Repairing an Electric Outlet

Troubleshooting the cause of an outlet not working can help define how to repair it. This is a guide about repairing an electric outlet.

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Question: Troubleshooting an Electrical Outlet

By Stacey Skinner R. 1

We live in an apartment building built in the 1970s, maybe 80s. My daughter had an inexpensive fan in her room that would slow down and then it just stopped working.
I bought a new fan and it worked okay and then it did the same thing. I would turn it on and it wouldn't work, then it sounded like something gave it gas, and it would slowly start to propel.

Last night it worked and then stopped. I jiggled the cord, unplugged the light, and the fan, and it worked then stopped. So afraid a fire or a weird wire is the culprit I moved to a different outlet and it worked fine. How do I know what is going on with the outlet, and are we in danger? Is it just the voltage to that one outlet?
The landlord is a super pain to deal with.
Thank you.

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    By Bruce S 105 Flag

    February 1, 2016

    This is probably one for an electrician to handle since they have the meters and test equipment necessary to test the voltage at your receptacle.

    It is possible you have a loose connection that when heated with current flow, opens or better closes the circuit.

    Or it is possible that this receptacle is on a shared neutral in which the neutral is not making it back to the panel. If this were the case, the speed of your fan and even whether it was working would depend on other electrical loads being on.

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    Question: One Receptacle on Double Outlet Not Working

    By Ben T. 1

    I have a problem here that I was hoping you could help me with. 1 of the 2 receptacles isn't working, in my kitchen, 1 outlet with 2 plugins. I tried changing the whole outlet, but that didn't help. It can't be the breaker as the other plugin is still working.

    Please help

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      By Bruce S 105 Flag

      January 18, 2016

      A duplex receptacle has a bridge between the two neutral slots (tall ones) and a bridge between the two hot slots (short ones) and the grounds are tied together internally. It would be difficult for one to be working without the other unless a bridge was cut. (Bridges are cut to make one receptacle switched on a duplex receptacle).

      An electrician could fix this for you.

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      Question: Intermittent Electrical Outlets

      By Sharon K. 1

      One of my bedroom sockets is going off and not tripping. Two of my livingroom ones just cut off and then they come back on a few hours later. Weird.

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        By Bruce S 105 Flag

        January 18, 2016

        It sounds like a loose connection in your household wiring. Your wiring is metal, most likely copper (maybe aluminum). A loose connection generates heat causing the metal to expand. This can cause the circuit to open. Once open the connection cools down and the circuit closes again. I would hire an electrician to verify the connections are tight in the devices you mentioned.

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        Question: GFCi Outlet for Christmas Lights Keeps Tripping

        By Xmas? 1

        I put my outdoor Xmas lights up the day after Thanksgiving. I have them connected to the GFCI plate we've used every year. The first connection is a solar sensor and then thru an extension with multiple plug-ins. It is the same setup as years past. Last evening they stopped working. Today I tried removing 2 strings of lights, which were attached end to end from the main extension cord. I also have four other strings connected end to end from the main extension cord. Removing the first two I mentioned worked, for about 4 or five hours before the GFCI outlet went out again. The power to the outlet is still there, but it won't stop tripping. Any suggestion would be greatly appreciated.

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          By Bruce S 105 Flag

          December 9, 2015

          Electricity works on a loop. Current flows out on the hot and back on the neutral. A standard breaker trips when the flow in the loop is too great. A GFCI trips when the current flowing out exceeds the current flow returning by 4 to 6 milliamps (.004 to .006 amps). It is assumed this small current could be flowing through a person so the GFCI trips.

          The current that is leaking is taking an alternate path back to the ground in your panel. Often this is caused by wet locations. The closer you are to the ground of your panel and what it is bonded to (typically a water pipe), the easier it is to trip a GFCI. So if your lights are wrapped around your water spigot, it would be easy to trip the GFCI.

          Lighting strings do not typically have a ground pin, so the current flow from the hot back to your panel would have to be through the neutral (desirable) or the earth (maybe to a water pipe) (undesirable).

          Another concern is your sensor. If it has a ground pin and is plugged in outside, and moisture getting in the unit could be providing a path between the hot and ground pin which would trip the GFCI. Make sure the sensor is rated for outdoor use and is in good condition.

