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Mike, Master Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 1425
Experience:  Licensed Master Electrician - OnQ Certified Data Voice Audio Video Installer
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I have a circuit with power to some of the lights/plugs on

Customer Question

I have a circuit with power to some of the lights/plugs on it and others dont have power. Narrowed down the search to the problem to a light switch. Narrowed it down to that box because when you turned the light switch off (just slightly pushing down), it made a crackling sound and I noticed power to all the plugs and lights that were previously off worked. However, when you turned the switch completely on or off, they didnt work.
At first i thought it was going to be an easy fix - get a new switch. Unhooked and hooked lines back on....and nothing. No fix.
That light switch box has 3 sets of wires coming into the box.
Two of the lines are powered by one circuit. The whites wires from these two lines are tied together and blacks are seperated. One of the black wires is hooked to the switch, the other is not. The wire that was not, was cut back to the plastic and just sitting in there.
The other line coming in has the white hooked to the switch and the black hooked to the switch.
When both circuits are turned on, my voltage meter shows all wires to the switch as hot (including white).
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  Mike G. replied 1 year ago.

Hi, I'm Mike G and I'll be assisting you. If I understand your description, it would indicate an open neutral connection if all wires show hot. A picture of the wiring would be helpful.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
See attached image.Wires on the left side are on from one circuit. When power is turned on, black is hot and white is neutral.Wires on the right are from another circuit. Whites are tied together, blacks are seperate. When powered, black is hot and whites are hot.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The black wire on the lower right was the one that was cut back to plastic. I trimmed plastic back to expose line
Expert:  Mike G. replied 1 year ago.

The wires on the left look like they were on the switch. One will be hot and the other will read neutral because it is completing the circuit through the light bulb. Reconnect those to a switch. Connect the other wires together by color and let me know the results.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hooked up as instructed (see pic). Light does not turn on. Other lights/plugs on the line are still not working.When I originally pulled switch out, the black wire (on upper right) was hooked to switch and the other black (lower right) was cut back to plastic and not hooked to anything
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Image attached
Expert:  Mike G. replied 1 year ago.

Having a wire cut and not wired is unusual. Let's try starting from scratch. Disconnect all wires and test each to ground. There should only be one hot. If another shows hot test it to the first hot for voltage reading. Let me know what you find.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Disconnected all wires.Wire set on the left - black is hot, white is neutral (circuit 1)Wire on upper right - no power to either lineWire set on lower right - black and white show as hot (circuit 2)
Expert:  Mike G. replied 1 year ago.

Is the switch a 3 way and is there another switch for the light? How old is the house?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Not a 3-way. House built in 1970.BTW - when I separated all the lines, the inoperable lines on circuit #1 began to work. Thus, with all lines from that switch unhooked, everything is working....expect the light associated with that switch. This is freaking me out???!!!
Expert:  Mike G. replied 1 year ago.

Well due to the odd wiring originally installed and not being on the site to ring out the lines, I'm opting out. Your question will post back to the board and another exoert may have an idea as to what's needed. Please stand by.

Expert:  Mike G. replied 1 year ago.

I looked at the pictures again and the switch looks to be a 3 way switch. Connect one of the wires to the black screw.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I connected the line from circuit 1 to it, light does not turn on.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Should I be hooking the line with no power to it as well?
Expert:  Mike G. replied 1 year ago.

If there is only the single switch for the light and you have a 3 way switch, the wires have to be one on the black screw and the other on a gold screw. Now reconnect all the wires as OK originally configured in the box. If it still doesn't make all operational, take the single wire that you found unconnected and strip it, then touch it to a hot wire to see what happens. Ordinarily this approach isn't taken, but with the way it appears to have been it is the only way.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I hooked line from circuit 1 to the switch. Turned breaker on. No power to light.Then took black wire (previously unconnected) and hooked that to the black of circuit 1, no change. Switch still does not turn on light. No indication of impact to other switches/plugs on lines. Again, everything now working except light.
Expert:  Mike G. replied 1 year ago.

Change the lamp to eliminate that as the problem.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
took lamp off and hooked to another line - works there
Expert:  Mike G. replied 1 year ago.

With the switch on, test the wires at the light to ground.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I dont have a tester to determine ground. Will need to address tomorrow when I can get ground tester
Expert:  Mike G. replied 1 year ago.

You should be able to use your multimeter. Put one probe on the ground and the other to the wire you're testing.

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