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Kevin
Kevin, Licensed Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 2936
Experience:  29 years as a Licensed Electrical Contractor in Illinois, 5 year college Electrical Instructor, Former Electrical Inspector, Diploma in Digital Electronics, Former Illinois Licensed Home Inspector
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The wall outlets in the kitchen tied to breaker #12 are dead.

Customer Question

The wall outlets in the kitchen tied to breaker #12 are dead. The breaker measured 125V at the panel.
My guess is these outlets are downstream of the GFI switch.
No power to this GFI outlet. I believe the first GFI in the circuit from the service panel is the one located in the garage, followed by upstairs bathroom, then master bathroom. All three GFI's are working, green light, power in and power out. Small slot on each outlet lights up with tester.
There is one outlet in the kitchen with three black and three neutral wires--no power to this outlet. It is located on the opposite wall as the dead GFI outlet.
Cause? Just went dead, not running any high demand device or cannot think of a trigger for the all the power to stop flowing.
Submitted: 7 months ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 months ago.
Hello and welcome to Just Answer. My name is ***** ***** I will be happy to assist you with your electrical question. 1) At the GFCI, temporarily remove the LOAD side wires and let me know if the GFCI receptacle works correctly and if it is able to trip and reset?
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
OK, give me a few minutes and I'll be back
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 months ago.
No problem, take your time and reply back to me on what you find...........Thanks...........Kevin:)
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
The GFI is a stab back plug in, and it is not easily dislodged. I have small screwdriver filled down to a point, is there something else that might work better?
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 months ago.
Thanks for the replies. 1) Back-stab connections on devices are never recommended as they will eventually come loose and fail over time. Wires terminated to any device should only be terminated to the side terminal screws and use a pigtail splice if greater than 1 wire termination.
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
I cut the load side, and will reattach with connection with the screw. The GFI switch will not reset with the load side removed.
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 months ago.
Thanks for the replies. 1) Since the breaker is measuring the correct voltage and removing the LOAD side wires at the GFCI and the GFCI does not reset, then one of two possibilities. Either a defective GFCI or a ground fault upstream of the GFCI receptacle or a loose wire termination. 2) You can also temporarily splice the LINE and LOAD side wires together and by-pass the GFCI. If the downstream receptacles work correctly, this will confirm the GFCI is defective or a loose wire connection originally at the GFCI . If the downstream receptacles don't work, then a loose wire connection or a faulty wire nut splice. 3) Possibly a defective GFCI that may need to be replaced.
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
The line side for this GFI does not register or indicate power. While it could be a defective GFI, there is no power to the outlet to confirm. If power is coming out on the other three GFIs, do you have any other suggestions?
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 months ago.
1) If the LINE side of the GFCI does not measure voltage, that means that there is an open or a loose wire connection upstream of that GFCI either inside another box on the branch circuit. You will need to check and measure for voltage at all upstream boxes of the GFCI. The problem is not a defective GFCI then.
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
Thanks, ***** ***** the outlet in line after the GFI in the master bathroom, measured 124.7V in and .5V out. Found the problem, and I appreciate your assistance.
Bruce
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 months ago.
No problem Bruce, glad to assist. Good job on your part in locating the problem:) If you have any additional questions, just let me know and I’ll be glad to answer them for you. Otherwise, don’t forget to rate me before you log Off. Thanks.............Kevin:)
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 months ago.
If you have any additional questions, just let me know and I’ll be glad to answer them for you. Otherwise, don’t forget to rate me before you log Off. Thanks.............Kevin:)
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
Kevin, sorry, but I was buried at work all week. The problem still exists, and here's what I tried. The first dead outlet in the string was identified. This outlet is separated from the last hot outlet by six feet, and is on the adjacent wall that bends around a convex corner. I cut a six foot section of 12 gauge wire and tapped into the hot wire on the working outlet. It was routed around the corner and attached to the load side of the dead outlet. The other five outlets, and the GFI worked--this is the problem I am trying to fix. The dead outlet is brand new, and I believe there is a break in the hot neutral wire going around the corner. Your thoughts?
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 months ago.
Thanks for the replies. 1) Does your voltmeter contain a continuity feature or do you have a separate continuity tester? If so, the continuity feature can confirm the location of an open conductor.
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
on the multimeter, I am not sure what symbol shown on the dial would correspond to a continuity tester. I have a tester that I plug into each slot of the outlet to signal if it is hot. I also have a cable tracker from harbor freight. How could I determine where the break in the line is?
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 months ago.