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          Question: Not Getting Power But Circuit Breaker Was Not Tripped

          By Terry 1

          The Christmas lights on my house are not working, but have for past 3 weeks. I took an extension cord and moved it to the front porch and plugged it in. When I did that the refrigerator and freezer in garage quit working. I hit all the breakers, but there was no change. I pressed the trippers inside and outside of the house and still nothing. Any ideas how to fix this?

          By Terry

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          By Sparky 2 Flag

          February 9, 2011

          James, you said your breaker is not tripping, but if your resetting your main breaker to get things working again, that means it is tripping. This is one problem you should call a professional for, because it could be one or more many different things.

          1. Bad main or sub main depending on panel style.

          2. overloaded main or sub main breaker.

          3. bad terminations in panel.

          4. main bus failing in breaker panel.

          etc.

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          Question: GFCI Outlet Keeps Tripping

          By Lisa 1 1

          I moved into a house built in 1995. There is a GFCI outlet in the bathroom that will not stay on. When you press the reset button, the outlet stays on for about 5 seconds and then the breaker trips. I've replaced the GFCI outlet with the same results. Any advice would be appreciated. It's a 15 amp outlet.

          By Lisa

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          By merlene smith 4 311 Flag

          January 19, 2011

          I know a family that got annoyed because the power surge protector kept tripping so they bypassed it and their house burned down. Be careful something like that is not going on with your house. Have you consulted an electrician? Somethings need expert advice and I think electrical problems is probably one of these.

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          Question: Outdoor Electrical Outlet Stopped Working After It Rained

          By BEV 1

          My outside outlet was working, then it rained and now none of my xmas decorations come on. Does anyone have any ideas on what might have happened?

          By BEV

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          By jlyn 3 47 Flag

          December 19, 2010

          My back porch has an outlet that always trips when I was down the porch. There is an outlet in my garage that has a little breaker on it and i just have to press the button.

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          Question: New Outlets Don't Work

          I changed two wall outlets, just replacing dirty ones. I did them exactly as they were taken off, but both won't work? Not sure what it could be. It has a red, white, and black wire.

          By Tracy

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          By dakota1275 14 Flag

          October 8, 2014

          Let me guess Louise B has a husband or son who is an electrician.

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          Question: Troubleshooting Bathroom Outlets

          I have 2 outlets that are in separate bathrooms. Both have power, but neither one will run a hair dryer or hot iron. They will power a radio. Has anybody seen this before or have any suggestions?

          By David

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          By gbk 45 368 Flag

          October 18, 2011

          Older places with old wiring is very dangerous. Sounds like old set up. You didn't say how old the place was you lived but a lot of even l950's houses now have bad wiring. An electrician or a friend who knows about wiring is a good thing here because the advice we can give without seeing is worth absolutely nothing. But you just might want to think on this; don't wait and burn the house down.

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          Question: GFCI Circuit Breaker Won't Reset

          I have a breaker in my house that has a "test" button on it. It tripped and won't reset. I have checked and the only thing in my house that doesn't have electricity is one outlet in our bathroom. I replaced the outlet, but it still doesn't have electricity and the "test" breaker won't reset, it just keeps on tripping.

          By Brent P.

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          By gbk 45 368 Flag

          July 19, 2011

          Oh by the way I forgot one of the problems was one of the ground fault plugs on the outside was getting moisture inside and tripping the button in the kitchen. The carport, back door, bathroom, front porch lite, and plugin, and the living room and utility room was all on same circuit.

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          Question: Outlet Stopped Working

          By kris lemaster 1

          My wife pluged a Vicks vapor machine into our bedroom outlet. The outlet stopped working. The the vapor machine and my ceiling fan with lights also quit working. I put in a new plug and checked the wiring in the fan. All the wires are connected and there are no burn spots on the wires. How do I fix it?

          By Kris

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          By Louise B. 6 2,509 Flag

          March 7, 2015

          Did you check the breaker? And did you mean that the vaporizer now doesn't work at all? If so, toss it, as it has caused the problem, apparently. If there is nothing else to reset - breaker, button on an outlet, fuse - then it is time to call an electrician. Perhaps the problem is with the replacement outlet, and you have not installed that properly.

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          Question: Electrical Outlet Intermittent

          Why won't the breaker trip, but if you play with the plug it starts working again?

