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Kevin
Kevin, Licensed Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 2940
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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I have a dead outlet in my bathroom. It worked fine for

Customer Question

I have a dead outlet in my bathroom. It worked fine for years and suddenly just quit. I've checked and replaced the fuses and still no fire. Would someone please give me detailed instructions as to how to replace it and make it work safely. It is not connected to the light switch so it does not come on/off when the light is on. Ive used a test meter and got nothing. Even had a retired electrician look at it and still need help.
Submitted: 10 days ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  Kevin replied 10 days ago.

Hello and welcome to Just Answer. My name is ***** ***** I will be happy to assist you with your electrical question.

1) Do you have a 2 wire lead AC voltage tester (a contact type) or a multimeter to take a voltage measurement?

2) Does the circuit reside on a fuse or on a circuit breaker?

3) Have you checked for any tripped GFCI devices?

Customer: replied 10 days ago.
Dont have GFCI devices, its on a circuit breaker box located just out the kitchen door, and I have a voltage measurement tool I believe. This house was built in the late 1950's, around 58
Expert:  Kevin replied 10 days ago.

Thanks for the replies.

1) The voltage tester must be a 2 wire lead type (contact tester) or a multimeter. Come back here once you have the tester as you will need to take a voltage measurement at the receptacle.

2) See diagram shown below to assist you in taking the voltage measurements at the dead receptacle:

Customer: replied 10 days ago.
who makes a proper tester like you suggest
Customer: replied 10 days ago.
can you send a photo I'm not real good with electrical stuff
Expert:  Kevin replied 10 days ago.

Shown in the link below is a quality Klein multimeter sold at Home Depot:

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Klein-Tools-Manual-Ranging-Digital-Multimeter-MM300/206517192

Customer: replied 10 days ago.
okay. i have a Klein Tools ET 50 Voltage Tester. Is that model sufficient to do what you're asking?
Expert:  Kevin replied 10 days ago.

Yes, that tester will also work

Customer: replied 10 days ago.
okay as i stated in my first chat I had a retired electrician use this meter on the outlet in question and he said it needed to be replaced. I dont know how or what that entails. He is also 87 so he may be a little behind times, however voltage is voltage right. So where from here?
Expert:  Kevin replied 10 days ago.

Thanks for the replies

1) If the receptacle is a 3 prong type, measure as follows:

A) Insert 1 probe to the hot slot (short slot) and the 2nd probe into the neutral slot (long slot). Should measure 120 volts

B) Insert 1 probe to the hot slot (short slot) and the 2nd probe to the round ground hole. Should also measure 120 volts

C) Insert 1 probe to the neutral slot (long slot) and the 2nd probe to the round ground hole. Should measure 0 volts.

Reply back with the readings........Thanks...........Kevin:)

Customer: replied 10 days ago.
as for short slot etc... use the chart from the previous chat?
Expert:  Kevin replied 10 days ago.

A receptacle contains 2 slots......ie....... 1 short and 1 longer slot. If a 3 prong receptacle, the round hole is the ground connection.

The short slot is the hot wire connection.

The long slot is the neutral wire connection.

Yes, refer to the diagram I sent earlier

Customer: replied 10 days ago.
okay ill test them and let you know the results
Expert:  Kevin replied 10 days ago.

Very good

Customer: replied 10 days ago.
as I said im not that good with meters,what should i set the meter to so I get the proper results>
Expert:  Kevin replied 10 days ago.

Most meters will have a 200 volt AC setting

Customer: replied 10 days ago.
got it,ill refer to manual to see how to set it.
Expert:  Kevin replied 10 days ago.

Very good

Customer: replied 10 days ago.
just tried all the options and got nothing. Can the battery on this tester be bad, because it says its supposed to come on as soon as it receives voltage.
Expert:  Kevin replied 10 days ago.

Test another known working receptacle in the home and confirm that the tester is working OK

Customer: replied 10 days ago.
thought of that as well so were on the same thought pattern. Just to be sure, when testing the red probe goes in the hot slot and the black in the ground or neutral right? So hot to ground and hot to neutral>
Expert:  Kevin replied 10 days ago.

The probe colors don't matter where they insert to the receptacle slots. Black to short or black to long or visa versa will work.

Customer: replied 10 days ago.
Tried a known working outlet and the tool worked awesome. Got correct readings however when I tried the bad outlet i got no readings of and kind, So whats next? By the way the circuit breaker is on and there is power in the bathroom where the outlet is.
Expert:  Kevin replied 10 days ago.

1) OK, good job on confirming the meter.

2) Since no voltage at the dead receptacle, back the receptacle out from the wall box but do not disconnect any wires. Perform the same voltage measurements at the receptacle side screws.

Brass = hot

Silver = neutral

Green ground screw or any bare copper wires inside the wall box = ground.

Check if the box contains any wire nut splices and make sure they are properly tightened

Expert:  Kevin replied 8 days ago.

Hope this helps………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 days ago.
okay, did the tests and got 0's. no response on any nut,post.wire or anything, what's next please?
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 days ago.

1) Does the home contain other known working 3 prong grounded receptacles? Since the home was built in the late 50's, the receptacles may not be grounded.

