Outlets stopped working

arkie62May 17, 2011

Two outlets on a circuit with other outlets and some overhead lights just quit working after 6 years. The circuit breaker is good and occasionally I'll get a reading of 120v on both, but as soon as a load is applied to either of the outlets they go dead. I've replaced both outlets with new ones and it has had no effect on the situation. The one outlet feeds off the other, but even if I leave the slave unhooked it makes no difference. I'm no pro when it comes to electricity, but this has me totally baffled. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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It's probably a bad connection at the device, on the same circuit, before the inoperative ones. Perhaps a loose wire nut or screw.
If you have the type of devices where the wires are inserted in the back and held by a spring-loaded clip rather than a screw (called back-stab devices), these are notoriously failure-prone, resulting in bad connections, and I recommend replacing them all.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2011 at 10:03PM
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Ron Natalie

I agree with Randy. I'd check the connections on the devices that aren't working and then on the ones that are (starting with the one that appears closest to where you are).

The 120V reading on the nonfunctional circuit is a phantom. Your meter is very high impedance (it only draws microamps) and is picking up induced currents in the run of disconnected wire there.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 5:53AM
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"The circuit breaker is good and occasionally I'll get a reading of 120v on both..."

You need to be aware of the shrotcomongs of the differnt meter & measuring devices.

Digital meters put such a small load on the circuit they are prone to 'phantom' voltages.
The 'non-cpmtact' type probes (light sup when voltage near) are also prone to this.

Zolder analaog meters are generally the most reliable, though they often lack the bells and whistles of nwere digital meters.

One thing that often works well is to place a load from a light bulb on the circuit, THEN measure.
The bulb provides a low enough impedance that phantom voltages are 'bled off' and will no longer affect the reading.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 10:27AM
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Weird, just another example of a novice not reading the instructions. I had replaced the first device in line, (obviously an old device gone bad, with a GFCI. Didn't pay attention to the fact that it needed to be wired in a specific manner. After much gnashing of teeth and trying everything I could think of, I finally read up on the GFCI device and after finding the hot wires with a homemade light bulb tester as brickeyee suggested, I have everything working again. Lesson learned. Thanks to all of you.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 9:07PM
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Ron Natalie

Oh, an another example of not giving us all the information. If you had told us you had been playing with the wiring we might have given you more direct instructions. Always best to confess your sins either here or to the electrician you call in for help.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 9:42AM
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How do you think I would replace the outlets if I hadn't been "playing" with the wiring. Confess my sins? Learn to read...

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 2:53PM
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Replacing outlets does not imply "playing" with the wiring. It is quite common to replace outlets without changing any wiring whatsoever.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 7:48PM
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Ron Natalie

He said he outlets "suddenly" stopped working. He mentions he replaced the outlets but that was in the course of "trouble shooting" the failure. He later says that he miswired a GFCI which caused the failure. So the failure didn't suddenly occur, it occured subsequently to him doing improper wiring work.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 10:00PM
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"and now you know the rest of the story."

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 9:16AM
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