          By Nick

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          Best Answer

          By Stephanie 155 244 Flag

          February 18, 2015Best Answer

          The breaker would only trip if too much current is being pulled (demand exceeds supply). If you have a loose outlet, where the plug falls out or you have to wiggle the plug to get it to work, it wouldn't necessarily trip the breaker, because it's not connecting/pulling electricity at all. The solution is to replace the old outlet. If the issue is a particular appliances plug and wiggling the cord fixes the problem, than the cord is probably going. If the problem is a particular plug and not the cord, sometimes you can widen the prongs so it's a better fit in the outlet.

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          Question: Popping and Spark In Outlet

          My phone charger was plugged into the wall outlet. It stopped charging and made a popping sound. I moved the cord a little and there was a spark. I was scared to unplug it, but I did eventually. My cord is now plugged into my laptop and is working. What is the problem?

          By cara

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          Best Answer

          By Bruce S 105 Flag

          January 26, 2015Best Answer

          You have a hot to ground short. From what you described it may be in your phone charger transformer. This could easily cause a fire and should be corrected by a professional.

          If you are certain that the sparks came from the phone adapter, get rid of that phone adapter. If the sparks may have originated in the receptacle, get an electrician to service and replace the receptacle.

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          Question: Two Outlets Have No Power

          I have no power to one kitchen power outlet and one living room outlet. The circuit breaker appears good.

          By Peter

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          By Louise B. 6 2,509 Flag

          October 10, 2013

          Call an electrician. They go to school and train to be able to solve problems like this.

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          Question: Electrical Outlets Not Working in One Room

          All of the electrical outlets in one room stopped working at the same time. They are standard outlets so there is no reset button on them. The breaker is not tripped so what else could be the problem? Someone mentioned a possible blown fuse so how would you look for that to change it?

          By Elisha S

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          By Louise B. 6 2,509 Flag

          July 2, 2013

          I agree with the previous posters. If you have tried flipping the breakers on and off -- and sometimes they do not look like they have flipped off -- and that doesn't work, you need to call an electrician. If you have breakers, you will not have fuses. Any "loose wires" or anything like could cause fires or other problems.

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          Question: Room Outlets Not Working

          All the outlets in one room stopped working, the lights still come on. I replaced the breaker and all the outlets and it's still not working. Help me.

          By Shinji

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          By Frugal Sunnie 11 1,697 Flag

          April 11, 2013

          Because you've replaced all of the outlets, and the breaker, yet still have having electrical problems, it's safe to say that you have broken wires inside the walls on the circuits that are showing continued problems. The breaker you replaced may not be feeding the problem circuits, did you carefully 'map' your circuits before attempting a fix? The following link takes you to an excellent DIY site with extensive home electrical info, this page teaches you how to map your circuits:

          http://www.hometips.com/diy-how-to/electrical-circuits-house-wiring.html

          I think, though, that at this point you need to get a licensed-bonded-insured professional electrician in there as soon as possible. Broken wires in a wall are a terrible fire hazard.

          A professional has insurance (in case he/she makes serious mistakes and causes damage), and several tools in his/her kit that most homeowners don't even know exist-one of those tools is an electronic, battery operated hand-held device that detects 'live' current travel through most wall covering materials including plaster and lathe. This device will quickly discover the location of broken (or chewed, rodents in the walls happen in the best of homes:) wires so that the exact location can be found and the correct repair made. This saves tearing up long swathes of wall to find the bad wires, for one thing-a real savings right there that makes the cost of having a professional actually quite cost-effective.

          Until you have a safe, correct and total fix, the safest thing to do is cut the power to the areas you are having problems with. Please do it now no matter how inconvenient because a house fire is the ultimate in 'inconvenient' you can experience!

          Please update us when you have this sorted. It's always great to know when another family has been saved from the dangers of a house fire, and it's a valuable bit of information to add to the knowledge base.

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          Question: Outlet Stopped Working

          By deb 1 1

          I plugged my heater into an outlet; now the outlet doesn't work. I replaced the outlet, but still doesn't work. Two other outlets in the room work and the light works. It didn't knock out the breaker. What could be wrong? Please help.

