Troubleshooting Wiring Problems?

December 23, 2004

Woman Troubleshooting Wiring ProblemGround wire has become hot, any idea where to start looking? Problem is between the Service Panel and the first receptacle.

Robnoxious SoCal



By DearWebby (Guest Post)
December 23, 20040 found this helpful

For a ground wire to get hot, you have to pass a lot of power through it. Unless you get free electricity, fix that fast!
If it is not a plugged in appliance that is causing it, (easy enough to check by unplugging whatever is plugged in there) the first step would be to turn the breaker off and replace the receptacle. The black wire goes to the brass terminals, the white wire goes to the silver terminals, and the ground wire goes to the sixor eight sided green ground terminal.

If that does not cure the problem, then please replace the cable between the breaker box and the receptacle before the house burns down. If you can't fix it today, turn the breaker off until it can be fixed. Also top off your insurance and keep some FULL fire extinguishers handy. The problem you have is not a joking matter, but very serious!


Because the possibility exists that a nail or screw penetrated the cable, don't touch any picture frames or nails or screws in the wall until the problem has been fixed. That could be a very shocking experience.

If you think that cutting the wall open to replace that wire is messy, consider the alternative: a burned down house. That is a LOT messier.

Before cutting the wall open or doing anything with wall board, move your computers as far away as possible and cover them with plastic. Dust from Gypsum, wall-board, sheet-rock, etc. WILL HURT your CD drives.

Next attach a no-slip drop-sheet or piece of old carpet to the wall ABOVE the baseboard with ducktape or masking tape.

With the breaker off, use a small wall board saw or box cutter and cut a slit wide enough to see the cable.


Where you see the cable attached with staples, cut some extra to get at the staple and pull it. Also cut the cable there and pull out the section of cable that has been freed up to that point. Once you have all the pieces of cable out, lay them end to end and measure their length, so that you know how much new cable you need.

Before pushing in the new cable, push in a single wire or haywire. You can guide it along by reaching into the slit in the wall with needle-nose pliers. Then use that wire to pull in the cable. Don't try it alone. Have one person pushing and one person pulling.

Once the new cable is connected to a new receptacle and everything is working fine, get some cheap hemp or sisal rope the same length as the cable that you bought and about the thickness of the slot in the wall. Cut the rope into foot long pieces, Soak pieces of the rope in thin wall-board mud and stuff them into the slit so that they don't stick out farther than the surface. That rope trick will save you hours and money and frustration.


Let the rope dry overnight and then finish the wall like you would for surface scratches.

Don't uncover or bring back the computer(s) until all the dust has been vacumed up and the wall sealed with paint.

If you can't do it now, turn the breaker off and take it out, so that nobody can turn it on. A hot ground wire means you have an almost burning house.

Good Luck!

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By (Guest Post)
March 26, 20050 found this helpful

half of my circuit is fine... on the other half I have the 120vac from black to ground but only about 7 vac positive to neutral and 0 neutral to ground. just bought this hose and this is one of the few remaining problems Im haveing. any ideas on an easy way to isolate the problem?

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By JG (Guest Post)
September 18, 20050 found this helpful

Old house, remodeling bathroom. Feed from panel to light in ceiling. From there 2 separate wires spliced at ceiling fixture....1 to wall light and 1 to switch on wall that operates both lights. Is this safe? I changed out the ceiling fixture to a bath fan and connected the wires back.


Now, when the switch is in OFF position, the light and fan both work. When you flip the switch to ON, the circuit trips? Any advice?

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By Mory Read (Guest Post)
April 29, 20060 found this helpful

I recently removed a three way switch with the hopes of replacing with a new one, however everytine I try to hook it up I blow the breaker. Any idea's on what is causing this? The old switch seemed to be wired wrong because it would only work if the other switch was in the correct position.

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By Biff Jones (Guest Post)
June 18, 20080 found this helpful

I have five garage light sockets wired using one switch. When the switch is flipped one light is fully illuminated- the other four are considerably dimmer. This is on a new wiring project. what could be wrong?

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12 More Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

October 11, 2019

For no apparent reason my kitchen outlets stopped working. I also realized my stove wasn't working. I checked all the breakers, but none were tripped. A few minutes later they started working again, except the stove. Now the power to these outlets comes and goes.

Here's where it gets weird, when checking breakers, I shut off the breaker to my stove (220) and it shut off my kitchen lights and power to outlets. I'm no electrician, but I'm pretty sure that shouldn't happen.

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February 26, 2019

So my fluorescent light wasn't working. Rather than replace the ballast I just bought a new shop light fixture. However when I hooked it up and placed the bulbs in it doesn't light. What could be my issue?

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February 4, 2019

What do I need to change on a three way switch so that both switches can be used to control the lights? Right now both switches have to be on for the lights to work.

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July 23, 2017

I recently rewired a 3-way switch because it was not working properly. The problem did not resolve itself. Then I accidentally discovered that the 3-way switch in the hall works perfectly, but only when a different breaker is shut off.

