Part of electrical circuit dead

In my home, part of a circuit is dead. The lights do not work and the outlets are dead. This is only a portion of the circuit. I checked the obvious things myself:
1.) Make sure no circuit breakers tripped 2.) Make sure no GFCI breakers tripped 3.) Open up some of the outlets to look for a loose connection
I could not find anything myself so I hired an electrician. He came out and did much the same thing I did. Opened up a bunch of outlets and could find no cause for the failure. So I paid for a couple of hours of work and no fix.
The electrician indicated there is a tool that you can use to track a wire through a wall to pinpoint where the break occurs. Unfortunately he doesn't have one. I guess you would put some electrical generator of a sort on a plug and then use some detector to track it along the walls to see when the signal stops.
My question is this for any electricians out there. There doesn't appear to be any obvious reason for the broken circuit. I need to find an electrician with the right tool for this type of problem. What type of tool should I require that they have? Is there an industry term for the type of tool that is needed? I'm open to having them open up part of a wall, if necessary, but I want high confidence that they really know where the fault is (assuming it's a break in a wall).
Thanks.
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There are several "toners" and other kinds circuit/wire tracers. Some work marginally in stud wall none work with any certainty in concrete, block, or steel framed wall. I have owned cheap ones and expensive ones. I do not own one now.
House wiring is usually pretty simple to figure out at least for me. Takes time, but process of elimination explains every situation I have ever ran into.
My first question would be, what changed? Did you install something? Drill any holes? Any one do any work on or in your home just before the problem was found?
My guess is you will find the problem at or near a junction box. What state are you located in?
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SQLit wrote:

In California (Sacramento area). Nothing changed. No work was done on the house. My guess would be that it is one of the following:
1.) A wire has popped out the back of a wall outlet. All the outlets I have removed, as well as the electrician, show no such failure. We removed quite a few to look at them. Nothing found.
2.) The house shifted and cut the wire. Seems unlikely but I suppose it's possible.
3.) Some rodent or some such chewed the wire.
Regards.
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http://www.amprobetesters.com/Wire-Tracers-Cable-Locators.html

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It's possible that you may have a junction box buried somewhere and the connections separated for some reason.
Last Christmas I got a call from a customer complaining that their outside lights stopped working. I did all the usual opening up of switches and outlets and the electrical panel, but couldn't find the problem. Then the owner remembered that he buried a junction box in the drywall ceiling when he finished off the basement a few years back.
Fortunately he remembered approximately where the box was and I cut a few holes to find it. That's where the problem was. He had done all of the wiring himself and did not twist the splices together before screwing on the wire connectors. I was able to move the box and put a blank wall plate on it for future accessibility.
Those electrical tracers are a beautiful thing, but they are not always a sure bet. Putting a signal on wires in the wall and trying to trace it out may make you crazy as you get readings from everywhere. I suggest that you try and narrow the problem down to a certain area and play detective. Did you do any remodeling and accidentally bury an electrical box? Did the previous owners? Do you have any recessed lighting in the problem area? Try pulling down the lights to see if there is a junction box there. Were you able to determine if the hot wire is dead or is it the neutral conductor? Or are both wires dead? Did you check the outlets that are still working?
Let us know how you make out.
John Grabowski http://www.mrelectrician.tv

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John Grabowski wrote:

No remodeling done for years (and none done in this area of the house). I looked all around and did not see any missing junction box. The things on the circuit that are dead are:
1.) A number of wall outlets (perhaps 4 total) 2.) One dining room light (two wall switches to control the one light) 3.) One pantry light 4.) One recessed light in the porch area just outside the dining room 5.) Our doorbell / central radio box (that has an internal transformer)
All seemed 100% dead with no voltage detected around them. A number of "live" junction boxes around the same area were checked to make sure they had no loose connections. All were good with live feeds out.
The recessed light in the outside porch area was not removed so I'll check that later tonight.

Yes on checking several of the still working outlets. As to determining if the hot wire is dead and/or the neutral, the electrician might have known the answer to that (I'm assuming he checked something like that). I am not experienced enough to know what to check myself.
JR
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Happened to us. Drove us nuts. Then we discovered an outside outlet that got enough moisture over the years to corrode all to shit. The screws holding the outlet in the box were rusted to dust. The outlet itself came out in three pieces. The wire was okay, just not connected to anything anymore.
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Geez, you follow the bad circuit back to the breaker box. Inbetween where it is good and where it is bad there is a problem. You actually paid this guy when he couldn't find it?
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Toller wrote:

I know. The problem is that it is not evident where the break is. It is likely in the wall, or between the 1st and 2nd floor of the house. It isn't obvious. I also don't have schematics for the exact layout of the circuit so it's also difficult to know where the last good "plug" is. If I knew were the last good outlet was, then that would at least give me a decent idea where the break is. For now, I can only guesstimate.
Thanks to everyone for their posts. I think I'll find another electrician; one with better tools.
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