Two Lights Out Trying to Solve Problem


Old 09-19-19, 05:45 PM
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Two Lights Out Trying to Solve Problem

So, I have a hallway light and a bathroom light both out that are on separate switches. The circuit breaker is not tripped. Other lights and one outlet on the same circuit appear to be working fine, There are no GFCI outlets on the circuit. I went to the switch box with a non contact tester and it registers voltage when the circuit breaker is on but not off. However, if I touch with a contact tester (hot: neutral, hot: metal box, neutral: metal box all tried) I get no current detected. Would this mean a neutral wire is loose somewhere? I also checked the only box I can see on this circuit in the basement, and at least with a non contact tester all wires seem to have voltage. I am not sure because of wires behind the wall exactly where the wires to these specific switches are coming off from, only have some idea of possibilities.
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Old 09-19-19, 06:08 PM
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A noncontact tester is only good for a quick check for voltage in a box. It is not good for real troubleshooting. Als a noncontact test does not detect current, only voltage.

What you need to do is get a multimeter. A cheap analog will do just fine. Then you set it for 120 volts or higher and start measuring from hot to ground and hot to neutral at the switch(s) and light(s) and see where you have voltage. Since the noncontact tester beeps I do suspect you have an open neutral.
Old 09-20-19, 05:11 AM
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Tolyn, since the op stated the remainder of the circuit containing the 2 problem lights are operational, the problem is local to the 2 problem lights. Not knowing how the 2 lights are wired, my guess is they lack 120vac and/or neutral. Agree with your suggestion to check for voltage with a analog meter. Also curious about your comment regards the noncontact tester beeping since my copy of the original post doesn't mention any beeping. Mine indicates it was posted yesterday at 7:45 PM.
Old 09-20-19, 05:57 AM
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Thanks for your help. You are correct it was local. After scratching my head for a week about this I finally found it. I overlooked a switch in the adjoining room that was also on the circuit. It was very dusty. I cleaned it out and tightened the white wire and the lights are now working. I have a feeling this set up was not done properly by someone in the past (older home, built in 1950s) as there is only one black wire coming into this switch and a white wire coming out the other side. This isn't the only funny thing I found as I originally just tried to change the two problem switches out and found one of them with two black wires on it which I subsequently pig tailed. The loose one I found controls a ceiling fan and is kind of a hard click switch so that is probably why it came loose. Think it will be a real headache to try and rewire if it is wired wrong. That might have been why I was picking up voltage with the non contact tester. Been there for many years like that though.
Old 09-20-19, 07:03 AM
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there is only one black wire coming into this switch and a white wire coming out the other side.
Totally normal. This is a switch loop where the power is at the fixture. This should not have affected your other lights unless this switch also controls them.
Old 09-20-19, 07:25 AM
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It did affect them for some reason even though the other lights have separate switches and aren't controlled by this one. They must be joined up somewhere, maybe in the fixture after reading what you wrote. It's good though if this is normal.

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