Wiring question (bad outlet?)

I have a newer home (1997) and have had no electrical problems until now. My wife put a couple of those plastic (so your baby doesn't stick a fork in it) safety plugs in an outlet that never gets used. When she did this, several lights (in the same general vicinity) went out. She wiggled the plastic plugs a little in the outlet, and the lights came back on. Wiggled a little more and the lights went out again. Then, being properly paranoid she got the hell away from it.
I turned off the breaker to this loop, unscrewed the outlet fixture from its enclosure, and pulled it out for inspection. The only strange thing I saw was some discoloration where the ground (bare) wire was attached to the outlet.
My question is, if hot were shorting to ground at this outlet, would the rest of the loop go dead (i.e. lights out?) And is this even a possible occurence in an unused outlet? How else could wiggling this outlet cause lights to go out further down the line? I am going to replace the outlet fixture tomorrow, and am hoping it will fix the problem. I was just wondering if anyone thinks this has potential for something much more serious.
By the way, I have a voltmeter if that could help me run some tests.
Cheers,
Ed.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
It was not a short to ground it was an open wire to connection. In short the wire is loose. If it is one of those push in connections, take them all out and use the side connections.
When it is loose it disconnects and then the rest of the lights down the line are disconnected as well. The power for the other outlets and lights goes though that outlet.
Just a little background. Most people believe it is better to pigtail these type of connections. That is connect the wires, supplying the power and the wires going to the next outlet and a short set of wires to the outlet for that box, together with a wire nut.
Few problems are encountered when the side terminals are used however and even the push-in terminals are reliable on the better grade outlets. Most outlets used in new homes and sold in home improvement centers are cheap.
--
Joseph E. Meehan

26 + 6 = 1 It's Irish Math
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Yes, a wire was loose. Get a new outlet, turn off the breaker, replace the wires exactly like they were and don't make an unnecessary pigtail.

now.
to
cause
outlet
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Thanks to everyone for their advice. Once I thought about it, the loose wire explanation made total sense. I bought a new "premium" 15A outlet (at Home Depot -- yeah, I know but it's all we have around here) and wired it just like it was. Everything is working so far and no "wiggle" problems.
Cheers,
Ed.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
B wrote:

If the outlet is on a multi-wire circuit make sure you break out the tab between the two hot wires (red and black) on the new receptacle. If you have only one hot, a neutral and a ground.....disregard.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Just had an electrician fix the same type of problem - wiggle and it intermittently gives power. Found out that the prior electrician had installed pigtails in some newer outlets and they came loose. Also, some older outlets (1974) were installed with the push-in connections and they had come loose as well. He replaced the old outlets with 15A spec-grade outlets and wired everything correctly, and no more problems.
JE
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.