One circuit went out

At least I think that's what happened.
Several outlets stopped working. I flipped the relevant switch on the breaker box but it didn't help.
This is the first time I've confronted such a problem. Any explanation of why a given circuit would just poop out? Inquiring minds...
I haven't called an electrician yet, being very low in the $$, so have made adjustments using other outlets (Yes, I'm being careful and No, I'm not overloading.)
The dead circuit includes 4 outlets.
Any estimate what such a repair might cost, based on So. Calif prices?
TIA
Hypatia
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On Fri, 7 Aug 2009 21:54:11 -0700 (PDT), Higgs Boson

Make sure you don't have any GFCIs tripped. They are usually located outside or in the bathrooms.
If you want to avoid an electrician, you can use a voltage tester and pull out the dead outlets and inspect them.
A loose connection on the outlets can be obvious if you take them out and look at them.
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Yeah I had an outdoor GFCI outlet that was wired into my bedroom and part of my living room that caused me some grief. I rewired it so the GFCI portion only effected the one outlet.
Jimmie
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How do I know if I have a GFCI outlet on that circuit? (You're talkin' to a greenie...<g>)
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Higgs Boson wrote:

Look for an outlet with a push button and (often) red/green lights. Like this:
http://www.howstuffworks.com/question117.htm
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More likely part of one circuit went out. The wiring is daisy chained between the outlets and lights, so it's most likely a bad connection at one of the devices. If you find which other outlets on that same circuit are still live, then try to determine the wiring path, you will probably find the problem at the last live outlet, or the first dead outlet. This should be fairly easy for an electrician to find, and probably only cost whatever they get for a service charge
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NO outlets on that circuit are live. I tested them all.
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NO outlets on that circuit are live. I tested them all.
It is very unlikely that an entire circuit is feeding just four outlets. There are undoubtedly other outlets on the same circuit that you are unaware of.
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Options come to mind:
* Bad circuit breaker, not delivering power. * Dirty contact between breaker, and the bar that supplies power. * Bad connection at one of the outlets, so the power goes as far as a particular outlet, but no farther * Broken wire, along the way * Bad connection at the neutral bar
--
Christopher A. Young
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On Aug 8, 5:05am, "Stormin Mormon"

Just to push this a little; which is the most likely candidate to go bad out of the blue after decades of problem-free operation in a mild environment?
TIA
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Higgs Boson wrote:

That would be: "* Bad connection at one of the outlets, so the power goes as far as a particular outlet, but no farther"
This is a classical symptom of a failed 'push on' connection at the back of a 'daisy chained' outlet. Obviously, please be extremely careful and work safely.
Set your multimeter to 'AC Volts'. If it does not autorange, set it's range at 300V or more.
Open your breaker panel and confirm that each breaker is supplying nominal voltage to it's connected wire.
Rig an extension cord from a 'known good' outlet over to the location of your broken outlets.
Confirm that you see about 120V when measuring between 'hot' and 'neutral' on the extension cord.
Measure between neutral on the extension cord and the hot side of the broken outlets. You will see one of two things.
Low voltage. Like 3V - 40V or so. Open 'hot' side, probably. Confirm this by measuring from the 'neutral' side of the broken outlet to the 'hot' side of the extension cord. If you now get nominal voltage, you probably have an open 'hot' on the broken outlets.
Nominal voltage. Like 120 V or so. Open 'neutral' side, probably. Confirm this by measuring from the 'neutral' side of the broken outlet and the 'hot' side of the extension cord. If you see low voltage, you probably have an open 'neutral' in the broken outlet string.
In either case, you get to find the first outlet in the chain that connects to the circuit breaker.
Turn off the main breaker before opening the outlet boxes for inspection. Any outlets that use the 'push on' connections in the back should be replaced so that the wires wrap around and are secured by the screws in the side of the outlet. Wrap the wires so that they grip the screw threads as you tighten the screw.
Plug in a known-good table lamp into the broken outlet and turn on the main breaker. If the lamp goes on, you can turn off the breaker and button things up. If the lamp does not turn on, you can turn off the breaker and call an electrician.
Tell her the symptom and everything you've done. She will probably turn off the main breaker and do resistance tests from outlet to outlet and from outlet to breaker.
It'll be right either way, eventually!
:)
--Winston
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Higgs Boson wrote:

This is a common situation and is easy to fix if your hand fits a screwdriver.
In addition to the other observations, this is most often caused by "push-in" or "stab" connectors on the outlets. These are the kind where a stripped wire is pushed into a hole on the back of the outlet and is grabbed by spring-type internal contacts. This type of connection is most often used by installers who want to save time, but this type of connection is also most troublesome (compared to screw-down connections).
Anyway, the bad stab-in connection most likely exists at the last good outlet in the chain or the first bad outlet.
The fix is simple: Remove the wires from the push-in contact holes and move them to the screw-down connections on the side.
Getting the wires OUT of the push-in holes requires an itty-bitty screwdriver (or similar) to stick in a slot next to the hole. This action loosen the internal wire-grabber thingy.
The whole thing is really pretty easy (a 3 on a 1-to-10 scale). If you need any more help, don't hesitate to ask.
P.S. My neighbor had exactly the same thing happen four years ago. ARS charged her $80 for a service call and no parts.
P.P.S. If you're uncomfortable fiddling with electricity, there should be a handyman neighbor that would be glad to fix it in return for a plate of cookies or a six-pack.
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Uncomfortable? Yeah...I am still embarrassed over an outlet I thought I fixed properly (followed directions exactly on paper enclosed), but it gave trouble every time somebody pushed their bed against plug in that outlet. Finally had to call electrician to fix it. He said I made an unsafe installation. Couldn't argue with him, though I repeated that I followed directions exactly. So no, not eager to tackle what sounds like a more complex problem, involving 4 outlets on same circuit.
I kinda doubt if the problem is a "push-in" outlet. This circuit has been quietly operating for literally decades, giving no trouble at all.
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Higgs Boson wrote:

That's common with push-in connections.
Stab connections are not like wine, more like a tuna salad at the Fourth of July softball picnic.
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HeyBub wrote:
(...)

Nicely put!
--Winston
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Double check gfi's. I found one on my front stoup that killed half bath & dining room .Found out neighbor was plugging his mower in my out side outlet. Drunk bastard ran his cord over and couldn't figure out why his mower stopped ,dumb ass hole. Took me a week to find the problem. And I also found a gfi in my basement that kills my garage. SO !!GOOD HUNTING
Jerry
http://community.webtv.net/awoodbutcher/MyWoodWorkingPage
http://community.webtv.net/awoodbutcher/1974RuppCentair
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Stealing electricity, too. Did you wire the socket for 220 VAC, and then act puzzled when his mower blew up in a cloud of smoke?
--
Christopher A. Young
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I don't think you ever said where the non-working outlets are located. For example, are some or all of them located in or near a kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room?
Did you look to see if any of them look like the picture that HeyBub provided through the link at: http://www.howstuffworks.com/question117.htm ?
Did you check ALL of the other outlets and lights (other than the 4 non-working ones) with the circuit breaker off to see if anything else goes off when the circuit breaker is off?
Since you are a "greenie" (in your words), and seem to be very unsure about doing any electrical work on your own, it may not be a good idea for you to open up the electrical panel box. But, if you know someone who is comfortable doing that, maybe he/she could open the box, take out the "Problem" breaker, and then replace it with one of the onther breakers in the box. If that fixes the problem, you may just have a bad circuit breaker.
Higgs Boson wrote:

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