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.
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
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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.
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.
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:
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. :-)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Jeff (Willing to be convinced.)
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.
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.
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