Electrical Outlet Problem

In a 15-year old house we bought a few years ago, we've just developed an electrical problem that didn't exist this morning. One 20-amp circuit breaker feeds seven duplex outlets along an outside back wall (3 outlets), around a sidewall (2 outlets) and up the front wall of the house (the final 2 outlets). All outlets are installed within sheet-rocked walls. When we got home tonight, we found that the last four duplex outlets appeared to have no power although the first three duplex outlets in the run continued to have power and function OK.
Using a power/polarity tester with three indicator lights, I was able to see that the first three outlets in the run showed correct wiring with power. The last four outlets showed a "hot ground reverse". I reasoned that one of the four outlets that tested with the "hot ground reverse" must have failed internally. I turned off the power to the circuit and began removing the outlet covers and hold down screws, pulling each outlet out of its box to first check to see if the wiring was correct and intact. I found that each outlet was wired correctly with nothing appearing to be wrong with the outlets themselves.
I decided to see if simply removing each duplex outlet from its box had changed/disturbed anything. I retested with the power/polarity checker. What I found this time was that outlets 4, 5 and 6 in the run now tested as an "open neutral". Outlet 7 in the run showed absolutely no power at all. I replaced duplex outlet 7 with a new outlet and retested but still found no power at all in it, while outlets 6, 5, and 4 continued to show an "open neutral". The reason I started with outlet 7 is because it is the end outlet in the run with only a black, white and ground wire connected to it, making it simpler to work on. Each of the other outlets have two sets of black, white and ground wires running into them.
I have no idea if there are any junction boxes behind the sheetrock. Before I simply replace the remaining outlets (difficult to get at in view of placement), I wonder if anyone can offer me ideas about what may be wrong. I 've turned off that particular circuit breaker for safety.
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Obviously you have a problem between outlet3 and outlet4. First make sure there is nothing else between o3 and o4 by turning the breaker off and checking all outlets and lights in the area. Then: Make certain all wires are tight on o3 and o4 Check voltage from hot-neutral, hot-neutral, neutral-ground at the terminals on o3 and 04; preferrably with a volt meter, but a simple light will do. If normal, then replace o4. If abnormal let me know what you see.
Or, simply replace outlet 4, since it is almost probably a bad outlets or bad connections at o4 and replacing the outlet will fix both.
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hot ground reverse reading on one of those outlet testers is usually a false reading, it is really an open neturel. probley nothing wrong with the outlet(s) itself. How are the outlets wired? Are they wired to the screws, or are they shoved in the holes in the back where the spring clips hold the wire? If the latter, move all wires in all outlets to the screws . Are there "pig tails" with wire connectors feeding the outlets down the line? If so look for a bad connection at one of the netural wires , most likley at the 3rd(working) or 4th(not working) Outlet. HTH Tony D.

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If I may add onto Tony's post... I hope you don't mind Tony...
If the wires already go to the screws you should closely examine the outlets. There is a small metal tab that connects the top and bottom screw on each side of the outlet. Make sure these tabs are still in place and not fractured or missing. Also, would any of the outlets happen to be a G.F.C.I, that is a Ground Fault Circuit Interruppter? These outlets are required near potential sources of water. They have a test and reset button right on the face of the plug. Do you have any of these on this circuit?
Grim
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If the wires already go to the screws you should closely examine the outlets. There is a small metal tab that connects the top and bottom screw on each side of the outlet. Make sure these tabs are still in place and not fractured or missing.
Good point, That would open the circuit between the incoming and outgoing power.
Thanks, Tony D
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Anthony Diodati wrote:

I'm hard pressed to imagine how that could happen all by itself if the outlets were all working fine for a while. It takes a fair amount of twisting an bending to bust those connections out when you *want* to.
Jeff
--
Jeff Wisnia (W1BSV + Brass Rat '57 EE)

"If you can smile when things are going wrong, you've thought of someone to
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Disagree. Every time I've seen one of those indicate a hot-ground reversal, it was telling the truth.
-- Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
How come we choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
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false
> Disagree. Every time I've seen one of those indicate a hot-ground reversal, it

Could have very well been in your experience. My reasoning was that this was not a new install, and the outlets should have not just reversed there wiring on there own. Guess we'll have to see what the OP comes up with. Thanks, Tony D.
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No reason to think that they did, or that anyone was suggesting it. It's probably been like that for years. Nobody knew, because nobody bothered testing them until there was a problem.
-- Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
How come we choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
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Yes but the OP said that the outlets didn't work. A hot/neutral reversal might be dangerous, but it would stop the outlet from working. On the other hand, an open neutral would.
--
Peace,
BobJ

"Anthony Diodati" < snipped-for-privacy@cs.com> wrote in message
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You mean, "would _not_ stop the outlet from working".
-- Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
How come we choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
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Yes, what you wrote. Thanks for the correction.
--
Peace,
BobJ

"Doug Miller" < snipped-for-privacy@milmac.com> wrote in message
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olryfarr wrote:

You started the test on the wrong box, if 1,2,and 3 work and 4, 5, 6, and 7 don't, then you should first make sure that the line that continues from 3 is ok. So open box 3 and look at the wiring, you may find your problem there.
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Thanks to all for the answers. I dug into problem and went back to the first outlet in the series to show a problem. I removed and replaced it only to find that the problem still existed. Next, I removed the outlet just before the one I replaced and found that the neutral wire had come loose from the "back stabbed" hole and was intermittently connecting causing the problem to appear and disappear. I learned from the Handymanwire site that "back stabbed" outlets are frequently unreliable and that I should check all outlets in the circuit. WhenI replaced the outlet in which the neutral wire had come loose, the problem went away and power was restored.
Re the "hot ground reverse", I learned the following at the Handymanwire site: An open neutral will show up as a 'hot ground reverse', IF something is turned on or plugged in somewher on this circuit and back feeding.
The false indication went away when that device was unplugged the cord plugs from those receptacles prior to opening things up.
Here is the URL for Handymanwire: http://www.handymanwire.com/ubbthreads/ubbthreads.php?Cat Thanks again for the help and Happy New Year. -Paul

final
got
no
see
of
failed
What
outlet
making
Before
I
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to
wire
$1 dollar to Tony D... 8-)
Grim
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LOL Ok , Send to; 95 Hubbard Rd, Apt 0 WhXXXXX XX, 26XXX
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