Help me sort this one out, please ....!

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by leejosepho, Feb 20, 2012.

  1. leejosepho

    leejosepho DIY scratch-pad engineer

    All had been well since our service upgrade a few weeks ago, and I have not messed with anything since.

    About one week ago and right after I had gone to bed, my wife and I heard three or four buzzing sounds coming from our breaker panel in an adjoining bedroom, and then the 30A breaker for the underground subfeed out to my workshop (with its own panel) tripped. After resetting that breaker and nothing more happened, I just flipped it back off and let it be until beginning to check things out today. There had been no load or demand of any kind at the workshop when that breaker had buzzed a bit and then tripped.


    1) The subfeed's breaker had an ugly-looking terminal, and replacing that breaker with a new one made no difference.
    Note: I still had no lights working out in the workshop, and I did not think to check for power on the other incoming leg.
    2) I next disconnected the underground workshop-feed from its junction box on the outside of our house.
    3) Power coming out to that junction box is fine. (and breaker is now off again)
    4) My meter shows no short (no continuity) between the black and red wires going out to the workshop.
    5) I did not check either feed line for continuity against the white wire (neutral).
    6) With the underground red and black wires twisted and nutted together (at the house end), I get at least 1400 ohms resistance at the workshop end ... and that number climbs continually for as long as I hold my meter on the wire ends at workshop panel. (main-breaker terminals)
    7) Until today after digging it up, the first couple of house-end-feet of the underground wire to the workshop had been laying inside a rusty, water-filled conduit for a long time.
    8) I have yet to find any damaged insulation (jacket) on the underground feed wire going out to the workshop.

    My guess is that I am going to have to replace the underground wire going out, and I suspect that resistance I have found is coming some kind of compromise in either the black or red wire going out.

    Note: There was no rain or anything else going on at the time the subfeed wire apparently shorted somewhere underground and tripped its breaker.

    Am I missing anything here?!

    I thank you!

    PS: For anyone who might get a chuckle here, this all happened just an hour or so after my mother-in-law had passed away ... and then my wife actually said: "Oh oh, Dad's complaining again already!"
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2012
  2. ActionDave

    ActionDave Electrician


    I like your wife.
  3. leejosepho

    leejosepho DIY scratch-pad engineer

    I just remembered ...

    There is one place where the underground line *did* get a bit of slight damage on the outer covering while we were replacing the sewer line about two years ago. So, I plan to have a guy do the digging (I cannot do) to get to that spot and then clip the line and check it again. If the line is good from that point on back, I will next be asking about how to properly bury a splice or junction box or whatever.

    nick while
  4. leejosepho

    leejosepho DIY scratch-pad engineer

    I do not know what caused this problem, but I found it:


    So, what do I need to make a couple of splices I can bury?
  5. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    North Carolina
    I would recommend replacing the entire run and judging by what I see going deeper
  6. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Cave Creek, Arizona
    I doubt that you have access to the type of splice you would need to make it perfectly waterproof.
  7. leejosepho

    leejosepho DIY scratch-pad engineer

    One of my brothers has told me about someone getting a splice kit from a power company, and I might have a connection for finding out about that. I know where to get the kind of splice stuff used for submersible pumps, but I can also see how that is not the right stuff for a buried cable and/or for solid wires. Replacing the entire run would definitely be ideal, but the cost would not be justified for the small amount of use my workshop ever actually gets. So, we will see ... and I thank you.
  8. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    North Carolina
    What you are talking about is a splice kit for USE type of conductor and it will be nothing but a temporary fix for the TW conductors in the UF cable.

    The best and only true fix is to replace the UF cable for the entire circuit and get it deeper in the ground. The root systems that are visible in the posted picture will be nothing but problems.

  9. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    northfork, california
    You will do it again if you don't put new wire into conduit.
  10. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Houston, TX
    Something like this would work, But it is not cheap.

    It comes in Different sizes and Voltage ratings.

    You would be better off replacing the wire but it could be repaired.

    Conduit is Nice, I do not like unprotected wire and its best to be in Conduit.

    Sometimes you just need to Get-er done.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2012
  11. leejosepho

    leejosepho DIY scratch-pad engineer

    I sometimes swap favors with some folks I used to work for, and they have had three Ilsco DBK-1 "Direct Burial Slice Kit (Copper)" sent to me:

    I will be replacing the first 10 feet of the line at the house end since the copper is all black where the line had been laying in rusty water inside the old conduit running a couple of feet in the ground, and then I will be replacing about 8 feet of the line where the "burnout" had taken place. Total cost to me for this repair: less than 50 bucks.

    Whoever first buried this line had damaged about four feet of it in that area in my picture, and I will definitely be replacing the entire line (at a cost (just for materials) of likely close to $300.00) if this ever happens again.

    I thank you all!
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2012
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