finding a short in an electical run in the walls

Is there some sort of device that will let me follow the wiring path without ripping my walls and ceiling apart? I have a circuit that runs from the electric box into my garage to feed the garage door openers and then out to a detached garage. Some of the things on the circuit still work like the garage door openers in the main garage, but some do not like the a couple of the wall outlet in the main garage and nothing in the detached garage. Most of the outlets seem to terminate at the outlet but one or two (dead) continue on to other outlets, maybe feeding the other dead outlets.
All the working outlets that I have opened so far that I assumed would be most likely to be feeding some of the dead outlets terminate at the outlet and do not continue so these can't be the problem. All the outlets that are dead that continue on to other circuits do not see to have any juice coming in either even when I test the wires directly so it appears these outlets are not the problem either. There must be some junction box or something that I can't seem to find that has the short.
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No offense meant... but if you don't know the difference between a short and an open, and can't recognize that this situation is pretty obviously an open and not a short, and haven't thought to check for a tripped GFCI somewhere... you should not be attempting to fix this problem yourself. It's time to call a pro.
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Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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Great idea, I will call a pro just so he can tell me I mis-spoke and said short instead of open. Correcting me on that is worth the $350 alone.
No offense, but the last time a "pro" took on this circuit they did not seem to follow any logical method of stringing the outlets. Some terminate at the outlet while other's are in series. If the pro did the job right I would not have to figure out for myself where this wire was last joined in the circuit. This house is only 25 year old so there is no reason why this route should be a mystery so rather than compound the problem I thought I would try to take care of it myself seeing how my flat head screw driver can remove and replace an outlet just as good as the pro's.
wrote:

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1. You do not have a short. All electrical problems are not caused by a short-circuit or nothing on the circuit would work because your fuse or breaker would have tripped or the house would have burned down.
2. You have an open circuit. A gap or break in a wire or connection. Mark all outlets that do not work. Turn off the circuit and re-check for additional outlets that do not work. Your problem may be in one of them. It could also be in a junction box in the basement, crawl space or attic. Or you may have a hidden junction box that someone covered up illegally, making it impossible to locate. It takes work, there is no magical method. You can get signal tracers that help locate wires, but such a device may or may not work in your situation.

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news.lightship.net wrote:

Get yourself an RF tracer, inject the signal at a dead outlet and start tracing. If the house is only 25 years old chances are good the wiring is Romex and the RF signals won't be shielded by a metal jacket as with BX or EMT, so you should be able to follow the wiring's route.
Something like this:
http://www.gardnerbender.com/whats_new/products/wireTracker.html
Don't bitch about the price of these devices. If you're not willing to pay a *qualified* pro to solve your problem, and unwilling to buy the right tools, plus you prolly didn't bother to map every outlet to your panel's breakers when you moved into the house, then it's likely only dumb luck (and your screwdriver) will solve your problem.
Watch out for electric shocks, you sound like you're an overly sensitive guy already. :-)
Jeff
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Jeffry Wisnia

(W1BSV + Brass Rat \'57 EE)
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Thanks Jeff,
That worked perfectly and was exactly what I was looking for. I don't see how anyone can complain about spending the $38 buck on that when you can't get someone to come to your house for less that $75.
My breaker box does have all the areas of the house marked up on a list inside the box (Stove, Washer, Pump, Bedroom1, Bedroom 2, ect) by the supposed *qualified* pro which is why figuring out where this wire slipped off all that much more difficult. The ciruit went into the garage and fed both garage door openers, then for some reason there was a split that went up a flight to a socket in a room that already had a circuit feeding all the outlets except this one, then went back down into the garage to fed the rest. No rhyme or reason I could see for this.
Rather than count on *dumb luck* I prefer to do things right and ask the right questions rather than just wing it like this guy did. Now I have my circuit fixed in less than an hour and for $38 buck and own the tool incase I need to fix any other mistake this guy made.

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"news.lightship.net" wrote

Common practice to put lights and outlets in a room on different circuits, and to stagger adjacent rooms... circuit = lights in # 1 + outlets in # 2.
Plug something in and blow the fuse? No problem... the lights are still on, so you can see what you're doing. They probably had everything in that "up a flight" room together, blew the fuse, said "oops", and rewired it.
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news.lightship.net wrote:

Now "news" has learned from this mob, To find shoddy installs by some slob. Bad electrification, Like good fornication, Just needs the right tool for the job.
Jeff (Ducking...)
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Jeffry Wisnia

(W1BSV + Brass Rat \'57 EE)
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The wiring path that the electrician took to do this work may seem willy nilly to you, but when it was installed it likely made sense to the installer. There is no particular path one must take to daisy chain outlets, so it's generally done by the path of least resistance method. Since you say that the detached building is completely dead, I'd try to find the junction box where that line originates. You should be able to find a conduit where it enters the main building. Look for a nearby junction box and work backwards from there.

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I just install a new run of wire. Saves a lot of time.
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Impeach Bush ! a noble cause
Operation Iraqi Liberation = O.I.L.
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You could have a broken wire (a mouse could have chewed through it, that happened to me, or you hit it with a nail) or a hidden junction box could have lost a connection; but the odds are that the last good box in the circuit lost a wire or the first bad box did, or one of the outlets is a $0.65 special that has to be replaced. It is just a matter of trying everything. Don't try to find a "short" in the walls until you have exhausted the more likely problems.
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Toller wrote:
<snipped>

<snipped>
I've heard that before, but my own teeth feel funny from just thinking about chewing through 14 gauge copper.
Do mice or other rodents really sever the conductors, or do they just chew off the insulation and maybe thus create short circuits and maybe fires?
Jeff (Willing to be convinced.)
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Jeffry Wisnia

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Jeff Wisnia wrote:

...
Mostly the latter, but rats certainly are capable of chewing through copper relatively easily. Thing is, they don't really have much incentive to do so--where they really go after wire is where it is an obstruction to something they're more interested in---I've seen it in heavy screen over drains from grain bin floor drains, etc.
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Since the problem seems to involve the garage, there is a strong possibility that there is a GFI that has tripped somewhere. Do a careful inspection around the house to see if you can find one that has tripped. It used to be common practice to run a whole lot of different areas on a single GFI. .
If that is not it, then the next most likely culprit is a connection that was made using what is usually called back-stabbing. This is a shortcut technique that saves the installer a few minutes at each outlet. If you are not competent to open junction boxes and inspect and rectify this kind of problem, get competent help. A buddy who has had some experience or else pony up the money and call an electrician or a qualified handy man. Consider when doing this that the fault is probably at the last outlet that is working or the first one on the string that is not.
Charlie

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