Electrical - What the F--K?

This is a real weird one !!!!
This is a farm. The power for the whole farm is from one pole and goes overhead to several different locations, except for the house which has the wire underground and is only 10ft. from the main pole. There are THREE overhead lines, one is the main from the transformer to the main pole. One is the one to the barn and several sheds, the third is to the garage.
The house power is fine, (underground feed). The second overhead goes to the barn, and that is fine. The third overhead to the garage is where there must be a problem.
Here is what I got, and this is very weird. I should mention that I have done wiring for years, and this one has me puzzled. This is not the first time this has happened. It happened twice during the summer, and each time I pulled the main 100A garage breaker and cleaned the contacts. The first time, just the main, the second time I thoroughly wire brushed every breaker and the contacts in the box.
Tonite it is real cold, and I go to the garage to cut a few furring strips for a project in the house. I start the circular saw, and the lights in the garage got real dim. The saw was so slow it barely cut the 1x2. That's when I first said "what the f--k". I stop the saw and the lights stay dim. I start the saw again, and it barely hums, and half the lights go out completely, while others are very dim, and yet a few look normal. I pull the cover off the panel and jiggle the main breaker and all the others. No change. I pull the main, clean the contacts and put it back, no change. I get my meter. I read 120V from neutral to one side of the line and ZERO V to the other side of the line. Yet I read 120V across both mains (that should be 240V). OK, I shut off the main 100A breaker and read 240V across the line. I flip the breaker back on and read 120V across the mains. I leave meter across the mains and as I flip off the small breakers, one by one, the voltage climbs, and gets to 240V when all of them are turned off. (Thats when I slapped myself in the face and yelled "WHAT THE F--K").
OK, I got to thinking that maybe the main breaker is bad, so I took out the main wires and screwed them into my 50A Welder breaker, totally bypassing the main breaker and using the 50A breaker as the main. I turn the power back on, and get the same readings across the mains. 240V with all the small breakers off, 120V with them on, and from neutral (or ground), I get ZERO V one one side, and 120V on the other.
Now, here is the real freak. I came in the house to use the toilet, and flushed it, not thinking that my 240V water pump is connected to the garage. As soon as the pump kicked in, the garage lights came back on, but some are still dim. The pump alwo worked. (How in the heck it works when there does not appear to be 240V in there is beyond me). So I go back to the garage, and just for the heck of it, I plug in my electric drill (just a small one). I start the drill, some lights get brighter, others get dimmer (all lights are on the same 15A breaker). I plug in my circular saw, and all the lights go completely out. OK, I turn on some water, the pump kicks in, and the lights come back on, but some are still dim.
I must admit, that in all my years of doing wiring, this is just plain bizarre, and makes no sense at all. I have a good ground rod on that garage, and I did bypass the ground to the neutral, which made no change. That tells me that the neutral overhead wire should be ok. I eliminated the main breaker, and still have the problem, so it's not the main breaker. All the contacts inside the box are one piece of thick copper, and all are clean. That eliminates the box entirely.
This leads me to believe that one of the hot leads is not intact in the overhead triplex, probably at a connection on one or the other end of the cable. However, I took a long board and made the wires sway, and nothing changed. However, at the same time, if either hot lead is not making a good connection, then how is the water pump working? And why are some lights dim and others bright, when they are all on the same 15A breaker.
I'm totally lost !!!! . . . . . HELP !!!!
Can anyone make sense of this?
All help appreciated !!! * ASAP * I got livestock and their electric fence is now off too....
Mark
PS. I have one idea, and I wonder if anyone has ever tried something like this. The run from the garage to the pole is about 100Ft. I happen to have at least 100Ft of 12-3 romes. I'm thinking of stringing it across the ground from the main pull out fuse panel on the main pole, and stringing it over to the garage, and one by one, starting with the neutral, using that cable to see which wire brings things back to normal. As long as my welder and air compressor are off, I probably never exceed 20A in there anyhow.
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On Wed, 01 Dec 2004 06:17:02 -0600, snipped-for-privacy@UNLISTED.com wrote:

