Dead circuit, breakers all good

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I have lost an entire circuit - 6 dead outlets, 2 dead switches, all along one set of walls. All of the breakers are good, I even tested the wires coming out of the breakers to make sure they were hot (wife bought me a nifty no contact bells and whistles dvm :) ), and all it tells me is that all of the hot wires are really hot. There are no wires running to the area in the basement, and the attic is open and I don't see any wires there either. I'm not really sure where the circuit is fed from, and tearing out walls isn't an option. Any suggestions on how to find where the wire that feeds the circuit comes from? Are there any devices that can detect wires behind sheetrock, or otherwise allow you to trace wires without tearing the wall apart? This should not be difficult, but so far I've got a dead circuit and no idea where it gets fed from.
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Ook wrote:

sure, unhook it from the panel, get yourself a tone generator and probe, and knock yourself out.
nate
--
replace "roosters" with "cox" to reply.
http://members.cox.net/njnagel
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First thing I would do is recheck the wires at the breakers with a test lamp or any meter that you actually make contact with. Any tester that works off of an electrical field, may not work accurately inside of a panel. If indeed all breakers are good, check the outlets to see if its the hot or neutral that's dead, and then check connections at any working outlets or switches nearby the dead ones
"Ook" <Ook Don't send me any freakin' spam at zootal dot com delete the Don't send me any freakin' spam> wrote in message

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If it's no contact, then it's probably not accurate to use in the panel. It'll pickup a signal from the wire next to the dead one. Get a test light or make one. Or use an analog volt meter.
--
Steve Barker




"Ook" <Ook Don\'t send me any freakin\' spam at zootal dot com delete the
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On Thu, 1 Mar 2007 15:54:14 -0800, "Ook" <Ook Don't send me any freakin' spam at zootal dot com delete the Don't send me any freakin' spam> wrote:

If you have a circuit tester, what lights did you get?
tom @ www.Consolidated-Loans.info
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Ook wrote:

Actually, a good quality no-contact electric sensor will read behind sheetrock pretty well. At least my LiveWire GVD-505A does. I've used it a few times to trace wires through ceilings and walls.
You seem to have two possibilities: 1) the circuit is broken between the breaker and the first box where it branches out or 2) the circuit is broken in that first box itself.
In the first case you are going to have a nasty job ahead of you and will probably wind up tearing into walls and ceilings to fix it (or paying someone else to do it for you). Luckily, in my experience anyway, this is the less likely problem.
Virtually every time I check a problem like this it is a matter of a wire coming loose at the first outlet/switch before the dead section. This is often caused by the original installer using the back-stab connections which, true to their name, come back after a few years and stab you in the back. If it truly is the entire circuit which is dead I'd start looking in the box which is physically closest to the breaker as that is the most likely location since it usually results in shorter runs and makes the job cheaper.
Oh, and one other thing I just though of: if you have any GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupters) in your house, check each of them. I actually found a house once where someone looking for a convenient source of power tapped off of a GFCI in a bathroom and fed it to the lights and ceiling fans in two adjacent bedrooms. It took a lot of head scratching to finally figure out than a tripped GFCI killed the power.
--
John McGaw
[Knoxville, TN, USA]
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On Thu, 1 Mar 2007 15:54:14 -0800, "Ook" <Ook Don't send me any freakin' spam at zootal dot com delete the Don't send me any freakin' spam> wrote:

I don't understand the word "even". How else would you know the breakers are good without testing if the wires are hot? At least the breaker that feeds the dead outlets.

Hmmm. Just hold the probe by the plastic and don't stand so that you're about to fall into the box, and you can use a probe. If it wasn't hard to connect, I very well might take the black probe and use a wire with alligator clips on both ends and clip it to a neutral, while I was testing the hots. Make sure the dangling alligator clip/probe connection doesn't touch anything. You can wrap a paper napkin and a rubberband around it so it won't touch anything.