Thanks for the replies. 1) Your voltmeter may not have a continuity feature, but most likely it has an Ohm feature (resistance). 2) 1st kill power at the branch circuit breaker. Then measure for voltage at a receptacle on that circuit to make sure power is dead. 3) Next, remove the LOAD side wires at the GFCI receptacle. Then get a small piece of either 14 or 12 AWG copper wire and place the jumper wire at one of the downstream receptacles. Jumper the wire into the long and short receptacle slot. The jumper wire will now create a "loopback" to the GFCI LOAD wires. Now go back to the GFCI LOAD wires and test for continuity. Place 1 meter probe to the hot wire and the other meter prove to the white neutral wire. If using an Ohm meter, an open wire will show as "OL or 1 or the infinity symbol". If a closed loop (no open wires, the meter will show as "0" ohms. 4) Repeat this on all of the downstream receptacles. Once the meter locates the open, then perform a visual inspection at that receptacle box or the preceeding receptacle. Check all splices and back-stab inserts. If any back-stab inserts, re-terminate those to the side receptacle screws. Back-stab inserts always come loose and will eventually fail. Reply back and let me know how you make out..........Thanks...............Kevin:)
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 months ago.
1) Shown in the PDF file below is additional info on using an Ohm meter.
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
Thanks Kevin. OK, I followed the jumper wire test and the Ohm meter just read O.L, that is, there was no change from when I selected the ohms on the multimeter for four of the affected outlets. However, one of the other outlets fluctuated from 50 to .3 and all points in between. This outlet does not have the stab-back style connectors, and I was not able to see any break in the wires. Could this outlet have gone defective?
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 months ago.
Thanks for the replies. 1) An "OL" reading indicates an open conductor. Could be the hot or the neutral. If the wiring is Romex cable, there is also a bare copper ground wire. You can use the bare copper ground wire to compare it to the hot or neutral wire and zoom in if the open wire is the hot or the neutral. Check for continuity as follows: A) Hot to GroundB) Neutral to Ground. 2) Insert the jumper wire from the short slot to the round ground hole. This will confirm H to G. 3) Then insert the jumper wire from the long slot to the round ground hole. This will confirm N to G. Now you will be able to determine if the open wire is an open hot or an open neutral. Once you know which wire is open, now you can target in at each receptacle splice and locate the problem. 4) Regular duplex receptacles seldom become defective. Doubtful if a faulty receptacle. The problem will be an open conductor caused by a faulty termination or a faulty splice in most cases.
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
So, to clarify, the outlet that measured fluctuating ohms is fine, and the others are the issue? Secondly, to check for continuity for H to G and N to G, am I still measuring the load side of the GFI with the Ohm meter, that is the same test as before?
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 months ago.
1) If you are measuring Ohm's, that means there is a loop present. All wires have an Ohm's per foot value. Thus you are measuring the total resistance on that loop from the 2 wires. Therefore, there is no open and it is a closed loop. 2) Yes, repeat the same test at the LOAD side of the GFCI and use the bare copper ground wire to compare to the Hot and Neutral. You can also move downstream and open up the H and N wires at the next downstream receptacle. If doing this, then just insert the jumper wire into the next downstream receptacle from where you are placing the meter probes. 3) For example, let's call the GFCI as box "A" and the remaining downstream or LOAD side receptacles as boxes "B", C, D", etc. By isolating the parallel circuit, you can relocate the Ohm meter in between any of these boxes to locate an open conductor. Just keep moving the jumper wire each time you relocate the meter.
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
I might have answered my own question, the one outlet that shows a reading of fluctuating ohms indicated the hot wire is causing the fluctuation.
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 months ago.
1) OK, check that hot wire termination or splice. Re-do the splice is always recommended. Then re-test with the Ohm meter.
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 months ago.
1) Using the Ohm feature on a multimeter works to locate an open conductor, but an easier method to check for continuity is to use a meter that has a built-in audible continuity feature or a separate continuity tester that provides either an audible and/or a built-in flashing LED. Much easier to hear the beeping or to visually see a flashing light when checking for continuity.
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
Kevin, thank you. ***** am missing the intermediate step, what am splicing? Does that mean cut the exiting hot bare copper wire, and use a fresh end to reconnect to the outlet, joining the two hot wires together, or something different?
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 months ago.
1) If the receptacle is a middle of the run, it will either contain 2 hot and 2 neutral wires terminated to the side screws. Check those screws to make sure they are tight. If the receptacle contains a plastic wire nut splice, remove the wire nut and twist the wires tight and then re-cap with the plastic wire nut. 2) If the receptacle is an end of the run, the hot and neutral wires will only terminate to the side screws and the box will not contain any splices.
