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Old 10-03-2009, 02:55 PM   #1
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Poor neutral connection in outlets


Hello all,

I have recently run into some wiring issues in my home. Everything was working fine until I changed two electrical outlets and one light switch. I turned the power off to the outlets, swapped the old ones for the new ones, but when I turned power back on, nothing would work, including a couple of lights that I did not change, which were previously working. I used my multimeter and found that there was 120V on the black wire going into the outlets that were not working. To check to see if it was a phantom voltage, I took a spare piece of wire, and created a short from the "live" wire to ground. Sure enough, sparks. But nothing would work, even though it would seem as if the outlet was live. I checked the outlet with a circuit tester (the kind with the three lights), and all the outlets that are not working give me an open neutral error. The neutral light is on a bit, but very dim. Seems like a poor neutral connection somewhere in the circuit. I checked every light box / switch / outlet on the circuit, including my doorbell, tightening and checking all neutral connections. No luck. Same issue with half of the circuit not working. I then decided to plug a lamp into one of the non-functional circuits, and play with the neutral wires elsewhere on the circuit to see if I could get some activity. No luck. I then checked the neutral connection in the breaker panel, but it was ok too. Does anybody have any suggestions as to what else I can try to get the other half of this circuit working? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks!

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Old 10-03-2009, 04:03 PM   #2
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Poor neutral connection in outlets


You didn't say if you had checked that tab for tying the hot side of your duplex to both receptacles. Same goes for the neutral. If you backstabbed the duplex on one end with the hot and on the other with the neutral and your side tabs were missing you won't have no fire.

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Old 10-03-2009, 04:06 PM   #3
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Poor neutral connection in outlets


This certainly sounds like a bad neutral. You need to start at the beginning of the run, and check all the neutral connections. Could be that one of the outlets is bad, if it an upstream outlet all the downstream outlets and devices will also fail to work. I had a case like this at my house, turned out to be a backwired outlet where the wire had pulled out of the back of the outlet, causing an open neutral. This outlet had been backwired probably 20 years ago, finally got loose after all those years.
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Old 10-03-2009, 04:15 PM   #4
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Poor neutral connection in outlets


Tabs are in place on all outlets. All outlets on the circuit have been replaced, and use the screws for connections, not backstabbing. I will start again and check my all of my outlets on the circuit, just to make sure.
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Old 10-03-2009, 05:18 PM   #5
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Poor neutral connection in outlets


I had something similar in my house, I was in middle of changing a plug and realized the kitchen lights were not working yet they were not on that circuit.

The plug had 2 neutral wires and 1 hot. Turns out if the two neutrals are separated it breaks the circuit of the kitchen lights. Not sure why they did it this way... The sparks you speak of are the series arcing from the power being drawn by the rest of what is affected as you put them together. Or if you hook it up to a vacuum it will run very slow as it is in series with the lights.

Not sure why something would be wired this way, most likely a case of lazyness as the neutral for the other circuit may of broke somewhere and they just pulled it from another circuit.
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Old 10-03-2009, 11:32 PM   #6
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Poor neutral connection in outlets


Quote:
Originally Posted by Daniel Holzman View Post
Could be that one of the outlets is bad, if it an upstream outlet all the downstream outlets and devices will also fail to work. I had a case like this at my house, turned out to be a backwired outlet where the wire had pulled out of the back of the outlet, causing an open neutral. This outlet had been backwired probably 20 years ago, finally got loose after all those years.
This is the reason pigtails are used.

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