Go to another 3 prong working receptacle and confirm if it is grounded. Insert 1 probe to the receptacle short slot (hot) and the other probe to the round ground hole. Do you get 120 volts doing this? If so, then get a long 3 prong extension cord and plug it into that receptacle and bring the female end of the cord to the dead receptacles. We will then use a known working circuit and compare it to the dead circuit. We need to confirm if you have an open hot or an open neutral wire. Thus the purpose of the extension cord test.

See diagram shown below:

Customer: replied 7 days ago.
i dont have a meter like you image shows, i just have the same ET50 i used the other day, How do i set it ?
If I understand, we use power from the good outlet with the red hot lead and insert the black lead into the matching slot on the dead outlet which should complete the circuit and tell what type of problem I have right.
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 days ago.

Your tester does not contain voltage setting, therefore nothing to set. That tester is a solenoid voltage tester which is fine. I also have one of those that I use all of the time.

When testing for AC voltage, the tester probe colors don't matter. AC voltage is not polarity sensitive, only DC voltage is polarity sensitive.

Yes, by comparing the wires in a known working receptacle versus the lack of voltage at a dead receptacle, this testing exercise will confirm if the problem is an open hot wire or an open neutral wire. Since you are not measuring voltage, I suspect an open hot wire issue. The extension cord test will confirm this.

Customer: replied 7 days ago.
okay done and still got nothing. no blip of any kind. so i checked the cord and got full responses on all slots. next on the list would be what please?
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 days ago.

Thanks for the replies.

1) Next step is to start backing out receptacles and wall switches and look for loose wires and check wire nut splices. Devices that are back-stabbed wired are the most prone to failure. Devices should always be wired only to the side screws.

Customer: replied 7 days ago.
What? The only other switch in the bathroom is the light switch on the other wall and the lights work fine. This outlet just quit.so I dont get what your asking me to do now, Can you be a little more direct as I said I'm not up on all the technical electric talk.
Customer: replied 7 days ago.
What is a " backstabbed" wired?
Customer: replied 7 days ago.
Also there aren't any devices wired to anything as far as I can tell. Its just an outlet my wife plugged her curling iron and blow dryer in.
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 days ago.

All working and dead receptacles and switches need to be checked with a volt meter and double checked for loose wires.

Back-stabbed receptacles and switches can have wires inserted into holes and not terminated to the device side screws, Back-stabbed wires are prone to come loose. Wires should only be terminated to the device screws.

Customer: replied 7 days ago.
i need to open the dead outlet and check if it has anything connected to any place other than the screws and also check the working light switch?
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 days ago.

Yes, any and all of the devices on the circuit need to be checked.1 loose wire or 1 faulty wire splice can create a dead circuit.

Unfortunately, problems such as this are not often a simple 5 minute fix. It can take hours to locate and correct the problem even for the most experienced electrician.

Customer: replied 7 days ago.
that sucks! how do i know what outlets are on the same circuit? just start flipping breakers. is it possible to wire the outlet to a different working circuit? Someone suggested just running hot wires from the light outlet to the "box" and then it would work again is that accurate info?
Expert:  Kevin replied 7 days ago.

1) The electrical panel should be labeled with the room or area of the controlling circuit. Many panels are often mis-labeled or not correct.

2) Yes, back out devices and measure with a voltmeter and turn the breaker ON/OFF. Troubleshooting electrical problems is a process of isolation and elimination. Not an easy task:)

3) No, all circuits have a dedicated hot and neutral wire. In your application, there is either an open hot or an open neutral wire and it needs to be located and corrected.

Customer: replied 21 hours ago.
Thanks sound like a "really fun" experience.NNNNNOOOOOOTTTT! lol. Will the previous idea work without causing any other issues you can think of?
Expert:  Kevin replied 21 hours ago.

1) Yes, it may be possible to extend the circuit from an existing light box, but you would need to confirm if the light box also contains an always live hot wire and not just a switched loop wire for the light.

Customer: replied 19 hours ago.
do you have a way to show me how to determine that please>? By the way when this is all said and done you will be getting 7 stars from me, I really appreciate all the help you've given.
Expert:  Kevin replied 19 hours ago.

No problem, glad to assist.

1) A ceiling light fixture box may or may not contain an always live hot wire. The box will contain a switched loop wire that extends from a light switch but this wire is only live when the switch is in the ON position. The light box will always contain a neutral wire.

2) You will need a multimeter or a 2 wire led AC voltage tester to confirm if the light box contains an always live hot wire. If the light box contains more than 1 black wire in it, then a good chance that the circuit was initially routed to the light box 1st. If so, then you can splice into that circuit feed and extend that hot wire, the neutral and a ground wire to a receptacle.

Customer: replied 19 hours ago.
Thanks again, will the ET50 test meter that I have been using in previous chats work for this test as well?
Expert:  Kevin replied 19 hours ago.

Yes, your ET50 tester will work just fine.

Customer: replied 19 hours ago.
Great Ill test it out tomorrow and ask where to go from there, Tomorrow is my Saturday,
Expert:  Kevin replied 19 hours ago.

No problem, just reply back to me at this same question and we can continue.

Thanks................Kevin:)

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