UPDATE on this !!!!
I turned on a sink in the house so the pump kept running. I went in the garage, and some lights were dim. I plugged in my electric drill, and when I started it, some lights got dimmer, others brighter.
I took my roll of romex and ran it to the main pole, and just hooked the neutral on both ends. When I touched the neutral from the main box, thru that roll of wire, to the neutral in the garage, I got a good spark, and the lights went to normal brightness, and my saw and drill works again. That says there is a bad connection in the triplex neutral. That still does not explain why I was reading 120V across the (supposed to be) 240V mains.
However, this makes everything work normal, so I guess I climb poles today and check neutral connections. (That sucks, I hate going on poles with a ladder) !!!
Mark
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wrote: | | >This is a real weird one !!!! | > | >This is a farm. The power for the whole farm is from one pole and | | UPDATE on this !!!! | | I turned on a sink in the house so the pump kept running. I went in | the garage, and some lights were dim. I plugged in my electric drill, | and when I started it, some lights got dimmer, others brighter. | | I took my roll of romex and ran it to the main pole, and just hooked | the neutral on both ends. When I touched the neutral from the main | box, thru that roll of wire, to the neutral in the garage, I got a | good spark, and the lights went to normal brightness, and my saw and | drill works again. That says there is a bad connection in the triplex | neutral. That still does not explain why I was reading 120V across | the (supposed to be) 240V mains. | | However, this makes everything work normal, so I guess I climb poles | today and check neutral connections. | (That sucks, I hate going on poles with a ladder) !!! | | Mark
I sketched that out on paper, best as I could follow it, and it seems to make sense. Quick catch! Ice/water in the pole connects can cause strange things to happen, as can lightning-hit ground rods in cold weather. Are the loops hung properly? Might's well repo those since you have to go up there.
Pop
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Hi Pop Thanks for the reply. This seemed to be fixed in the summer, but I agree about the cold causing it. We are going from the 40s to the teens every day/night, and there is lots of ice around. From the ground, everything looks ok, but that dont mean there are not bad connections up there. One thing I noticed is that they apparently kept splicing and resplicing the neutral on the main pole, and there are short pieces spliced to more short pieces in the neutral. In other words a mess ! This used to be a large farm with all sorts of silo elevators and the like, which is why I have 400A service at the pole. I only use one of the 200A pullouts now, and that is more than I need. But I do suspect the problem is on the main pole, not the pole by the garage. The wire to the garage pole I connected myself about 3 years ago. That piece of triplex went to that pole for a building that is long gone, but I ran the triplex to the garage when I built it, and wired the whole garage. The mess on the main pole was mostly all there when I bought this place.
However, the story, nor the puzzle does not end here. When I went back to the garage after my last "update" messsage, I flipped off the 50A breaker, which I am presently using for a "main" (until I put the real one back). I had my piece of romex attached from the main pole to the garage, for a temporary neutral, and everything was working fine. I flipped off the breaker, planning to put the wires back on the "real main" breaker. Then I flipped it back on, because It was too dark to find my flashlight. When I flipped it back on, the overhead lights did not work, only my florescent fixture over the bench, Once again, I only had HALF of the 240V. So, I turn on the water, the pump kicks in, and the lights come back on....... I'll tell you, this one is almost spooky..... I'd normally suspect that one of the two main HOT wires are also making a poor connection, but then the pump would not work. I did meter it at the actual wires that come to the main breaker, and I read zero V to one side and 120V to the other (from neutral). After the pump kicks in, I got 240V across the mains again. HUH ??????
I have done wiring for years, not only my own, but I worked as a handyman for many years and wired a lot of stuff. I have never run across anything this strange or weird. I'm just glad it's my own place, and not a job for someone else. At least here I can rig things temporarily and screw around with it. Of course that still dont solve the puzzle behind this.
PS. At least with my 100ft piece of romex I got the livestock fencer working again.
Thanks
Mark
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snipped-for-privacy@UNLISTED.com wrote:

Somewhere in there, or in the stuff I trimmed off, you said some of the lights got brighter when you ran something. This is a classic symptom of a bad neutral connection at the pole. Some of the other stuff you said sounds like one of the hot wires also has a bad connection.
Check the connections at the pole and also where the triplex enters the garage.
Best regards, Bob
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zxcvbob wrote:

Maybe run a long extension cord from the house neutral out to the garage neutral and measure for differences between the neutrals?
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On Wed, 1 Dec 2004 11:50:56 -0500, "John Harlow"

