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amissner 07-11-2006 03:40 PM

Replacing light killed downstream outlets, totally stuck
So, this should not be so puzzling, but I have invested hours now in troubleshooting and thus am looking for some tips.

The short story is that I replaced the light in my garage and a couple of outlets on the same circuit quit working. When this first happened about 6 weeks ago, I put a copper crimp on the 5 neutrals and it seemed to fix it. I now find that the outlets are not working and don't know when they stopped working. I went out and fooled with the neutrals behind the light again but nothing will ressurect these outlets.

Here's what I have learned:

The circuit box this light is attached to has 4 house wires in it, plus 1 wire for the light (hence 5 neutrals).

Wire 1 has red wire from switch, black (hot) wire to switch, neutral and ground. I know that is probably "wrong", but that's how it is. There are a lot of weird wires in this house.

Wire 2 has hot black from service, white neutral and ground.

Wire 3 has black, white and ground is connected to another switched light "upstream".

Wire 4 has black, white and ground and is connected to an upstream outlet that does not work.

Wire 5 is the garage light.

There are some other lights on this circuit that apparently do not go trough this junction. They all work fine.

The connections are as follows:

Wire 1 black, 2 black and 4 black are connected together.
Wire 1 red, 3 black and 5 black are connected together.
Wire 1-5 neutral are connected together.


Everything works fine except the outlets on Wire 4. They do not work. A multitester shows 91 volts on the Wire 4 circuit, possibly not full voltage on load, but I don't know how to test it under load. Disconnecting Wire 4 removes the 91 volts.

I have tried pretty much everything, even connecting the Wire 1 service directly to Wire 4 with no change of results.

I am pretty sure all that has been touched on this circuit is this new light, but cannot explain why the upstream outlets no longer work. Does anyone have any tips to troubleshoot what may be going on here?

Thanks in advance.

joed 07-11-2006 04:51 PM

From your description I would say you have a problem between the light box and the first not working receptacle on wire#4.
When you measured the voltage how did you measure it? black to white or black to ground?
What is the voltage back to grnd and white to grnd?

Sparky Joe 07-11-2006 06:05 PM

Did you mess with any of these other connections when you replaced the light initially?

amissner 07-11-2006 10:30 PM

More info / answers
I tested the voltage at the plug, hot to neutral gives me 91 volts, hot to ground gives me 16 volts. Weird.

No, I didn't mess with any other connections.

Anyway, I moved some furniture because I thought I recalled a blank switch box cover on the wall behind these these outlets and lo and behold in fact there is another junction for this same circuit. And one of the neutrals practically fell out of the wire nut when I touched it.

Yee haw I thought, that was the problem, merely a coincidence with the light wiring. Sadly however, improving the connections for these wires did not help. So I tried something very bad (yea, I know). In this new switch box which is apparently only feeding the bad outlets I wired the neutrals to ground. That fixed the outlets and also validated my belief that the neutrals are screwed up in the light wiring box "upstream". I can only assume the neutral wire is actually broken either in or near the light box. So I guess I will have to call an electrician to rewire since I know I don't want to leave the neutrals wired to ground.

Thanks for your help.

joed 07-12-2006 03:37 PM

Your fix doesn't match with your tests. If it was simply an open neutral problem then hot ground should have measured 120 volts.
Measure neutral to ground. I suspect you might also have a hot neutral reversed.

amissner 07-13-2006 06:02 AM

True enough
I agree with your assessment, good catch. My assumption is that the ground is not connected to the tested outlet. I have no idea who added this circuit, but I would like to smack them upside the head.

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