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
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
By the way, I have a voltmeter if that could help me run some tests.
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
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"
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.
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.
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