Circuit died without breaker tripping

Old 05-26-02, 08:52 PM
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a
Unhappy Circuit died without breaker tripping

Plugged my vacuum cleaner in and turned it on... it ran for a second, faltered and died. Tried another outlet in the same room, same deal. Tried a third outlet, this time totally dead.

At first I thought it was the vacuum, until I noticed that I'd lost lights also. Figured out that all the lights and electrical sockets on that floor were all on the same circuit and all dead, so I went down to check the breakers - none of them were tripped!

I'm not sure what to do from here... I guess it could be a loose connection at one of the wall sockets or a faulty breaker, but I don't know which breaker I'm dealing with - some are labelled but not all - and I'm wary of any current that isn't small, wrinkly and edible.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Old 05-26-02, 10:00 PM
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a
It would be unusual for an entire floor including lights to be protected by a GFCI but who knows?
your symptoms are similiar to a tripped GFI, either a breaker or a outlet somewhere, anywhere, everywhere. Look in the panel for a circuit breaker with a trip/push to reset button on it, the breaker handle wont be tripped but the button will be.
push the button to reset it. Or look along every wall behind every couch for a GFI outlet and push the rest button to restore power and get the lights back on.
Or it could be the wire connections somewhere from the breaker screw to the one of the first devices in the circuit, like a splice or a wire pigtail came loose it takes some investigating to find it. Make sure the power is off when pulling devices out of the wall, if you are not comfortable with it.
The real problem is why did this happen?
If the vac. did trip a GFI it may be faulty, new or old vac? check the power cord for cuts or nicks, although if the cord was bad it would probably trip the breaker not the GFI.Mabye pulling on the cord in the outlet loosened up that connection especially if the outlet had back stabbed wires. JUNK!!!
Old 05-27-02, 03:06 AM
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a

Yeah, I thought that was an odd setup too, but then I'm no electrician. Seems each floor has it's own loop, shared by lights & sockets. The condo was built in 1980 - two units side-by-side - but I only bought it a couple of months ago and I don't know the wiring history.

There are no buttons on the panel, only breakers, all of which were definately 'On' - I've since switched the still unidentified ones to 'Off' on general principle. I did try toggling those that were unlabelled and identified two more circuits, but failed to identify or restore the dead one.

There is one GFI outlet in the bathroom. I don't think it's tripped, but then I just tried pushing the test button in and it stuck there, so I don't know what state it's in internally. Are you saying that a problem anywhere on the loop could trip that breaker? Would make sense, I just hadn't thought of that before.

The vac is a few years old, hasn't caused me any problems before, but the plug wasn't very secure in that socket, could well have caused the problem.

If I can't locate the specific breaker for that loop, I can just kill the Main breaker to be on the safe side?

Old 05-27-02, 07:05 PM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: United States
Posts: 18,497
Received 1 Vote on 1 Post
Here are some ideas. One or more might help.
  • Turn off all 15-amp and 20-amp breakers. Push each off firmly, and then push each on firmly.
  • It is the "reset" button, not the "test" button that you need to push to try to restore power.
  • Look around for more GFCI receptacles. Most people have more than they think.
  • Spend $7 on a receptacle tester -- one of those things you plug in and it has two amber lights and a red one. This will help test your receptacles and may provide additional information.
If all of these fail, post back for some more serious options.
Old 05-28-02, 08:07 PM
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a
Well, I fixed it. MT's comment about 'back stabbed wires' got me thinking, so I flipped all the breakers off and pulled out the electrical socket where this all started... sure enough, there was more bare wire showing than seemed appropriate, so I pushed em back in, flipped the breakers back on and voila!

I assume I'm looking at back-stabbed wires here... the bare wire is literally pushed straight into a hole in the back of the outlet casing. I take it that replacing these would be a good investment? Should I get GFCI outlets all round or what?

Thanks for the feedback so far,
Old 05-28-02, 09:40 PM
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a

Knew you could do it, more good news is this has nothing to do with the outlets being GFI or not, there is no reason to buy GFIs all you need to do is redo the way they terminate the wires on the outlet which is a very inexpensive but very important job, (as you have found).
Turn the power off again (ya,ya, resetting the clocks is a pain!)
and take the outlets out. test to make sure the power is off, and using a small screwdriver press in the slot in the back of outlet and at the same time pull the wire out, make note of each wire, the color, and where it terminated. Make a pigtail, which is for example on a simple outlet circuit, 1 black in, 1 black out, wire nut them together with a 6 " piece of black, (same AWG, type) which is the lead that will go to the outlet that is your pigtail.
Do the same for the whites, What you are after is to wrap the wire under the screws and tighten, 1 hot, 1 neutral,1ground to each outlet. Back stabbed wireing is junk the spring clip inside loses pressure and the wire comes out easily.It was made for low quality electricians to do a quick job and make money.

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Your question will be posted in: