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Old 08-17-2012, 09:34 PM   #1
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Help diagnosing dead circuit


A few days ago I had an electrical circuit in my house go dead. It gave no warning and I hadn't made any changes. Needless to say I checked the 15A breaker, but it wasn't tripped. I reset it anyway and also reset the main shutoff, but no luck. If I'm thinking correctly, I would think a loose connection somewhere could cause this. I pulled out my multimeter and have 120V at the circuit breaker, but no power at any of the receptacles in the circuit. Would the loose connection have to be at the first receptacle in the circuit sequence, or could it be anywhere along the circuit? Also, is there anything else that could cause this that I'm not thinking of? Thanks in advance!

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Old 08-17-2012, 09:45 PM   #2
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Help diagnosing dead circuit


If everything on the circuit is out, and you have 120V to neutral at the breaker, the problem is between the breaker and the first outlet. A prime culprit is back-stabbed devices (pushing the wires in the holes in the back of the device vs wrapping the wires around the screw terminals).

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Old 08-17-2012, 09:47 PM   #3
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Help diagnosing dead circuit


Unless it is part of a MWBC you can try changing the hot wire to another breaker which you know works. If that solves it, you need a new breaker.
If not, can you figure out which is the first item on that circuit which is bad? That is where you start looking for loose wires...with great caution, and turn off the breaker when you open the boxes to look around.
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Old 08-17-2012, 10:05 PM   #4
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Help diagnosing dead circuit


Any GFI's on that circut?
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Old 08-17-2012, 11:09 PM   #5
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Help diagnosing dead circuit


Sorry, should have mentioned that earlier. No GFI's in the circuit and no backstabbed connections.
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Old 08-17-2012, 11:53 PM   #6
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Help diagnosing dead circuit


About the only thing you can do is make a note of everything that doesn't work with the breaker on, then turn off the breaker and see if anything else goes out. The problem is between the last known working box, and the first known nonworking box.

If the entire circuit is out, then trace the circuit from the panel and check all splices including the neutrals.
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Old 08-18-2012, 06:32 PM   #7
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Thanks for your help everyone. It turned out that where the neutral wire clamps down in the electrical box, the wire had been pushed in a little too far, and therefore a little wire insulation ended up in the clamp. It looked like it caused a minor short there, so I cleaned it up and reclamped it. Now everything seems to be working fine again.
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Old 08-18-2012, 07:16 PM   #8
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Help diagnosing dead circuit


"Back-stabbed" connections... Never heard it called that before. I learn something new here on DYI at least once a week. :-) Especially relevant since my GF recently had a flickering light and I just fiddled with the back-stabbed light switch and fixed it in no time.

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Originally Posted by k_buz View Post
A prime culprit is back-stabbed devices (pushing the wires in the holes in the back of the device vs wrapping the wires around the screw terminals).

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