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
OK, this outlet is in the middle of the run--two Romex cables. I removed both hot wires, inspected them, and snuggly reattached them to each screw. The H to G test with the jumper wire shows the same fluctuating Ohm reading on the load side of the GFI
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 months ago.
That means that the H to G loop is not an open since the meter does not show an "OL" reading. The reading indicates resistance (Ohm's) on the 2 wires and the 2 wires have formed a closed loop using the jumper. Therefore, there is no open conductor from H to G.
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
OK, I have learned that there are four open outlets, and the H to G and N to G are all open. Not sure what I can do from here.
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 months ago.
I doubt it very much if there are 4 open wires. In problems, such as this, there is typically only 1 open wire which can easily impact 4 downstream receptacles. The key is to isolate the problem and check for open wires between each receptacle by checking for continuity. If 4 receptacles are not working, then the problem will most likely be an open conductor at the 1st dead receptacle on the previous receptacle.
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
With the six foot jumper wire used to test the outlets last weekend, and the tests done today, I am entertaining the idea that the break in the wire is behind the wall. All of the outlets worked when I jumped the six foot wire to the first dead receptacle.
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 months ago.
1) It is possible that there may be an open inside the wall, but this seldom occurs if NM Romex cable was installed. Of course a punctured cable could have been caused by a nail that penetrated a wire. Another rare possibility is that a mouse got behind a wall and chewed thru the cable. Doubtful, but could occur. 2) Another option to troubleshooting the problem is to re-connect everything and then obtain a long 3 prong extension cord. Turn the circuit breaker back to the ON position and re-wire everything as was originally connected. 3) Now locate a different known working circuit and a wall receptacle, plug the cord into the wall receptacle and compare the extension cord wires to the dead receptacles and confirm which open wire is causing the problem. The 1st key item is too confirm if the problem is an open hot or an open neutral. By using the other circuit, this can compare and confirm if the dead circuit is an open hot or an open neutral. Once you know which wire is causing the problem, that is 50% of the troubleshooting. The next step is to locate the open wire and correct the problem. 4) Shown below is a diagram where a 3 prong extension cord can be used to compare the voltage and utilize the other known working circuit conductors. By using a voltmeter and another known working circuit and extension cord, the problem wire can easily be identified.
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 months ago.
1) Use the extension cord 3 conductors.....ie... H, N and G. Place 1 meter probe into the cord hot slot and the other meter probe to the dead receptacle neutral slot. If measuring voltage, the dead receptacle neutral is good. Reverse the meter probes. Next, place a probe into the cord neutral slot and the 2nd meter probe to the dead receptacle hot slot. If measuring 120 volts, the hot wire at the dead receptacle is good. This test can conclude if the dead receptacle has an open hot or an open neutral. 2) A properly connected wall receptacle can be measured 3 times as follows: A) H to N should = 120B) H to G should = 120C) N to G should = 0 volts or very close to 0 volts.
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 months ago.
1) Another possible issue is that an open wire splice can exist at either a wall switch box or a junction box or even at a ceiling lighting box or at another known working circuit box. Keep in mind that problems such as this can reside in almost any other type of box since the circuit can easily tandem and splice thru other boxes on this circuit or at another box from a different circuit. Locating an open conductor can often take hours to find the problem. Especially when Romex cable was installed. If the circuit was wired with conduit, you can gently tug on wires and listen or visually watch the wires and locate the next up or downstream box. Unfortunately if Romex cables were installed, you can't tug on anything since the cables are stapled to the 2"x4"s. Thus a Romex installation becomes more challenging.
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
Thanks Kevin, the extension cord test showed the open is the hot wire on the first dead receptacle, and verifies the earlier tests. There is an open hot across this six foot span. Getting a hot wire to the first dead receptacle electrified the down stream outlets including the GFI. I appreciate all your help and thank you for your patience.
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 months ago.
No problem, glad to assist. 1) Now that you know the problem is an open hot wire, the next step is to locate the open hot and correct the problem. As I mentioned earlier, troubleshooting these types of problems is a challenge even for an experienced electrician since the open conductor can be located in any box along the circuit path. Very frustrating for sure and time consuming troubleshooting this type of problem:(. 2) If you go back and use the Ohm readings and isolate the problem from the circuit breaker all the way out to the daisy chained receptacles, you should be able to eventually locate the open hot due to a faulty splice or loose wire termination.