Why would this happen?


Gold Post Medal for All Time! 677 Posts
July 28, 20170 found this helpful

Your switch may not be wired correctly, or may have a broken connection. This article can

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Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 105 Posts
July 28, 20170 found this helpful

When you wire a switch, you only wire with 1 cable. An electric cable normally has 3 cables inside the thick black outer casing.


You will see the positive, negative, and ground cable. The negative and ground cable isn't used when wiring a switch.

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April 7, 2014

I had cabinets installed in my garage and somewhere the installer hit a 220 line and the line won't reset. The installation company is sending a man using trial and error to find which screw is touching the line. My question is once we find the screw and relocate it is the wire OK or is it a potential fire hazard? If it is a hazard would installing a junction box be OK or do I need to rewire?

By Tim O. from Anaheim, CA


Silver Post Medal for All Time! 255 Posts
December 7, 20170 found this helpful

It could be a fire hazard depending on how much damaged they did to the wire. At the very least, the damage needs to be uncovered and taped with electrical tape, if it just got the insulation. If it is very bad, it may need splicing or a new box.

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October 7, 2016

I installed a light in the bathroom of my condo which is connected on the same line as my bathroom, my other bathroom, and outlets in my bedroom. A two copper wire cover in alum coil was used to connect them and now every so often the light flickers and sometime goes out and then comes back on.


Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 170 Feedbacks
October 8, 20160 found this helpful

I'm all for do it yourself projects, Morris, but wiring problems can be serious. Please check your home insurance policy and be sure your smoke detectors are fully functional. Maybe think about hiring a professonial to check your work?

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April 10, 2016

I added a switch to an existing light that just had a pull string, and I wired in a new switch and now when I turn the new switch on it turns on and if the other switch is turned on in the other room it turns that light on and off, also. After digging around I found that the power is shared, is it possible to wire the light so that this does not keep happening. Thanks.


April 12, 20160 found this helpful

Since you added the switch, you no longer have a "hot" to the light, you have a "switch leg" which is only hot when the switch is on.

The other switch was fed from the hot which is now a switch leg. You need to feed it with a hot. This can be done if there is an extra wire between the switch and the light.

An electrician can help you identify a hot circuit to tie your other switch into.

Good Luck.

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November 12, 2015

The switch on the wall operates the outlet. I just put a ceiling fan/light in. Both the outlet and fan are wired with 12/3. I would like to put in 2 switches. I have tried everything I could possible think of. I have been up all night, back and fourth to the box. I was able to get the fan and light to work, but not the outlet.

I was able to get the outlet, but not the fan. So I have a black and white coming in - the switch. I have red white and black coming in - existing . I have new red white and black coming. Please help - I am driving myself crazy! I have tried three way switches-single pole. I will await your help! Thank you in advance.


November 13, 20150 found this helpful

I would talk to an electrician. They have the tools and meters to make sure the job is done safely. Box fill could rapidly become a problem here. Without meters, assumptions have to be made that code was followed (black is hot, white is neutral.....)

I have this sketch on how it should be done to have the fan always powered and the light on the switch.

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June 1, 2014

The wiring in my home is chirping and won't stop. It is not the smoke alarm.

By John from Los Angeles, CA


Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 226 Feedbacks
June 3, 20140 found this helpful

I would be calling an electrician right away. He/She could most likely tell you why while they are fixing it.

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February 6, 2014

My electrical wiring is making a static noise and there is a burning smell near the junction box and electrical breaker box. What should I check for since I have turned the breaker off?

By Gaspare


Silver Feedback Medal for All Time! 337 Feedbacks
February 11, 20140 found this helpful

You should check for the number of an electrician. If you are smelling a burning smell, you've got a fire somewhere. Be sure your main breaker is shut off. This is not something you should be fixing yourself. Hopefully, your home hasn't caught fire by the time you read this.

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September 29, 2011

What could be the problem in my wiring when I have power to my receptacles and none to my lights?

By handyman from Orrum, NC


Silver Feedback Medal for All Time! 282 Feedbacks
October 3, 20110 found this helpful

You have a serious problem that requires a professional; a trained, certified and licensed (and insured) professional who has the tools and knowledge to sort this. There is either a short somewhere or the wiring is wrong between the outlet and the lights.

BTW, outlets and light fixtures are mutually exclusive most of the time. If yours aren't and have the added bonus of not working, you can be sure there is a serious problem; the kind that leads to a catastrophic house fire.

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November 15, 2013

I put in a grounding rod with bare wire attached to connect up with a new cable I ran in the garage for a few outlets and a combo switch/receptacle. There is a black and a white wire overhead going in to the garage and the new cable is attached to those and the new ground.

I used a voltage tester and it lights when I check the two wires coming in to the garage. After connecting to a gfci receptacle only, the voltage tested no longer lights. It's as if I have lost power just by attaching the wires to the outlet. I disconnected the outgoing (load) wires and have the same problem. Your help is appreciated.

By Jeff

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