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Old 12-30-2012, 11:47 AM   #1
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Bizarre GFCI outlet problem


Hi everyone,

I have an unusual problem with two GFCI outlets in my garage. I have two garages, one of which I use as a wood shop. Each garage has two GFCI outlets. In my shop I purchased a new dust collection system. I plugged it into the GFCI outlet since that was the only option available to me. The collector obviously taxed the electrical load since the lights dimmed every time I flipped it on. Finally, one day I switched it on and I lost all electricity to both of the GFCI outlets in the garage almost immediately. Both of the outlets refused to reset. I checked for power to the outlets and there is no power getting to either one (using a meter [my father-in-law tested it and he knows electrical issues pretty well] and also using one of those handy dandy probe thingies). My limited knowledge suggested that there must be another GFCI outlet tripped somewhere. I have searched the entire house inside and out and checked every single oulet. My father-in-law didn't believe me and made a check of his own. All outlets (GFCI or not) work other than the two in the garage. The two in the other side of the garage work just fine. No circuit breakers were tripped, but to be safe I tripped them all and reset them.

We put a meter up to one of the GFCI outlets and had a nominal 0.02V reading (if I remember properly). I flicked on and off each of the circuit breakers while my father-in-law looked at the meter. The only one that made a small change in the reading was a circuit labeled for the smoke detectors (which is weird).

So, we have puzzled over this for weeks. I'm on the verge of having an electrician out, but I thought I might see if someone has a suggestion.

Thanks for reading!

Gary

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Old 12-30-2012, 11:57 AM   #2
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Bizarre GFCI outlet problem


The problem has nothing with the receptacles being gfci.
You have a missing connection feeding the first receptacle.
You are going to have to pull each receptacle that you think is on that circuit.
Do you have a meter?

You can use an extension cord and check for a missing hot or missing neutral.

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Old 12-30-2012, 12:02 PM   #3
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Bizarre GFCI outlet problem


In my experience, mostly on construction sites, heavy loads on GFCIs often burn them out.
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Old 12-30-2012, 12:06 PM   #4
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In my experience, mostly on construction sites, heavy loads on GFCIs often burn them out.
should I not still have power coming in, though? I don't seem to be getting any power to either one of the affected outlets
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Old 12-30-2012, 12:07 PM   #5
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Bizarre GFCI outlet problem


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Originally Posted by jbfan View Post
The problem has nothing with the receptacles being gfci.
You have a missing connection feeding the first receptacle.
You are going to have to pull each receptacle that you think is on that circuit.
Do you have a meter?

You can use an extension cord and check for a missing hot or missing neutral.
but these outlets were working fine right up to when I switched on the dust collector. A missing connection seems like a mechanical issue that should have been present beforehand?

Thanks for your answer!
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Old 12-30-2012, 12:08 PM   #6
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Bizarre GFCI outlet problem


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Originally Posted by gbreton View Post
should I not still have power coming in, though? I don't seem to be getting any power to either one of the affected outlets
Are you checking at the conductors going into the GFCI or through the slots on the GFCI?
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Old 12-30-2012, 12:10 PM   #7
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Bizarre GFCI outlet problem


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Originally Posted by gbreton View Post
but these outlets were working fine right up to when I switched on the dust collector. A missing connection seems like a mechanical issue that should have been present beforehand?

Thanks for your answer!
A loose connection anywhere in the circuit could open up when a heavy load is applied.
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Old 12-30-2012, 02:50 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brric View Post
Are you checking at the conductors going into the GFCI or through the slots on the GFCI?

I pulled the outlet out and checked at the sides where the lines come in. I pulled out a working GFCI outlet and made sure I received a positive signal for power, whereas I get no signal for power with either of the dead ones.

Thanks for thinking about this.
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Old 12-30-2012, 02:52 PM   #9
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A loose connection anywhere in the circuit could open up when a heavy load is applied.

ok, that is interesting. I would assume (possibly incorrectly) that all four of the GFCI outlets in the garage would be on the same line. Perhaps the issue is between one that is working and one that is dead.
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Old 12-30-2012, 10:01 PM   #10
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Bizarre GFCI outlet problem


Quote:
Originally Posted by gbreton View Post
ok, that is interesting. I would assume (possibly incorrectly) that all four of the GFCI outlets in the garage would be on the same line. Perhaps the issue is between one that is working and one that is dead.
How those 4 GFCI receptales are wired up ?

