Outlet Gone Haywire


Old 06-04-19, 06:48 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: USA
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Outlet Gone Haywire

Hey, guys...thought I'd share a recent adventure.

So I've got a shed out back that I've been doing some renovating on and one of the projects I've done is wire in a subpanel, outlets, and a fluorescent light. Well, I got the subpanel and breakers wired in over the weekend and yesterday I installed all the conduit and ran wire and installed outlets, light switch, and light. Had everything buttoned up and kicked on the breaker and the outside outlet, and the three inside outlets all had power as well as the light switch. Installed bulbs in the light and hit the switch and....nothing. Checked that there was power before and after the switch and at the light fixture and there was power at all places....but no light. So I took the bulbs out and took them to my shop and swapped them out in a known working fixture. They worked just fine. So I figured my brand new light ballast was dead. Turned the breaker off and called it a night.

Today I get back to it after work and I energize the circuit and make sure that nothing has changed.....still no light....BUT....my outlet nearest my light switch has lost neutral. So I went down the line checking the outlets and the other outlets in line have power and neutral so I gathered that something was wrong with the wire between the third and fourth (last) outlet. So i killed the breaker and removed the faceplates and removed the outlets. The wiring is correct and looks to be making a solid connection. Turned the breaker back on and carefully checked the outlet again. At first the trouble outlet had no neutral...but now it does. Put the outlet back into the single gang box and checked it, to see if moving the outlet around would jostle something around. Checked it and it was fine. So I hit the light switch....there's light!!! So I once again button everything back up and then check everything again. NO LIGHT. Damn it. So I check the outlets and now the third and fourth outlets don't have a neutral. As I'm probing the third outlet I hear an audible "click" sound. It has neutral...fourth plug also has neutral. Turned on the light and it works. Now I think I'm getting somewhere. Reinstalled the outlets and there's once again no neutral on the third and fourth plugs and the light won't come on. Probed the third outlet and as I stuck my negative lead into the neutral socket, the light came on...I removed the lead and the light goes off....put it in and it comes on...take it out and it turns off. Over and over. So, needless to say, something was wrong internally with this brand new outlet and my multimeter was completing the circuit and letting the plugs work and light come on. Let me tell you....this was very difficult and frustrating for a non-electrician to figure out. lol So I swapped out that outlet for a new one and now everything is working flawlessly.

Anyway, I just thought I'd share this weird story!!!
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Old 06-04-19, 06:53 PM
PJmax's Avatar
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You weren't using the push-in terminals on the back of the devices were you ?
That is a no-no. Those push-in connections are completely unreliable.

Pushing your meter probe into the slot is enough to push the clip onto the wire.
Old 06-04-19, 06:54 PM
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Did you use the screws or backstabs at the receptacles? Are you using an analog multimeter for testing?
Old 06-04-19, 07:53 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: USA
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Nope...these outlets don't have the push in terminal option. Screw only option.


Digital multimeter.

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