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
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 !!!
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
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.
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
No matter what happens, someone will find a way to take it too
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
Phil Munro Dept of Electrical & Computer Engin
mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org Youngstown State University
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
loop. I checked the hot (black) from receptacle to fixture and that had
the neutral did not.
Also powered on the circuit and used a light probe to ground to check for
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.
OK, unless someone can come up with an explanation, it sounds like the neutral
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
Now that you mention that the wiring is aluminum, it becomes much more of a
the neutral conductor does have a break. Aluminum wire is way more prone
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.
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
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
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
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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