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Kevin, Licensed Electrical Contractor
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 3670
Experience:  30 years Licensed Electrical Contractor in Illinois, Adjunct College Electrical Instructor, Former Electrical Inspector, Diploma: Digital Electronics, FCC Technician License
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Kevin, I have a washing machine outlet that is dead. It

Customer Question

I have a washing machine outlet that is dead. It is just a standard outlet and no other circuits are on this line. The breaker is not tripped and I moved a known working breaker to the washing machine spot and still no power. I'm at a loss.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
Hello name is ***** ***** I will be happy to assist you with your electrical question. My goal is to exceed your expectations on Just Answer!
1) Most likely a loose wire connection or termination. Have you performed a visual inspection of the wire terminations at the receptacle?
Are the wires terminated onto the receptacle side screws or inserted into the receptacle back-stab hole inserts?
2) Do you have an AC voltmeter or a 2 wire lead AC voltage tester (a contact type) available to measure for voltages?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Visual preformed
Side Screws
Cannot measure voltage only a two wire light indicator checker
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
Thanks for the replies and confirmation.
1) Any chance that you can maybe borrow an AC voltmeter from a neighbor or a friend?
If not, you can purchase a quality AC voltmeter at Home Depot for $22.
See link shown below:
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I found a volt meter Greenlee DM-40
Would need some coaching as to how to use it
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
Perfect, the Greenlee is a good AC voltmeter
1) Set the meter to the AC voltage level (the one to the right of the OFF switch dial). Set it to the 200 volt level and place the 2 probes into the bottom holes of the meter.
2) Turn the circuit breaker to the ON position.
3) At the receptacle, insert 1 probe to the receptacle short slot (hot conductor side) and the other probe to the receptacle long slot (neutral side). Should = approximately 120 volts.
4) Repeat the same on the short slot (hot side) and place the other probe into the round ground hole. Should also = approximately 120 volts
5) Lastly, place 1 probe to the long slot (neutral side) and the other meter probe to the round ground hole. Should = 0 volts or very close to it.
Reply back to me and let me know all 3 voltage measurements and we can take it from there.......Thanks.......Kevin!
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
OK, I had actually removed the outlet completely before I contacted you but I preformed the test about on the wires.3) Voltage 0
4) Voltage 0
5) Voltage 0
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
OK, thank you for the confirmation.
1) Since (0) zero voltage when measuring from Hot to Neutral and from Hot to Ground indicates that you have an open hot conductor somewhere in the branch circuit.
2) Keep in mind that the circuit wires can easily tandem thru many other receptacle boxes, or wall switch boxes or lighting boxes or junction boxes before it reaches the final destination at the washing machine receptacle. The circuit can contain wire nut splices in any of these boxes. All it takes is one loose wire.
3) Have you confirmed that there is no GFCI on this circuit which may have tripped?
4) Do you feel comfortable to take a voltage measurement inside the electrical panel directly at the circuit breaker?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
There is no GFCI on the circuit. The washer is the only thing on this circuit.
I am comfortable working in the panel with your instruction.
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
OK, very good. Just wanted to make sure no GFCI was present.
1) 1st off, remove any and all jewelry that you may be wearing as you don't want to have these accidentally come into contact inside the electrical panel. Safety first:)
2) Remove the panel door screws and locate the branch circuit breaker. Reset the breaker to OFF and then to the ON position. Will either be a 15 or preferably a 20 amp single pole breaker.
3) Set your meter to the same setting as when you tested the receptacle. Place 1 meter probe to the branch circuit breaker screw terminal (where the hot wire terminates) and the other meter probe to the main neutral bus bar inside the panel (the bar that has all of the white neutral wires terminated to it). Should = approximately 120 volts.
4) Next, repeat the same at the circuit breaker and place the other meter probe directly to the panel metal enclosure. This will measure from Hot to Ground. Should also = approximately 120 volts.
5) If you get two 120 volt readings at the circuit breaker, this confirms the breaker is good and the open hot conductor is downstream from the main electrical panel (towards the washing machine receptacle).
6) What is the wiring scheme that was used? Is the circuit wired using metal conduit or Romex cable or some other type of cable such as BX?
7) Was any recent electrical work performed in the home such as swapping out switches or receptacles, etc?
Let me know the voltage measurements on the breaker......Thanks!
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
3) 121.3V
4) 121.4V
The wire is just residential type 12-2 if that is what you are askingThanks
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
1) OK, very good. Your voltage measurements indicate that the circuit breaker is working properly. The problem is an open hot conductor downstream of the panel and towards the receptacle.
2) Yes, 12/2 is Romex cable which is fine.
3) Unless you can visually determine the route of the cable and see which boxes the cable may splice at, you will have a difficult time in locating which boxes the circuit may be tandeming thru.
You have 2 options here:
A) Start by opening boxes that you think were logically installed along the circuit path and looking for open splices or loose wires. This is a time consuming effort since you probably don't know how the circuit cable was installed or routed from box to box.
B) The other option is to use a circuit toner and probe. Doubt that you have one of these and you would need to purchase one at Home Depot or borrow one if a friend has such a toner?
See link shown below:
Either toner model will work and both of these are the cheapest price.
4) If using a toner and a probe, the hot wire at the circuit breaker and the white neutral wire at the neutral bus bar needs to be removed. A circuit toner and probe can only be used on a de-energized circuit. You can place the toner either at the panel end or at the receptacle end via the 2 alligator clips. then walk around to all of the electrical boxes in the area to confirm where the circuit tandems thru. Once you obtain an audible at a box, you know the circuit wires go thru that box. Once all of the boxes are known that the circuit tandems thru, then those boxes are opened up one at a time to perform a visual inspection and confirmation of the wire nuts. Voltages can also be tested. This is also a time consuming process but is faster using a toner and a probe in order to identify which boxes the circuit tandems thru.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I am very confident that the circuit for the washing machine goes directly from the panel to the electrical box behind the washer without passing through any other boxes. It is a short run, maybe 20 feet but all behind sheetrock. I may have to run a new wire outside the wall and bypass this bad wire completely. Thoughts?
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
1) If the cable is a "home run" cable and does not tandem thru any other boxes, there would not be any other splices then.
2) Flip the breaker to the OFF position and check the torquing of the hot conductor at the breaker screw. Possible the screw at the breaker is not securely tightened?
3) Since your Greenlee has a built in continuity tester with an audible feature, you can use this feature to confirm if all 3 conductors are continuous and not broken. If using the continuity feature, the hot, neutral and the bare copper ground need to be temporarily removed at the panel. You can only perform a continuity test on a de-energized circuit. Once the 3 wires are removed, you can short 2 wires together (Black and White, Black and Bare Copper and White and Bare Copper at one end. Then go to the other end and check for continuity with the Greenlee. The continuity test will check for a complete loop on all 3 wires.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thanks for your help
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
1) No problem..... glad to assist. Wish this was an easier problem to locate and fix. Often, troubleshooting an electrical problem is a time consuming effort. Been down this road numerous times:(
If you have any additional questions, let me know and I’ll be glad to answer them for you.
Otherwise, don’t forget to rate me before you log Off.
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
If you have any additional questions, let me know and I’ll be glad to answer them for you.
Otherwise, don’t forget to rate me before you log Off.