          By Deb from Wheeling, WV

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          By deb 1 1 Flag

          February 22, 2011

          Well, my husband got the outlet working. what happen is i wanted to put a fan it the room with light so my husband took down old fan with no light. so it is bx wiring so there was no box so he put in a metal box so what we were reading on bx wiring it needs to have a bx clamp to secure it so he put clamp on. and put fan back up and everything is working now. I bought a book on old wiring and that is what help us thanks to all. :O)

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          Question: Repairing an Outdoor Outlet After Lights Plugged Into It Got Wet

          By Biz 1 1

          I have some Christmas lights hooked up to an outdoor outlet. I live on the ground floor of a condo and have a patio off the living room. The outdoor outlet is covered, it is under my upstairs neighbor's terrace.

          The Christmas lights were connected to the outdoor outlet via a indoor rated extension cord, not outdoor, without a third prong for grounding. I ran four strands of lights in a row to circle the perimeter of the patio.

          I had the lights on and was hosing down some plants across the patio, behind which the lights were strung. Some water splashed on the lights and they all blew. Ever since the outdoor outlet does not work. I flipped the breaker and hit the reset button on the outlet. No luck.

          I know the story I just conveyed above illustrates a total ignorance for electricity and probably careless and even reckless behavior on my part of using an indoor non grounded extension cord and having the good sense to water the plants with the lights on. Before I potentially do anything to kill myself or cause a fire is there anything else I can do before calling an electrician?

          Thanks so much for your advice.

          By Biz from Brooklyn, NY

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          By Biz 1 1 Flag

          September 12, 2010

          Thanks for the feedback. I really appreciate it. I will start with replacing the outlet. Thanks.

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          Question: Electric Outlet Feels Hot

          By Teresa 1

          Why is my electric outlet getting hot?

          By Teresa from Louisville, Ky

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          By Judy = Oklahoma 60 750 Flag

          August 20, 2010

          We live in a house built in the 1970s with aluminum wiring-which is a big fire hazard because it can start fires in the wall or ceiling that you don't know about until it spreads, a house in our neighborhood burned down a couple of years ago from an electrical fire caused by aluminum wiring! We have occasionally over the years had a couple of outlets that feel hot to the touch, especially one in the kitchen, sometimes I've even smelled it "burning". My husband would replace the outlet & some of the wiring. The last time, when he checked the one in the kitchen because I could smell it(nobody else has ever smelled it), the wire had burned through the plastic on the outlet & was on the verge of starting a fire in the wall! He rewired that outlet all the way back to the main wiring in the attic & we haven't had a problem since.

          The house I grew up in was built in 1890s & had same problem. My dad re-wired the whole house. That's what needs to be done with our house, but my husband isn't comfortable with doing it & electrician said it would be around $6000,which we can't afford. We just watch our outlets, don't overload & occasionally I will go around & feel them, especially the one's that have something plugged into them.

          Just beware if you have an older home with wiring like this, it can be very dangerous, houses burn down from this problem all the time.

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          Question: Fixing Electrical Wiring

          By jenniferl 1

          I need to know how to fix hot/ground reverse on electrical wiring for home.

          jenniferl from Silversprings, FL

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          By kay 36 2 Flag

          June 9, 2009

          I just need the diagram so my husband can fix anything on it because we can't afford a mechanic. Thank, Angelheart

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          Question: Intermittent Power in Two Outlets

          By Carlos W. 1

          For about two months now, in the master bedroom, 2 of the outlets which have the TV and cable box connected and also the light in the room go out and come back on. I have checked the breaker and it doesn't trip. One of the times that it went off, it stayed off for a few minutes. When went off I moved the light switch to turn it off and the lights came on. I switched the light fixture for a new one and it's still doing it. Besides checking the other outlets for loose wires any suggesting on what to check?

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            By Bruce S 105 Flag

            November 4, 2015

            Breakers and switches, when shut off or tripped, stay off.

            Checking for loose connections is what is required.

            If your power is shutting off and turning back on it sounds like a loose connection somewhere (maybe inside a device such as a switch or breaker but more typically in a wire nut or the neutral connection in the power panel).

            Loose connections are heat generators. I would have an electrician track this down as soon as possible.

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            Question: Bathroom Outlet Does Not

            By Jay Garsha 1 1

            I have had a non working plug in our bathroom with a working light for years. We recently had a lot of work done, including rewiring the kitchen. The contractor replaced the fixture in the bathroom during the renovation. The new fixture works like the old one. Light works, plug does not. Any idea what the issue is, and is it an easy fix? Thank you in advance.

