New Outlet Tripping Breaker


Old 09-27-18, 11:08 AM
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New Outlet Tripping Breaker

Hi there,

We are replacing old outlets in our home (Ogden, UT) and have hit a conundrum. An outlet in the basement did not work before, and upon inspection, we found that two neutral wires were hooked up (one on a neutral screw, one on the corresponding hot screw) along with a ground, and two hot wires were coupled together and capped. So we uncoupled the hot wires and hooked it all up correctly, and it worked fine. I have NO idea what changed, but suddenly the outlet stopped working after a few days. Now I can't even get the breaker on without it tripping. From what I can see, there are two Romex cables going into the outlet, with one leaving and powering an outlet and a switch in another room. There is also an odd ground wire. It is insulated green and has two very small gage copper wires that twist together around the ground screw. I haven't seen this in the three homes we've replaced outlets in. Not sure where to go from here or why it worked before and suddenly stopped (we had some plumbers work on the house but they did not mess with wiring).... I have attached pictures of it's current wiring that worked fine until now.
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Old 09-27-18, 11:24 AM
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Obviously you have a direct short. I would remove the outlet and test the hot and neutral wire with a VOM. Could be a defective outlet. What did you have being powered in that outlet? I would not have attached the two neutral wires to the outlet. I would've pig tailed to only one terminal and wire nut the others together. If this junction box checks out OK and the outlet is in fact good then you need to go to the switch in the other room.
Old 09-27-18, 11:27 AM
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So it worked for awhile and then the breaker tripped suddenly.

Most likely, when you stuffed things back into the box, two wires or metal parts that should not touch nearly touched and some vibration such as a person walking on the floor caused them to touch and create a short circuit.

Turn off the breaker and open the outlet box and pull the receptacle out looking for burn marks or tiny melted spots on wire ends or metal parts..

The black wire should be removed from the green screw and the end taped until you figure out where that black wire belongs.
Old 09-27-18, 11:55 AM
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You probably had wire pushed hard against a sharp edge of the junction box and shorted hot wire to ground.

Look for any burn marks on the wire, inspect and if the conductor is not damaged, tape it.
Your ground wire is not installed correctly. The metal junction box needs to be grounded with a pigtail and pigtail ground wire going to the outlet as well. Tie all 4 ground wires together with a wire nut.
When using metal junction box, I also recommend wrapping terminals of the outlet with electric tape to avoid possible short of terminal to ground. It should not occur, but sometimes outlet gets loose and shorts.

One of the neutral wire is wrapped around the screw wrong way. It should be wrapped same direction screw tightens (clockwise). Otherwise, the wire can come off the screw as you tighten.
Old 09-27-18, 11:57 AM
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Another idea. Thw cable going to the switch in the other room is a switch loop and when you made it work, it worked until someone flipped the switch and then the breaker would keep tripping until someone flipped the switch the other way.

Try this:

Label and unhook all of the black and white wires. See if the breaker will stay on and measure voltage across black and white of each cable (not "diagonally" i,e, from one cable to the other) to see where (or if) you get power. Flip the switch and again measure voltage across black and white of each cable.

Hook up just the live black and corresponding white to the receptalce and see if it works. Flip the switch and see if it still works.

With a pair of gloves and steady hands you can plug things into and try the receptacle without having to screw it back in the box (and unscrew it and pull it back out to try another test).

If you do get it working so far you will need to trace the wires that are still loose to see how they are wired further on.

I will leave the studying and dealing with switch loops as a future exercise.
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