Circuit not working except for one outlet and breaker not tripped

sjpoolownerJune 22, 2011


This morning I found one of the outlets in the living room stopped working. The other outlets in the living room are working fine. Assuming that the failed outlet is on the same circuit as the other outlets, I concluded it as an outlet failure and replaced with a new one, but still not working.

Then I noticed that some of the lights are not working either and realized that the failed outlet in the living room is actually on a different circuit. On that circuit, I have

(1) one outlet in the living room

(2) front entry lights (one inside, one outside)

(3) guest bathroom lights, one GFCI outlet

(4) master bathroom GFCI outlet

(5) three outlets in the master bedroom

(6) one outlet in the guest bedroom

(The wiring is quite weird in this house)

I see two interesting things.

- everything listed above fails except for (6). (There is one outlet in (5) which is hidden behind a big piece of furniture, so I couldn't try it)

- the breaker for the circuit has never been tripped.

I reset the breaker for that circuit multiple times, but no changes. I haven't tried to shut down the whole house yet.

What could be potential causes and how can I fix? I am a real newbie in this area so I'd appreciate any help.

Thanks in advance.

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first, the fact that you replaced an outlet that was on an apparently unknown circuit underscores the importance of mapping all of the circuits in your house and always testing hot and neutral before touching them. if it had been a faulty outlet and you killed the power to the wrong circuit, it would have not been pleasant when you tried to replace the outlet.

the first thing that came to mind with your description is that the one functioning outlet is the last in the series and the wires on the "load" side (so to speak, even though it isn't GFCI) somehow disconnected or the outlet itself is bad. that means everything on the other side of it won't work.

just a thought. please don't touch any wires where there is a remote possibility that they are live. always test first.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 7:52AM
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Ron Natalie

There's no requirement that all outlets in the same room be on the same circuit and good reason why they shouldn't be. Further, you're right you have an older anything goes house. I suspect your house way predates GFCIs at all (those were someone's retrofit) based on your description of the circuit.

First, check all the other breakers to see if any others are tripped.
Then proceed as CIV points out above.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 8:26AM
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I would first check the GFCI receptacles on the citcuit to see if one is tripped.
If that is not it, you probably have a bad connection in one of the junction boxes. I would suspect receptacle #6 on your list, which is most likely the first device on that circuit. If that's not it, the fault is at the second device (hopefully, that's not behind the heavy furniture).
If you have 'back-stab' devices, they can have a bad internal connection with no external indication. I would replace these with back-wire or side-wire devices.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 10:57AM
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