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              By Jay Garsha 1 1 Flag

              October 26, 2015

              Unfortunately, he's out of the country. Even when he's around, he's hard to get hold of. When the work was being done, I told my mother to have him do it, unsure as to whether it was her error for leaving out the electrical issue and he assumed I just wanted a new one for aesthetic purposes.

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              Question: Electrical Outlet Stopped Working

              By lynnc 1

              We have a plug in our kitchen that is a switch for our undercabinet lighting on one side and on the other side is a plug. The plug has suddenly stopped working, even though the light switch is working fine. The breaker is also working fine. We have changed the plug, but it is still not working. Any ideas as to what else we could try?

              Thanks!

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                By Louise B. 6 2,509 Flag

                August 24, 2015

                I like Bruce's first line of advice-- call an electrician. Bruce is an electrician, and can explain these things, but nothing beats having a trained professional fix things for you.

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                Question: Light Switch Intermittent and Outlet Sparking

                One of our light switches is faulty, sometimes it works, other times it doesn't. If we flip the switch off and on several times it will eventually turn the lights on and they will stay on. Many times the light turns on for a second and then turns off. If we do get the light to stay on and we plug anything in to the outlet, everything will turn off. It is not the fuse/circuit box. The outlet below the light switch (not controlled by the switch) sparks when we plug into or unplug from it.

                By AndieR

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                By Louise B. 6 2,509 Flag

                March 14, 2015

                Thanks for this great explanation, Bruce. And the best advice you gave was "call an electrician". Home electrical repairs are not something that untrained people should be tackling.

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                Question: Outlets Not Working

                I've been using the same outlet for 3 years now to charge my laptop. All of a sudden the outlet doesn't work. So, I plugged my laptop into another outlet. It worked briefly, but now it doesn't work. How do I know what is wrong and how do I fix it? The breakers are not tripping.

                By Sandra D

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                By Rita Horne 6 25 Flag

                March 10, 2014

                Check the outlet by plugging something other than your laptop. If the outlet is working, you probably need to check the power cord supply for the laptop. They do get old and wear out.

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                Question: Lost Power to Closet After Changing an Outlet

                By Antwan 1

                I changed our wall outlet plug in our 2nd floor bedroom from a two prong to a three prong and now I don't have power to my closet. The outlet has two hot wires, two neutrals, and two grounds. All of the wiring was stacked up on the two prong plug. I've tried various configurations to remedy the problem; however, none of them seem to work. I am able to get power to this particular outlet, but I still cannot restore power to my closet.

                By Antwan from MO

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                thr522587 Flag

                September 10, 2010

                Ditto with zoodad! Please have an electrician take care of this because the wiring as it is now could also be a fire hazard! :-(

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                Question: Electrical Outlet for Cooktop Not Working

                By Robert O. 1

                The outlet for my cook top and fan is not working, but the breaker is fine. I checked the voltage between phase to neutral and it was 20V. I checked the phase to ground- 120V.
                What's my problem? Is it the connection of the neutral in the panel or what?

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                  By Bruce S 105 Flag

                  October 28, 2015

                  If not qualified, I would recommend getting an electrician to resolve the issue.

                  It sounds as though the neutral connection is open somewhere. Yes, it could be at the panel. It could also be at an electrical box between the stove and the panel.

                  A digital meter is precise, but does not load the circuit. A meter such as a Wiggy is less precise but loads the circuit and it is more obvious that the neutral is open.

                  With the breaker off, an electrician will check for continuity (zero resistance) between the neutral and ground (these are bonded in your panel).

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                  Question: Outlets Not Working

                  By sashadelarosamonsior 1

                  My plug sockets stopped working. There was no bang or odd noises. I checked the circuit breaker, but nothing was tripped. I have unplugged everything then re-booted it, but nothing! My lights are working though. I need some help please.

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                    By Bruce S 105 Flag

                    September 28, 2015

                    The most common cause of outlets failing would be a tripped breaker in your power panel. You have correctly troubleshot the situation by unplugging the connected devices and turning the breaker off then on to reset it. Still, no luck.