Thats what I did with romex, and there was a huge difference.
I finally solved the problem too. The difference between that romex hooked to the main panel to the garage was extreme. I loaded the garage circuits by plugging in several electric space heaters. I could have welded off that piece of romex, hooked to the neutral. I then plugged in a trouble light and the bulb barely glowed orange. I laid it outside and went up on a ladder, and tool a long wooden pole and slammed it against all the triplex neutral connectors. Nothing happened on the main pole. I went to the garage pole, and still nothing happened, but when I made the wire sway that goes to the garage entrance head, the light would get a little brighter and dimmer. The place I least suspected were the connectors where the triplex connects to the garage entrance cables, that was the newest part of the wiring, and when I am on an 8 ft step ladder I am much more careful to securely tighten things than when I am 30ft in the air and a nervous wreck from being on a ladder agaisnt a round pole that keeps rocking.
However, I was real surprised to find that jiggling the neutral at the entrance head made a big difference. Thats when I got a vice grip and clamped it down across the taped split bolt. The light came up to full brightness. I disassembled the joint, and found it full of ice. along with corrosion. I shut off the power again, took that connection apart, thoroughly cleaned the cables with a wire brush and used a NEW split bolt. I turned the power back on, and everything was back to normal, with no voltage across the romex from the main panel.
So much for that, but for the heck of it, I started messing around with the hot leads when the power was back on. Sure enough, one of them is loose too.
I just tightened that one for now. I got to find out what kind of split bolts are SUPPOSED to be used on there. I originally used some old used ones. I dont know what they were intended for (copper or aluminum), (first mistake). They were not the cleanest when I used them, so they probably had a little resistance already (second mistake). I also taped the neutral connection, even though I know it's not needed on the neutral (third mistake, because the tape just holds the water in there). And, these wires enter right where all the water runs off roof (fourth mistake).
So, the plan is to replace all the split bolts with the correct type that are made for both copper and aluminum (entrance wires are copper, triplex is alum). The only problem is that I am not sure what kind, since I have seen and boughten silver and copper colored ones, but which are made for BOTH types of wire???? I will not tape the neutral this time, and lastly, I plan to put a short piece of scrap rain gutter above those wires, so the water dont pour directly on them.
If anyone can help with these split bolts, please do. Although I have done lots of wiring, I have not done much with triplex installations. What kind of split bolt is for a combination of both copper and alum wire????
If I recall, isn't there some sort of liquid anti-corrosion goop that I could buy for this too? (assuming it goes on before the tape).
Final note: Doing all of this caused 2 lightbulbs to burn out in the garage. Thats 2 out of 7. I already know it was because there was a higher than normal voltage when that neutral was loose. However, an interesting note. Only the lowest wattage bulbs burned out.... (I'm not sure why).
Sigh !!!! I'm not complaining...... At least I didn't have to go up on the poles !!!!
Mark
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wrote:
snipped

Split bolts were never made for permanent installations in my opinion. I know the utilities use them but that is medium voltage and they are designed to be exposed. You need an crimper, T&B 3 or 5 crimper will do the job. Around here the electrical wholesalers rent hydraulic crimpers by the day if you buy the crimps from them. Lots of crimps are rated for AL-CU conductors. You could use butt or "C"crimps for you application. There are also plastic snap on sleeves that will protect the joint from the weather if you care to buy them. Stay away from the box stores and go to an electrical wholesaler to look on line at WW Grainger.
By the way your practice of using an wire brush can be harmful. We use Scotch brand scrubbing pads for removal of corrosion. Wire brushes when improperly used create groves in the metal which just corrodes faster. Grease or No-Alox will help when properly applied.
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wrote:

I'd much rather use the crimp ons, but this is farm country. I just had to drive 60 miles each way to the nearest city, to get the split bolts, Around here we're lucky to be able to buy some common wirenuts, and then they charge 89cents each for them. I managed to find some of the CU/AL split bolts, and also got some of that no-ox goop. I never knew that about the wire brush. Good to know.
Everything is still working in the garage, and I loaded it down hard. Four 1500W electric space heaters, Three 1000W livestock tank heaters, the welder, air compressor, electric saw and drill, table saw, radio, and all the lights at once. I estimated around 10,000 watts at once. No dimming at all. Either way, tomorrow I rip off all the split bolts, clean the wire, goop em up, and replace with the new split bolts. I just hope no critters decide to play tightrope walker over night. There is no tape on the connections right now. That could be rather dangerous to them :)
Thanks to everyone that helped.
This was a real learning experience !!!!
It could have been worse though, 26deg. was cold enough, it could have been below zero. I had already considered stringing romex thru the trees to the garage, until spring, because there is no way I will go on a ladder against a pole when there is snow on the ground. It's bad enough in the warm weather, because ladders just are not designed to stay against a round pole without slipping around, and 28 or 30 feet is already 10 ft. higher than I like to go on a ladder.
Mark
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Mark There are brackets available for extension ladders that are made to use on poles. If you have to do your own overhead maintanance it might be worth the cost. You can see these at http://www.louisvilleladder.com/accessories.html -- Tom H
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wrote:

Hey, I like that !!!! Never knew there was such a thing.
Thanks
Mark
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snipped-for-privacy@UNLISTED.com wrote:

They are marked "AL9CU" (or AL7CU, I think), and can be made of solid aluminum plated with something silvery, or heavily tin-plated copper. There is a separator that floats in the slot so the copper and aluminum wires don't touch each other. Use a wire brush or emory cloth to remove the oxide from the aluminum wire, and quickly coat it with one of those black goopy deoxidizer pastes. With the insulated aluminum wires, it's probably better to strip a fresh end and not brush it. Assemble the connection and wrap it with a bunch of friction tape.
I took some connections apart last year that had been assembled for 10 or 11 years, and the wire ends and the connectors that were gooped and taped still looked new. The messenger wire was also clamped the same way but not taped, and it was a b! to get the connectors off because they were corroded. I cut one of them out because it was too tough to break loose while on a ladder 20 feet up in the air. But even the corroded connectors still were making a good electrical connection because the wires and the bolt were not corroded where they made contact.
Best regards, Bob
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<snip>
Back when I was building 500kv power lines, we would use grease at all connections and crimps.
http://www.bunchobikes.com/lineman3.jpg
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On 01 Dec 2004 15:14:24 EST, Mark and Kim Smith

Just regular grease. like from a grease gun?
Cool picture, but you'd not get me up there.... At least not sober :)
Mark
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snipped-for-privacy@UNLISTED.com wrote:

Yup! Chevron EPII, if I remember correctly. Or some similar chassis grease.
Half the time, some of those guys were drunk! Once you got past about 40-50', it didn't matter. The damage would be the same from any height. At least we had step bolts all the way up. What I didn't like was climbing wood poles! 100' up and the only thing keeping you up there is your hands ( or belt ) and 1/8" of your gaff in the wood! That never set well with me! Plus, the poles we had were everybody else's trash!
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On 02 Dec 2004 14:47:04 EST, Mark and Kim Smith

I'd HAVE to be drunk to go up there........ REAL DRUNK <lol>.
I can relate to the wood poles, and 100' is hard to imagine, when I have trouble with 28'.
That reminds me. I went to town today and saw something that shocked me. This utility worker, or whatever he was, had about a 40' fibergalss ladder against a wire and he was on top. NO, not against the POLE, AGAINST THE WIRE, midway between the poles. I actually stopped my car and pulled over to get another look. It was windy too, and the wire and ladder were swaying. I dont know what to say, except "what and idiot"......
Mark
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wrote:

<snip>
Its like riding a horse. As long as both ends of the ladder are attached to *something* it doesn't matter how much it wiggles as long as you can hold on! My first few trips up a long aluminum extension ladder caused bruises on my shins from hugging the ladder. I got used to it moving around after a while and just rode it after that. But you always got to be sure that neither end can slip off! -Dan
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I'd rather ride the horse <LOL> !!!!!!!!!!
I can relate to the bruises. I start getting numbness in my arms and legs from being stressed and locked in position when I am up on a pole. It's the fact that a ladder follows the contour of the pole, and could slip that bothers me most. I had it happen once, and I fell. Fortunately I was only 8 feet high at the time and only got bruised when I fell in between the rungs and had one leg under the ladder with the rest of myself ontop pushing against that leg. OUCH !
I did contact that company yesterday for ladder accessories !!!! I like that idea !
Thanks
Mark
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Snippage,.................lots of snippage.8<
last summer I had a similar issue where I would run one 240, and everything would be fine, but when that wasn't working, I had about a half a house of power and somthings would cut on and off and wierd stuff like that.................very similar to the original post............just strange happenings that made sense to fix in a similar way....................it would be fixed for a couple of months sometimes and then re-appear..............drove me nuts till it finally became a permanent outtage.
Turned out to be a bad transformer on the pole.................
This might be the problem wher you are too.
hope this helps.
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