If they were wired line in and load out then all of them will be very senstive to see which one will kick out.

And this garage is attached or detached ? that will make the differnce on how we can make quick troubleshooting.

And with your " handy dandy probe thing " that is a NCV ( Non Concat Voltage ) tester and I never trust that 100 % due either they give out faux singal so use the real voltmeter or use the neon test light one of the two work just fine but with voltmeter make sure you are on right postion aka AC volts ( set on the highest number first )

There gotta be a broken splices somewhere along the circuit so start at knowen working spot then work it way out.

Merci,
Marc
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Old 12-30-2012, 10:13 PM   #11
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Bizarre GFCI outlet problem


Quote:
Originally Posted by gbreton View Post
should I not still have power coming in, though? I don't seem to be getting any power to either one of the affected outlets
Do you know the layout of the wiring ?

1 - which of the non working outlets is the first in the daisy chain ?

check for power here !

where does the power for the garage originate from ?

Does it come from its own dedicated breaker ?

Or is it tacked onto an existing circuit ?

PLEASE REPORT YOUR FINDINGS !
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Old 12-31-2012, 12:05 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frenchelectrican View Post
How those 4 GFCI receptales are wired up ?

If they were wired line in and load out then all of them will be very senstive to see which one will kick out.

And this garage is attached or detached ? that will make the differnce on how we can make quick troubleshooting.

And with your " handy dandy probe thing " that is a NCV ( Non Concat Voltage ) tester and I never trust that 100 % due either they give out faux singal so use the real voltmeter or use the neon test light one of the two work just fine but with voltmeter make sure you are on right postion aka AC volts ( set on the highest number first )

There gotta be a broken splices somewhere along the circuit so start at knowen working spot then work it way out.

Merci,
Marc
Both garages are attached, but at 90 degrees relative to on another (sort of wrapping around the corner of the house). Unfortunately I have no idea how the wiring is run (which would make life infinitely easier) since both garages are finished (drywalled). There are the four GFCI outlets and then two ceiling outlets for the garage door openers (one in each garage). The outlet in the portion of the garage with the two dead GFCI outlets is still working just fine. Furthermore, I'm not sure which breaker in the house the dead GFCIs are on. We attempted to find that out using the meter and flipping all of the breakers, but as I said, the only variation we saw on the meter happened with the breaker labeled as the smoke detectors.

By the way, although I used the LED detector to check for power at both of the GFCI outlets, we double checked using the a voltmeter (correctly set) and found no power. So I'm confident power is lost prior to the first dead outlet.

I'm going to try looking at the nearest working GFCI (assuming they are on the same line) and see if something came loose.

Last edited by gbreton; 12-31-2012 at 12:08 PM.
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Old 12-31-2012, 12:16 PM   #13
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Bizarre GFCI outlet problem


Check the receptacle for the garage opener and see if it has a feed in and a feed out.
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Old 01-02-2013, 09:15 AM   #14
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Bizarre GFCI outlet problem


follow up! problems solved!

My gut feeling was in agreement with jbfan that suggested I might have a disconnect somewhere in the series of GFCI outlets in the garage. I flipped the two breakers that I knew served the garage and readied myself to spend the day taking apart all of the outlets. However, the first one I took apart, which was a working GFCI closest to the first "blown" GFCI outlet had a loose black wire. The feed hot wire was still good, but the black line that powered the next GFCI was loose. Indeed, the slot it went into was blackened and the wire just slid out easily. I replaced it with a new GFCI, flipped the breaker back on, and voila, all of my outlets were powered once again.

I had been confused by the fact that this particular GFCI outlet was working just fine and hadn't considered checking it as the culprit until I had the suggestion on this forum.

Thank you all for your suggestions and help!

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Last edited by gbreton; 01-02-2013 at 09:17 AM.
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