Replacing a wire in wall ?? What options are available ??

Help and expertise desperately needed....
My kitchen lighting circuit is not working.
Circuit breaker checks out and I have a ceiling/fan and receptacle in another room on the same circuit that works. When checking the romex cable coming off the receptacle to the first kitchen light..the black wire has continuity, but the white (neutral) does not. I disconnected the wire pair at both ends, (fixture and receptacle) and connected wires together. Tested with no continuity.
Final test.... I ran another neutral from the panel to the first fixture and all the lights are working.
So it looks as if the neutral is defective. But it's about 15 feet away from the fixture, traveling inside a wall and through the ceiling.
How does one replace a cable run in the wall. Does this mean tearing down the sheetrock both on the ceiling and in the wall???
Are there tools or meters available that test out a break in a wire ???
I'm thinking that hiring an electrician might be a good idea ??? Can they do this job faster than a DIY'er and approximately what would they charge ??
Thanking you in advance for your help and recommendations !!!
Peter
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While it is possible that one wire inside of a cable can break, it's more likely that there is a loose connection in one of the outlet boxes. I would suggest hiring a professional, as trying to locate this open neutral yourself may cause additional problems

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Check to see if any of your GFI outlets tripped. I thought I had a bad bathroom light circuit until I checked the GFI outlet by my sink.
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the OP (open neutral).
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Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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Are you sure there is no other electrical boxes between the 2 boxes you tested? They could be in an adjoining room or on a different floor or even a junction box in the attic. Many times I have found that the next box in the line is not necessarily the closest box. It seems very unlikely that a wire just breaks inside the wall unless damaged by a nail of something. You did not mention anything about the switch box(es), the neutral could be passed through a switch box depending on how the circuit was wired. Kevin
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Peter, 6/2/2005, 1:14:50 AM,

[snipped]
If you ran a cable from the panel to the first fixture and it worked then there is obviously an open in the line. My question is how do you know the light fixture is the first in line? Are there wall outlets on the same circuit that may have gone bad or the wire nuts fallen off? A three pronged outlet checker will help determine where you may have the open.
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Perhaps you should tell us whether or not you knob and tube wiring, and what the age of the house is. It your wiring is K&T, then it is definitely possible that a junction inside a wall/ceiling area is bad. Otherwise, everything shared by others should be considered. --Phil
Peter wrote:

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Phil Munro Dept of Electrical & Computer Engin
mailto: snipped-for-privacy@cc.ysu.edu Youngstown State University
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House wiring is about 25 years old (built 1979). Aluminum wiring.
Residential home. I did check other outlets, lights, breakers etc. They all seem to work. Voltages at the breaker panel measured about 130 volts to a ground wire. (I did not test to neutral). Voltages at all receptacles is in the range of 124.6 to 124 8.
So it was easy to narrow down to one circuit. I pulled apart the switch boxes, and two fixtures, plus a ceiling box that was originally used for a ceiling light, checking all connections.
There is power up to a receptacle box..... and (after testing continuity at different boxes) I finally got to the point where I could identify the first ceiling fixture junction box after the receptacle. At this fixture junction I removed the fixture and pulled apart the hot and neutral connections andcontinuity tested every wire using a DVM to find which pair of wires went to the receptacle and which continued to other fixtures.
And then, I connected the two wires together at the fixture junction box (power off)..... and disconnected them from the preceding receptacle.. No continuity in this loop. I checked the hot (black) from receptacle to fixture and that had continuity. but the neutral did not.
Also powered on the circuit and used a light probe to ground to check for voltage. There was voltage at the first fixture junction box and nothing at anything beyond that point.. which makes sense because I had disconnected everything else from that fixture box.
A three prong electrical tester showed all receptacles to be wired correctly.
I was up in the attic looking for squirrels, there was no way they could have gotten to the wiring.
That's why I'm confused because usually wires in the wall are usually solid, except when conditions change for whatever reason, construction, damage overheating, etc. But everything was normal...and suddenly it didn't work.
I don't have much more than the standard experience with switches, fixtures and receptacle so feel a little over my head at this point.

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parted. Weird.
As for replacement, if you can route through the attic, then it should be a simple matter of using a wire fish to bring the cable up from the switch into the attic and then stringing it across to the light. If it isn't accessible through the attic, it gets nastier, since you're usually looking at cutting a couple of access holes in order to do the fishing, and then patching the drywall later. Not rocket science, but a hassle. As to hiring it out, personally the only thing I'd hire out would be the drywall repair, but I'm a lousy drywaller. YMMV.
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Now that you mention that the wiring is aluminum, it becomes much more of a possibility that the neutral conductor does have a break. Aluminum wire is way more prone to fatigue cracking than copper. Sometimes the fatigue breakage is caused by thermal cycling and the associated wire movement. A break in this case would be likely to occur fairly close to a screw terminal or wire nut. You might, therefore try your continuity check by probing the conductor an inch or two back from the each end of the wire. hth bill
wrote:

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You could try to localize the break using a signal tracer like "fox and hound" You would attach the signal source to one end and use the sniffer to follow the wire until the signal ends. At that point, you should find your open.
You may also be able to (and I have not verified it yet, its just an idea) to use one of those stud finder like things that also detects electrical wiring. you may need to reverse the hot and neutral since they detect the AC on the hot wire.
If that wire runs horizontally and has no staples you can use it to pull a new wire but if not, it may be easier to abandon the old wire in place and run a new conductor along any route that is easily accessible to you. If you're lucky, you can minimize the damage to a few well placed holes in the wall.
Definately worth a little more time trying to localize the open releative to the work required to replace. Maybe you can punch a hole in the wall part way along the line so you can divide the wire in half for continuity testing/isolation.
A temporary short can fuse open a conductor ending up in an open if the breaker is defective. For safety sake, verify the breaker's operation at some point if the exact cause of the open is not discovered.
Hope to see you post the solutution later


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