                    The second leading cause of receptacles failing would be a tripped GFCI or AFCI receptacle. One receptacle tripping can take out a whole host of receptacles. Look to see if you have any such receptacles (with a test and reset button) . If that receptacle has no power, try resetting it and hopefully power will restore to the others as well.

                    It is possible the power for these receptacles have a switch. This hidden switch could be turned off (National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation).

                    After that you are entering an area best left to an electrician. Something has opened the circuit. Wiring could have overheated and burnt open. A rodent could have chewed through the wire. A breaker could have failed. In a multiple occupancy dwelling (duplex, apartment ...) it is possible another tenant could have opened the circuit from their side of the wall. All of these situations require the knowledge and equipment an electrician would supply.

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                    Question: Touch Lamp Won't Work in All Outlets

                    By Melody F 1

                    I have a touch lamp that previously worked in my daughters' bedroom. It went out so I had a new switch put in from a lamp repair shop. Now it works in every outlet except the 2 upstairs bedrooms! Other things work in the outlets (iPod dock, video monitor cameras, sewing machine), but the lamp doesn't! It's so strange because the lamp works in other rooms in the house. Any thoughts on this?

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                      By Bruce S 105 Flag

                      August 20, 2015

                      The touch switch works on capacitance of the human body interfering with the electric field set up by the control box inside the lamp.

                      Human capacitance can vary with surroundings, causing the lamp to work in some rooms and not in others.

                      The sensitivity of the switch can usually be adjusted. I would start by returning to the lamp repair shop and asking for the switch to be made more sensitive because it is not always working.

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                      Question: GFI Not Resetting

                      By Deanna S 1

                      I woke up this morning and plugged in the blender like I do every morning and night. However today it wouldn't work so, I switched it to an outlet on a different wall and it worked. I noticed the GFI light was red, this is a newer house (2-year-old), so I have never had this problem before. I tried to fix it by unplugging everything and then pushed the GFI button in and it clicked, but it is still red. So I flipped the breaker and it is still red what should I try next? Thank you so much for any help.

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                        By Bruce S 105 Flag

                        August 18, 2015

                        There is no standard on the red light. It could mean everything is okay. However, if there is no power, then push the test and then the reset. If nothing changes...

                        Check other receptacles in the vicinity that are not GFCI and unplug their loads. (It could be they are fed from the GFCI in question). Then go back to the GFCI and push the test and reset.

                        If still no luck, hire an electrician to change the GFCI.

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                        Question: Repairing an Electrical Outlet

                        By sondomondo 1

                        I arced three wires in my light, the three connected. Now 1 plug in works and 1 doesn't.

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                          By Bruce S 105 Flag

                          May 6, 2015

                          If the light is plugged in the wall and had no wall switch, have an electrician come to install a new receptacle. Receptacles are cheap. In the process of changing the receptacles, he/she will have to unwire the old and wire the new so the integrity of the connections will be verified.

                          If the light is plugged in the wall and has a wall switch, have an electrician come to check power at the receptacle and switch. Receptacles and switches are cheap. I suspect the switch is bad (which would be indicated by no power to half of receptacle with the switch on). In the process of changing the receptacle or switch, he/she will have to unwire the old and wire the new so the integrity of the connections will be verified.

                          It would be helpful to identify which breaker the circuit is on, so that it can be shut off while the work is done.

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                          Question: Outlet Not Working

                          By Sharon Ianni-Lucio 1

                          I changed one outlet in my daughter's bedroom and turned the breaker off first. After turning the breaker on, the outlet works, but now there is one in another bedroom and one in her bedroom that don't work. I tried turning the breaker off and on again and the two outlets that I didn't touch are still not working.

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                            By Bruce S 105 Flag

                            April 27, 2015

                            I am glad you killed power at the breaker before working on this system. This always needs to be done. I hope you also metered it before working to make sure power was gone.

                            It is standard practice for multiple items like this to be on one circuit. A 2 conductor cable consists of a black insulated, white insulated and bare wire. My guess is this enclosure had two such cables in it. One cable providing power to this box and the other carrying the power on to the next. To install a receptacle, pigtails (short piece of wire) are often run from the hot (black) neutral (white) and ground (bare) to the receptacle. This makes changing the receptacle easier.

                            What may have happened is moving the connection under the wire nut, either black or white wire connections, caused the circuit to be broken. The wire nuts need to be removed and re-installed or replaced.

