Sounds like a job for a telephone tracer. Half of the set puts a tone on the
line, the other half is a probe that detects the sound and amplifies it
through a speaker.
There are also several on Ebay under the heading "cable tracker" or "tone
You can build your own circuit tracer cheaply
and have a little fun too. You will need a small
battery powered AM radio one that's the size of
your hand is best. A low voltage buzzer, the old
fashioned type that works with a doorbell transformer
which you will also need. You hook the buzzer to
the low voltage side of the transformer which may
have several taps like the Edwards #592 transformer.
The buzzer like an Edwards #725 which operates on 6
volts. You can probably find equivalents at Radio
Shack as long as it's an electromechanical buzzer
like the Edwards model. I assume you know enough
basic electricity to be able to hook everything up.
What you want is to come off one side of the buzzer
with a lead that you can stick into one side or
other to one of your dead receptacles. It would be
best to put the buzzer in a shoe box wrapped with
towels to muffle the noise. The RF static produced
by the buzzer can be detected by the AM radio and
with a little tuning and volume adjustment, you can
easily follow the the path of the wires within the
walls. You only need one lead coming off the buzzer
to effectively inject a signal into the dead wiring
but you may have to experiment with sticking it into
the hot or neutral sides of the dead outlets. I have
used the technique for many years with great success.
I have also used a telecom tone generator and AM radio
the same way. Of course these days I have all of the
expensive professional equipment to accomplish the job
so it's no fun anymore.
On Sun, 26 Oct 2008 17:21:07 -0500, The Daring Dufas wrote:
I have a similar problem, only GFI outlets are involved.
Most of the bathrooms and kitchen outlets and a few others nearby but not
in the bathroom or kitchen are totally dead.
All the GFI buttons are in the reset mode.
No fuse is tripped.
Can I use the fox and hound setup to find the problem with my wires?
On Mon, 27 Oct 2008 00:06:31 -0500, The Daring Dufas wrote:
Looking up the tools to buy, it seems we have a choice of the following
electrical "tone and probe kits" for home use to trace why a half dozen of
my recepticles are dead.
Question 1: Is a "tone and probe kit" the right keyword to be looking for?
Question 2: If so, which of these I found googling is what we should use?
a) Triplett 3399 FOX 2/HOUND 3 KIT
b) Triplett 9650 BREAKER SNIFF-IT TYPE 2
c) Fluke PRO3000 Tone & Probe Kit
d) Fluke Pro2000 Tone & Probe
e) Core KE 501 Electric Tone & Probe Kit with 400V
f) Telecom Tools E100-0801 (801K) Tone & Probe Kit
g) Textron C100-2008 (2008) Power Finder Open Circuit Tracer
I would go with the Greenlee. Amprobe also makes a nice tracer. Using
these will not guarantee that you find the problem though. There is no
substitute for experience in a situation like this. The other poster thinks
he may have a junction box hidden somewhere and a tracer may help him find
it. It will not pinpoint the cause of his problem.
Have you opened each receptacle? Have you checked the connections in the
circuit breaker panel and checked to see if the circuit breaker is still
working? I would only use the tracer as a last resort. I am an electrician
and see dead outlets and circuits on a regular basis thanks to certain
builders, DIYers and handymen. I only feel the need to use a tracer every
few years or so and it is usually for an underground circuit. Most of the
time a little common sense and elbow grease is all it takes.
As another poster pointed out, the receptacles may be dead, but the hot wire
may still be live which would make it hazardous to work on.
Good ideas in other posts.
How do you know junctions are in the ceiling?
Do rooms have ceiling lights that are used as j-boxes?
Were some ceiling lights remodeled over?
What I am reading is that outlets only have one circuit/2 wires coming
in and connected to the receptacle. No wires going out.
Wiring method (romex, EMT, knob & tube, ...)? EMT or rigid pipe may
make the circuit hard to trace with an electrical tester but may be
traceable with a metal detector.
With 3 receptacles dead the problem is probably not in the middle of a
wiring run (unless you have knob and tube).
I would check the outlet(s) with a neon test light with 2 leads.
From your description it should not light up when connected H-N.
If there is a ground does it light up H-G?
With the*neon* light tester if you touch one of the test leads and
touch a hot wire with the other lead the light will glow very faintly
(try it on a good outlet). You can check if the hot wire is connected
(or just use the extension cord below).
With an extension cord to a working outlet and a bulb in a pigtail
socket you can test extension neutral to dead circuit. If the bulb
lights you have a connected hot wire.
If there is no connected hot wire you can test extension hot to dead
circuit. If the bulb lights you have a connected neutral. You can also
test the ground, if any.
If one of the wires (hot or neutral) is continuous you can connect
your circuit tracer from that wire to the appropriate wire in the
extension cord. That puts the signal on one of the wires you want to
trace. (It also puts the signal on the circuit the extension is
plugged into. You have to interpret the results to account for that.)
You can test in the panel and see which circuit the dead outlets are
on. That may give clues where to look depending on what else is on
With luck you can trace the wires in the wall. Or see if the wire goes
If you trace all 3 outlets you can see where the wires come together.
That is probably where there is a bad splice in the wires that are
open which you are not tracing.
Some of the above is hazardous. I assume you are reasonably competent.
Tone tracers, which several posts have mentioned, might work. It is a
common piece of equipment for phone techs, if you know one. I haven’t
used one to trace power wires. It should be connected to an open wire.
The tracer looks for an electric field from the wire being traced.
(The tracer above looks for a magnetic field from the wire being
To state the obvious, if the wiring might be in an attic searching
there may be useful.
Toward the end of possibilities you can put holes in the wall and look
in with a mirror flexibly attached to the end of a stick (a common
tool). You can follow the wire. With careful use of flashlight and
mirror you can look in the whole cavity (if there is no insulation).
This is obviously a major PITA. Tracing this kind of problem is a
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