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Actually, I got out my old trusty analog meter, and manually tested every wire coming out of each breaker. I've been using meters for 25 years, and to this day I'll still take an analog meter over a digital one. It doesn't take much leakage to give a false reading on a digital meter with an extremely high input impedance. Anyhow, all of the wires coming out of each breaker are hot.
So, I went to a live outlet next to a dead one. Disturbingly, the live outlet shows about 30v between it's own neutral and ground. I didn't put a load on it to see what would happen.All of the grounds and neutral wires share a common buss at the breaker box. The ground wires in every box I've examined are just twisted together, no wire nuts, no screws, so it doesn't surprise me that by the time it gets to this outlet (on the far end of the house from the breaker box) the ground isn't really "ground" anymore. Anyhow, the dead outlet has 0v between it's hot and the neutral of the live outlet. I get 120v between the live hot and the neutral of the dead outlet.
I found a wire in the attic area that comes up out of the wall where one end of the chain of dead outlets are. And it vanishes into another wall that I don't have access to. I tested all outlets and switches nearby, all are good, no dead hot wires leading out of any of them. I guess I'll have to keep testing more and more outlets/switches from that point on...the bad spot has to be somewhere....the wire has to go somewhere.

Nothing. Poof, it went dead.

No idea. The breaker box isn't labeled, and the wiring is a rat's nest of wires running here and there and everywhere. This chain could be fed or feed from about half of the outlets in the house. I have no clue which breaker feeds the dead chain.

58 years However, it was completely rewired 8 years ago, and the breaker box was replaced. All outlets I've seen so far were screw terminals.
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It surprises me. Even if the grounds are just twisted together, there should be virtually no current flowing in the ground, so all grounds should be at the same potential. There probably *is* current flowing in neutral, but all the neutral connections should have some sort of pressure connection, so that should generate a few volts of drop at most. There's no way you should ever be able to get 30 V between ground and neutral in a properly-wired system.
Either you've got substantial current in the ground (which you can probably find by unplugging loads one by one) or you've got a bad connection in the neutral. Probably the latter. On the "live outlet", with 30 V between neutral and ground, what are the other two voltages? If hot-neutral is 90 V but hot-ground is 120, you've got a bad neutral connection. If hot-neutral is 120 V and hot-ground is 90, you've got ground current (and a bad connection in ground).

This suggests that the dead outlet hot is dead, which you'd already guessed. The dead outlet's neutral is still functioning.

Start taking off switch and outlet covers. Unless somebody has done something Really Bad and buried a junction box inside a wall, all of the interconnections in this branch circuit are inside boxes you can get to. The bad connection is almost certainly in one of them; you just need to figure out which one. It's likely the one closest to the breaker panel.

You can figure this out, given time. You can certainly figure out what breaker all of the non-dead outlets and light switches are on, and figure out approximately where every circuit runs in the house. Once done, which circuit(s) might the dead ones be connected to?
    Dave
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"Ook" <Ook Don't send me any freakin' spam at zootal dot com delete the Don't send me any freakin' spam> wrote in message

Shut off all the breakers but one and check which circuits are hot. Make your self a circuit map and this should give you some clue as to which breaker feeds which group of plugs. Continue until you know what goes where.
Also do not forget to look at wall switches, it is possible that one of them is feeding the chain and someone flicked the switch that doesn't turn on a light.
--
Roger Shoaf
If you are not part of the solution, you are not dissolved in the solvent.
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"Ook" <Ook Don't send me any freakin' spam at zootal dot com delete the Don't send me any freakin' spam> wrote in message

ground would tend to indicate this and you seem to have verified that all of the hot wires are intact and energized.
For best troubleshooting, get yourself one of the rubber bulb sockets with pigtailed leads. Install a bulb and use it to check what is hot and what is not. Just remember that a lit bulb requires a complete path, hot and neutral. You can test from hot to ground if you suspect that the hot is okay and the neutral is open.
There is some possibility that you may have a cable damaged by mice. I have seen them bare and with enough corrosion from hot to ground to trip a GFCI.
Don Young
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On Mar 1, 3:54 pm, "Ook" <Ook Don't send me any freakin' spam at zootal dot com delete the Don't send me any freakin' spam> wrote:

What was done or being done before this failure occurred?
Spontaneous failures are suspect.
Does the breaker that supplies this wall of outlets supply any other outlets that are still working?
How old is the house? What kind of outlets (backstab or screw terminals)?
I would suspect a bad connection somewhere in the daisy chain.
Loosen (slightly) & re-tighten the connections at the breakers....sometimes you get enough current to work the meter but not enough to drive a load.
Similar situation ocurred at a friend's house.......a bunch of bedroom outlets dead, no breakers triped.
I asked "what was everyone doing, what had they done before the failure".......daughter vacuumed her room.
Which outlet did she use? .......killed the circuit, removed outlet, backstabber! Used the side screws, re-installed.....re-set breaker
Everything worked
cheers Bob
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On Mar 1, 6:54 pm, "Ook" <Ook Don't send me any freakin' spam at zootal dot com delete the Don't send me any freakin' spam> wrote:

Try to pick the outlet that would be the closest to the panel. Pull it out and check there. If not, try your second guess. If you don't get it on the second try, I would try to find something closer before moving away.
A lot of the times when all the breakers are hot leaving the panel the first outlet that is dead is the cause. It is most likely a loose wire or a bad outlet.
Also, you can make sure the tester you are using is giving you a correct reading and not an induced reading by cutting off the breaker you are testing. I am guessing your tester is fine.
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send me any freakin' spam at zootal dot com delete the Don't send me any freakin' spam> wrote:

There's one other simple thing to check, while you have that panel open: make sure that all your *neutral* wires are secured into the neutral bus bar.
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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Ook <Ook Don't send me any freakin' spam at zootal dot com delete the Don't send me any freakin' spam> wrote:

I would remove the cover plate from the outlet that is the first one connected to the breaker box; if you're not sure which it is, just make a logical guess and check any that might be the first. It is much more likely that the fault is at a connection to an outlet or in a junction box than at some random point iside a wall or ceiling (Of course, that can happen too) Remove the outlet retaining screws from the box and _carefully_ pull the outlet out while it is still connected. If you are not comfortable doing this and don't know which breaker controls the outlet, you can shut off the main breaker or all breakers, then turn them back on after the outlet is accessible. Use your meter or tester to check for voltage at the outlet terminal screws. If the outlet is connected with "backstabbed" wires you've probably found the problem right there.
--
Make it as simple as possible, but no simpler.

Larry Wasserman - Baltimore Maryland - lwasserm(a)sdf.lonestar.org
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On Mar 1, 6:54 pm, "Ook" <Ook Don't send me any freakin' spam at zootal dot com delete the Don't send me any freakin' spam> wrote:

in buffalo ny: it's not a code requirement, but each switchplate and outlet cover plate needs a number corresponding to the number stamped into the metal of the panel by each circuit breaker. using a permanent marker is best. i have found odd low voltages of AC at steady and measurable volts but negligible amperage in our buildings in 2-wire old wiring, if measured to ground. sometimes motors or compressors have voltage leakage. melting snow can contribute causing wet wooden floors; that can provide odd paths for grounded BX. search carefully for voltage leaks when prowling wet or damp areas work with a helper. remember you can easily use a radio or two to make sound for a remote indicator when you are verifying circuit numbers. [use the kind that actually goes ON when plugged into a live outlet. ]
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Mystery solved. After spending HOURS AND HOURS remove every single miserable switch and outlet in the house, examining all of the wires, and finding nothing, I was seriously considering tearing the wall out to see where the wire went. So, I walked outside to cool off because it was warm in the house. I stood there, thinking, wondering what to do next. I turned around and faced the house, looking up at the top of the wall where I knew the dead wire dissappeared. I looked down...and there I saw, on the outside of the house, directly underneath where I knew the wire vanished into the wall, an outlet! Not only was it an outlet, but it was a GFCI that had tripped!
So, anyhow - the short of it is, someone had wired the circuit through this GFCI on the outside of the house such that when the GFCI tripped, it shut off the entire circuit. All of the outlets in the frontroom, and half the outlets in the master bedroom came through that GFCI. Ten days of hell because of this miserable GFCI on the outside of the house....
Oh, BTW, I also found that the other circuit in the bedroom did have a bad ground - totally unrelated to this problem, but nice to know. I also replaced two switches and rewired about a half a dozen outlets because they were backstabbers or just poorly wired - short wires, sloppy wiring, etc.
"Ook" <Ook Don't send me any freakin' spam at zootal dot com delete the Don't send me any freakin' spam> wrote in message

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Ook wrote:

Thanks for coming back with the explanation. Isn't troubleshooting fun??
-- bud--
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Yeaahhh...fun...LOL. But we are sooo glad it's over. What bugs me is that it was a fluke that I actually spotted the outlet. I'd feel real stupid if I had torn the wall out just to find that there was an outlet on the other side.
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On Sat, 10 Mar 2007 20:34:20 -0800, "Ook" <Ook Don't send me any freakin' spam at zootal dot com delete the Don't send me any freakin' spam> wrote:

I'd be seriously thinking about connecting the rest of the circuit to the line side of that gfi instead of the load side.
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