                            An electrician can fix this for you.

                            ReplyWas this helpful? Yes

                            Question: Outlets Not Working

                            I have a wall of outlets that are not working, but when I put a meter on them it shows they are getting power. I changed one outlet, but still not working.

                            By Terri

                            AnswerWas this helpful? Yes

                            Most Recent Answer

                            By Bruce S 105 Flag

                            April 8, 2015

                            A common way of checking power is with a non-contact volt meter. It will show the presence of 120 VAC hot.

                            However, to make a circuit you also need the neutral. If you have the hot, but lost the neutral, it would act as you describe.

                            The neutral and the ground should be bonded (connected) at only one point, typically your power panel.

                            With the power off, an electrician could use a meter to determine if there is continuity between the neutral and ground. If there is, your neutral is good.

                            There are a number of ways to lose a neutral

                            - Run a nail through it hanging a picture

                            - Overload a bad connection causing it to overheat and burn open

                            - Rodent chewing through wire

                            - Human error when wiring - did not connect neutral

                            - Human error when wiring - switched neutral instead of hot

                            -Human error when wiring - GFCI wiring switched (hot and neutral reversed)

                            You may want to look to see if a GFCI is tripped. If it is and you reset it and you have power again, you will need to get an electrician to correct the GFCI wiring.

                            ReplyWas this helpful? Yes

                            Question: Plugs Won't Stay in Outlet

                            I can put a plug into the outlet, but any movement of the cords and they pop out. Any kind of plug in air freshener will hang partially out. It's like a loose outlet that doesn't want to hold onto anything.

                            By Cheryl from Cameron Park, CA

                            AnswerWas this helpful? Yes

                            Most Recent Answer

                            By Bruce S 105 Flag

                            March 31, 2015

                            Receptacles wear out with use and need to be replaced.

                            ReplyWas this helpful? Yes

                            Question: Repairing an Electrical Outlet

                            An outlet in a circuit is not working and the other outlets are also not working as a result. What is the problem?

                            By R

                            AnswerWas this helpful? Yes

                            Most Recent Answer

                            By Bruce S 105 Flag

                            March 27, 2015

                            Unplug everything from the receptacles on that circuit.

                            Is the breaker reset? To reset a breaker, switch off then on.

                            The receptacles may be grouped on an AFCI or GFCI receptacle. Look for a receptacle that is one of these and needs to be reset and reset it.

                            If this all fails, then it could be the electrical wiring which would require an electrician to correct. Either an open hot or neutral could cause this (often bad connection at wire nut).

                            ReplyWas this helpful? Yes

                            Question: Troubleshooting an Electrical Outlet

                            One day while my wife was doing laundry the dryer just stopped working. We purchased a new dryer. When we plugged it in, it too would not turn on. Now there is a new breaker and when I plug it in almost all the way and put my multimeter on each terminal I get power in only 2 of the openings.

                            AnswerWas this helpful? Yes

                            Load More

                            Archive: Electrical Outlets Stopped Working


                            Yesterday, both outlets in our master bathroom stopped working. I heard a pop from a radio that was plugged in at the time. No other lights or outlets appear to be affected. I reset every circuit breaker just to be sure, but that didn't help. The house was built in 1995 and is of good quality. I pulled out each outlet and put a multimeter across the leads to confirm the power loss.

                            Anyone have any idea what the problem could be?

                            Much thanks,
                            Maxx from Minneapolis

                            Answers:

                            RE: Electrical Outlets Stopped Working

                            If there is power where the wire comes off the breaker, and it's white wire is solidly connected to the silver common bar, but now power shows at the leads connected to the outlet, then there must be a wire break somewhere in the wall. To find the break you need a tone tracer. They cost from $49 to $500, depending on how fancy you want them. I have used one of these since the early 80's: http://www.pimall.com/nais/e.tone.html

                            You clip the tone to a wire and ground, then follow the hidden cable with the wand. If you veer off, the volume of the sound from the wand speaker drops. When the sound stops completely, you have found the break in the wire. Make sure you turn all potentially related breakers off before cutting the cable at the break, otherwise you will ruin a good pair of pliers.

