Outlets stopped working

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by artmg, Dec 9, 2009.

  1. artmg

    artmg New Member

    Messages:
    12
    Six of my outlets suddenly stopped working along with a ceiling light. I checked the circuit breakers; shut them all off and turned them all on and all of them were fine. I took the panel door off and checked them all with a multi meter and all checked out 120 volts. I took each plug out of the wall and wiggled it to see if any cables were loose. In desperation I checked each hot wire and neutral for continuity by attaching an alligator clip to one of the dead outlets and working my way around the room first checking the hot then switching the alligator clip to the neutral. Thinking that if a cable were broken that I wouldn’t have continuity but I did. I’m not sure if that test even makes sense. I even tried a circuit breaker tracer but it wouldn’t work because each plug was dead. If I knew which breaker controlled the circuit I could shut it down and see what else went off. I'm guessing that there is a loose connection at the beginning of the circuit but I don’t know where this is. I have no idea where to go from here. Any help would be appreciated.
  2. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,348
    Location:
    New England
    Search around for a GFCI outlet and see if it is tripped. It could be buried somewhere. Are these in say the basement or garage? If so, they probably have a GFCI at the beginning of the circuit. WHen you use the load output of a GFCI, anything connected downstream from it is also protected, so if it trips, a lot of things could lose power.

    If not, and it may take some searching to find it, then determining the first thing in the string is usually the one closest to the power panel. Not always, but often.
  3. artmg

    artmg New Member

    Messages:
    12
    The outlets are on the first floor. There isn't a GFI anywhere in the house. It's tough to say which is closer to the breaker box however the last one on the wall has a black red and white wire if this means anything. It isn't attached to a switch.
  4. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,348
    Location:
    New England
    IF you are absolutely certain someone didn't install a GFCI somewhere, and you have power out of the CB at the panel, then you just have to start searching around to find the loose or broken wire connection.

    A 3/wire circuit could mean you have a shared neutral circuit. Did you happen to move a breaker in the panel? With a shared neutral circuit, each hot leg must come off of a different feed at the panel, or things won't work properly.

    The third wire may be used for a 3-way switch connection, otherwise (and likely if that red doesn't make a connection at the panel).

    The most likely places are if the power leads were used in a push-in connection in the back of a switch or receptacle...those are notorious for giving weird problems when they get old.

    The hassle you'll have is that there may be more things on the circuit that doesn't work, and the problem is in that box...it just may not be feeding power through, but working there.

    If your breakers are labeled, and you can find something that still works for the area you have problems, start there.
  5. artmg

    artmg New Member

    Messages:
    12
    There is a switch that has the lines pushed in through the back I'll check them. Would a tone generator help any? I'm thinking that if I put a tone through one of the dead outlets that would work it's away around and may end up at an outlet in another room that's working and on the same circuit. Or at least show up at the breaker box.
  6. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,348
    Location:
    New England
    Might work...I don't know enough about them to say one way or the other.
  7. drick

    drick In the Trades

    Messages:
    392
    A tone generator may work. Turn off all the circuits that the dead outlets *might* be on. If its a loose/broken wire and you bump the offending device and make a momentary connection to 120V the tone generator could be damaged.

    -rick
  8. artmg

    artmg New Member

    Messages:
    12
    Thanks for all the help I'll start over and see what I find, Once I get things working I'm going to map out every outlet and switch so if it happens again I'll know where to start sear ching.
  9. Alectrician

    Alectrician DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    689
    80% of the time it's a failed connection at a receptacle. Since the power goes in and out of most receps, a bad connection on the outgoing wires will kill the rest of the circuit.

    Look in the last working receptacle. You will have to use some logic and guesswork here.

    Also, you circuit MAY run thru the ceiling light boxes (I hate when they do thet).
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