outlet? I'm guessing that the first outlet would be the (only remaining) original, which has a rat's nest of charger wires on it. I'm also guessing that the electrician pulled from those wires for the new outlets and lights. But if the originals didn't have the third prong, how did they get that extra ground?
I'll be attacking this again in the morning!

Thanks, again!
 
  #5  
Old 10-27-14, 07:57 PM
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Turn off the circuit and see what receptacles turn off with your tester. Turn the circuit back on and recheck. The live one that is closest to the dead ones is the first one to check. The 2nd would be the first dead one. After that is might be a bit of an Easter egg hunt.
 
  #6  
Old 10-28-14, 08:12 AM
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If I had done this while things were working even a little, that would have helped. Now everything on that circuit is completely dead. I think it's easter egg hunt time. Unfortunately the likely culprit (the old one) requires moving the most furniture!
Thanks for the assist!
 
  #7  
Old 10-28-14, 04:14 PM
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Well, I replaced the first outlet, and no joy. Still no more than trace voltage in that one, as well as all of the others. Tomorrow - the ceiling light. After that the hall ceiling fan. Fingers crossed!
 
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Old 10-28-14, 04:24 PM
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Are all of the outlets & lights on that circuit, original to the house or were some added at a later date?
 
  #9  
Old 10-28-14, 05:50 PM
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Old + new. All not working. New ones were installed just over a year ago when we had walk-in closets installed.
 
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Old 10-28-14, 06:15 PM
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It's the "new" that has to be checked first. That's why I asked. Go to the junction box where the new meets the old.
 
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Old 10-28-14, 06:46 PM
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Yikes. I assume that will be inside a wall, yes? Or in the attic?
 
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Old 10-28-14, 06:56 PM
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I would look in the attic first. Sometimes, BX was used when the house was built & Romex was used for additions. That's one way to differentiate between the two.
 
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Old 10-28-14, 07:01 PM
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Ugh. Manana, Pulpo. This won't be fun. But I think you're right.
Thanks.
 
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Old 10-28-14, 09:49 PM
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Esta bien. I'm on the edge of my chair.
 
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Old 10-29-14, 10:10 AM
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I think this is going to qualify as my new least favorite home repair. I have about 12 inches vertical, and a frozen shoulder.
 
  #16  
Old 10-29-14, 11:58 AM
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New Question

Okay, guys. New question. I pulled the staple, inspected the wires, no apparent breaks. Separated the wires and powered up. Everything works beautifully. I would really like not to have to splice and install a junction box in such a godawful spot. What are my other options? (As a homeowner - I know you have other requirements.)

Thanks for all of the help!

Maureen
 
  #17  
Old 10-29-14, 01:05 PM
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Sorry to inform you that the splice needs to be made in an accessible junction box with a cover.
 
  #18  
Old 10-29-14, 02:03 PM
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I was afraid of that!
********************
 
  #19  
Old 11-06-14, 03:34 PM
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Curiouser and curiouser

I hope you guys are still tuned in.
After pulling the staple and inspecting the wires, I just separated the wires, turned the breaker back on, and everything worked perfectly. Two days later, the whole thing started up again. Flip a light switch, quick flash, then everything on the circuit is dead. Nothing is on that circuit but a ceiling light, a ceiling fan and light, and some outlets that have clocks and cell phone chargers on them. Went to the ceiling fan, thinking maybe that was the problem, since it had been wobbling for a while since we just installed it with a light box, not a ceiling fan box. Removed the fan. Had 55 volts between the black wire and the box. 65 between the wire nut (two blacks and a white) and the box. Just now, after dark, have less than 20 volts between the dangling black and the box. Wire nut to box is still 65. Found resistance in one 3 way switch, so replaced them both. No change.
BTW - replaced the circuit breaker as my first guess before I posted the original posting.
 
  #20  
Old 11-06-14, 05:04 PM
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And another thing

Another weird thing was that the voltage probe lit up right away on all switches except one. One of the three way switches took several minutes to light up the probe.
 
  #21  
Old 11-06-14, 06:17 PM
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Another weird thing was that the voltage probe lit up right away on all switches except one.
If you mean a non contact tester the results aren't meaningful. If it is a switch loop then no reason usually to measure at the switch. If power does come in at the switch you disconnect the power in cable and measure across the black and white of that cable with a multimeter, preferably analog.

Have you checked the repair splice you made?
 
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Old 11-06-14, 07:13 PM
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Following the same train of thought, are the 3 way switches original or were they added at a later date?
 
  #23  
Old 11-07-14, 07:26 AM
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I did not make a splice. The wires appeared to be in good condition, so I just separated them (since the sheathing was gone) to come back to at a later date. All was well for several days. Went back up to check them after the whole thing crashed again, and they were as I left them.

The 3 way with the high resistance appeared to be original. The 3 way that had minor resistance was replaced about 15 years ago. Replaced both. - Yes, marked the connections to ensure the right loops.
 
  #24  
Old 11-07-14, 12:46 PM
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You need to hire an electrician to do this properly. Whether the lights work or not... you have exposed wiring that need to be put into an accessible junction box. Your guesswork and finger crossing is not going to make this right.... time to open the phone book.
 
  #25  
Old 11-07-14, 02:26 PM
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Yeah, Dickey. I'm not ignoring it until it goes away. It'll get a junction box.
 
  #26  
Old 11-08-14, 03:07 AM
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A cousin of mine had squirrels get into his attic and eat the insulation on some of the Romex . They ate through a few of the copper sires , to . I had more than one extended phone call from him , untill he finally found the problems / bad spots . He lives about 6 hours away .

It can truly be an Easter Egg hunt . :-(

God bless
Wyr
 
  #27  
Old 11-08-14, 07:39 AM
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Ugh. Thanks, Wyr. I did pull a squirrel out last winter. I guess I'll need more chocolate.
 
  #28  
Old 11-08-14, 08:06 AM
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DD, why are all your responses "hire an electrician"??? This does not require such services as it is totally DIY. We can help with the repairs, since this is obviously a DIY site and not a referral center. When the OP decides to fix it, we can help out.
 
  #29  
Old 11-08-14, 08:24 AM
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I was thinking the same thing. It's DIY.
 
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Old 11-08-14, 09:50 AM
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I did pull a squirrel out last winter.
I hope you found and repaired the hole where the squirrel got in. Squirrels have been known to set houses on fire by chewing on attic wires. Don't wait too long to address your issues, they may be more extensive than you think they are.
 
  #31  
Old 11-08-14, 09:50 AM
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I would really like not to have to splice and install a junction box in such a godawful spot.
only one junction box? ............
 
  #32  
Old 11-08-14, 10:23 AM
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Yeah, Joe. It was some pressure fit soffit vents that didn't pressure fit so well when the weather got cold and dry.
We've spent a fair amount of time in the attic inspecting wires, digging through insulation. The main reason for dealing with this ourselves right now is that I really can't see paying an electrician to do that kind of work. When things get technical, I'm very happy to back out and let a professional do the rest.
As we dig out and trace every damned wire, it would be great to have some way of protecting them for the future. Is there some kind of split conduit that I can cover the wires with as I go?
 
  #33  
Old 11-09-14, 07:23 AM
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As we dig out and trace every damned wire, it would be great to have some way of protecting them for the future. Is there some kind of split conduit that I can cover the wires with as I go?
Not that I am aware of. Besides, not all cable runs will be straight and some will be stapled to the side of joists. All cable runs should be stapled/secured. The best thing is to just keep your attic tight.
 
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