                            Please keep in mind that you can not patch or re-connect a broken wire in the wall. That has to be done in a junction box or outlet box. Since you probably won't have any spare wire that you can pull towards the break, plan on using a two-gang or three-gang box and box cover, or dual or triple outlets. That gives you enough room to connect a short piece of wire on each side of the break.

                            Have FUN!
                            DearWebby (11/28/2005)

                            By ThriftyFun

                            RE: Electrical Outlets Stopped Working

                            Thanks for the input. It turned out that a GFI outlet (in another bathroom) just needed to be reset. I didn't realize that these were connected to each other. Live and learn.

                            Cheers! (11/29/2005)

                            RE: Electrical Outlets Stopped Working

                            Yes, GFIs are weird. We bought a house, built in 1996. When a circuit on our main floor blew, we had to go to an UPSTAIRS GFI to reset it. That one took us a while to figure out the first time. :)
                            (01/25/2006)

                            By bulrush

                            RE: Electrical Outlets Stopped Working

                            Two outlets in my garage stopped working at the same time. The GFI in the upstairs bathroom had to be reset. I would have never guessed that these outlets are all on the same circuit. (12/14/2006)

                            RE: Electrical Outlets Stopped Working

                            This was great. Two outlets outside stopped working for me. I found the reset downstairs beside the fuse box. Thanks for the help! (02/27/2009)

                            By Diana

                            Archive: Outlet Stopped Working


                            We have an outlet in our kitchen that we have used actively. The other day while popping some popcorn the outlet threw, sounding like the breaker going off, however when I got to the box nothing was thrown and now this outlet doesn't work. Any ideas?

                            Stephanie from BC

                            Answers:

                            RE: Outlet Stopped Working

                            Double check the breaker. Turn it off, then back on and see if that solves the problem. I have had two breakers do this in the past year (they trip, but don't visibly move, so they still look as they should). (08/29/2005)

                            By Lilygloves

                            RE: Outlet Stopped Working

                            First I would check the breakers and turn all of them off and back on. Sometimes they pop without showing it. That's when most electricians dig out a box of Q-tips and thoroughly clean
                            the breaker box, to justify the traveling time to the service call.

                            If that is not the problem, it gets more difficult. Without taking the outlet out, it is impossible to diagnose. It could be the outlet, or it could be one of the wires going to the outlet. Most likely it is one of the wires going to the outlet and showing
                            a visible break in it.

                            If there is no noticeable break, even when the outlet is pulled out and the wires wiggled with a wooden spoon to feel for a break within the insulation, then it will be necessary to use a
                            volt meter or a voltage tester from the Dollar store to check for the presence of electricity. If there is no electricity between the black and white wires, but there is between the output end of that breaker and the block of white wires, then the break is somewhere in the wall. In that case the break has to be pinpointed with a buzz or tone tester and repaired by an electrician. DearWebby (08/29/2005)

                            By ThriftyFun

                            RE: Outlet Stopped Working

                            When ours did this and we checked the breakers, we replaced the outlet and solved the problem
                            (08/29/2005)

                            By Rose Mary B

                            RE: Outlet Stopped Working

                            Master bath outlets stopped working. Light and outlets are on same breaker. Lights work, the breaker is not tripped. The GFI is tripped and won't reset. The other outlets don't have readings. I put a tester on GFI and it shows a open neutral. The other outlets nothing. I bought a new GFI and the meter read open hot. Really confused. Any help? Thanks. Rich

                            Editor's Note: We sent this one to Dear Webby who has lots of electrical knowledge:

                            In this case I would highly recommend that he call an electrician. Anybody who calls the GROUNDED (white wire) a "neutral", should not be allowed near screwdrivers without competent supervision. Electricity can, and often does, kill, especially in wet and damp environments.

                            Most likely some wires are mixed up and touching a ground in a light fixture or mirror cabinet, creating a potentially deadly trap for non-electricians. If an amateur complicates that situation, it will just be that much more expensive.

                            (09/05/2008)

                            By rich

                            Archive: Electrical Outlets Stopped Working

                            For the last 3 years, the electrical outlets in my 1/2 bath (1st floor) and 2nd bath (2nd floor) have not worked. This occurred around the same time that I was replacing the standard outlets in my home with updated decorator ones where you can't see the screws. Any help would be appreciated.

                            Man fixing and electrical outlet
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                            Home and Garden Repair Home ElectricalJanuary 30, 2013
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