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tazmajazz 09-06-2009 05:30 PM

Track Lighting Installation - No Electricty
hello! I hope someone here can point me in the correct direction here. I am in the process of installing a small track for three pendant lights to hang from. I am replacing a regular ceiling light with this track. I have removed the old light fixture and installed the base of the track system. The problem that I am running into is that whenever I actually attach the track to its base, I no longer get electricity to the unit. I am testing the electricity with a probe that can sense the electricity. The probe detects electricity with the base wired up, but as soon as I turn off the breaker, attach the track and turn the breaker back on, the probe senses no electricity at all.

could the actual track be causing a short? if it were a short, would electricity not be present anywhere near the base?

any info will help, I'm not the most familiar with troubleshooting electric issues. thanks!

taz :-)

Thurman 09-06-2009 07:00 PM

IF you are trying to detect electricity with one of those electro-magnetic probes that glow red and beep when electricity is detected, quit fooling yourself. I own two of those units and the stay in my tool box, where they belong. IF you have connected the wiring for the track light junction box correctly, you should have electricity along the track for the lights. DON'T use the "finger test" method here either, I'm betting this track is hot. Have you actually attached one or more lights to this track to see if they work? You state that as soon as you attach the track you have no electricity. There could be a connector problem between the track junction box and the actual track. Check the connectors, with the juice off, to make sure they are clean and not bent. Overall--Be careful, Good Luck, David

PaliBob 09-06-2009 07:16 PM


Originally Posted by tazmajazz (Post 324546)
could the actual track be causing a short? if it were a short, would electricity not be present anywhere near the base?

Taz, You don't have a Short. You have an Open. Check all your new connections or post a pic.


tazmajazz 09-06-2009 08:49 PM

I have attached one light to the track and it does not work at all. I will mention this, when I first connected everything, and flipped the switch on, I actually saw a spark at the location of the dimmer switch on the wall. Then I shut off the breaker and reconnected everything step by step, checking for electricity each step of the way. I've now narrowed down the problem point to be when I attach the track. I dont totally trust my probe either, but the track is not connected, the the probe goes crazy every time, and with the track connected, there is no reaction at all. Could I have damaged the track somehow? what did that spark mean?

are you thinking the actual wiring could be wrong or are you talking about the connection between the track and the fixture? What would cause no electricity to be present after attaching the track? Please read about the spark in the above paragraph too, does that mean anything? Any chance you could explain to me what an "open" is? Any info would be helpful!

Thank you both for the replies!

taz :-)

jbfan 09-06-2009 10:18 PM

If you think you saw a spark at the dimmer, chances are the dimmer could be bad.
Replace the dimmer with a switch, wire the lights, then turn the breaker back on to see if it works.
If it works, then you have a bad dimmer, if not recheck the connections.

BCSparkyGirl 09-06-2009 11:32 PM

Was the light that was there before working before you made the switch? If so, I would first check your connections....make sure it's a good solid connection. Lots of times, it is a basic installation oopsie. Simple if thats the case.....

But, also, I have never put a dimmer on track lights, this may be an issue.........change the dimmer to a regular el cheapo switch, and I imagine this will eliminate such problems. You can't necessarily dim all types of lights......

A.W.Davis 09-07-2009 01:27 AM


Originally Posted by jbfan (Post 324681)
If you think you saw a spark at the dimmer, chances are the dimmer could be bad.
Replace the dimmer with a switch, wire the lights, then turn the breaker back on to see if it works.
If it works, then you have a bad dimmer, if not recheck the connections.

Definitely sounds like a fried dimmer to me!!

Edit: it could also be the switch doesn't work with the magnetic ballast of the track lighting, but doubtful

tazmajazz 09-07-2009 08:35 AM

with the track off, and I turn on the dimmer switch, it brings electricity to the fixture, and then when I turn off the dimmer switch, the electricity is removed. The only time the electricity never comes on, is when the track is connected. Could that still be a bad dimmer? It just seems to be doing what I expect it to as long as the track is not connected. thoughts?

thanks for all the replies, hopefully I'll get this figured out today. I'll go buy another switch and try that if necessary.


taz :-)

EBFD6 09-07-2009 09:17 AM

What do you have for connections at the light?

How many cables?

Does the feed come into the dimmer and then go to the light?

Or, does the feed go to the light first, then down to the dimmer?

You may have a switch loop that fried the dimmer and the resistance at the now fried dimmer is to high to trip the breaker.

1. Turn off the breaker to this circuit.

2. Check all connections at the light fixture, hopefully there is only one cable coming to this box. If there is, black to black, white to white, make up the grounds. If there is more than one cable you may have a switch loop.

3. Take the dimmer out of the box. How is it wired? Hopefully there are two cables going to this box. A feed and a switch leg to the light box. If this is the case the dimmer should have two black wires going to it and the neutrals will be wire-nutted together. If there is only one cable going to this box and the black and white wires of that cable both go to the dimmer, you have a switch loop.

Either way, for now, eliminate the dimmer from the circuit for troubleshooting purposes. Take the two wires that are going to the dimmer and wire-nut them together.

If you have a switch loop you will have to make sure the splices in the light box are made up correctly. You will need to identify which cable is the feed and which cable is the switch. The black from the feed cable gets spliced to the white from the switch cable. The black from the switch cable gets spliced to the black on the light fixture. The white from the feed cable is your neutral and gets spliced to the white on the light fixture.

4. After you have verified all of these connections, install the track and fixtures. You can now turn the breaker back on. You do not have a switch in the circuit as I had you take out the dimmer and wire-nut the circuit through, so when you turn the breaker on the lights should come on and stay on.

At this point, if you have been successful, you can turn the breaker off and install a new switch or dimmer. I wouldn't trust the old dimmer if you saw sparks previously.

If you try all of this and are still having no luck, let us know and we'll try again.

Let us know how you make out either way.

tazmajazz 09-12-2009 12:26 PM

Thanks for the help EBFD6! First of all, I removed the dimmer switch from its box, and it had two black wires wire nutted to it, and one green wire that was screwed into the metal on the dimmer. If I understand correctly, the two black wires are hot, and the green is ground, yes? And there just isnt a neutral? (I didnt see one)

so I wired together the two black wires coming from the wall, connected two of the lights onto the track, and turned the breaker on. Immediately, the breaker was tripped. So I went back and checked all of my connections, and flipped the breaker again with the same results, it tripped right away.

Next (by accident), I went to the fixture and unwired the neutral coming from the wall from the neutral coming out of the fixture, leaving only the hot and ground connected from the wall to the fixture. The results of this were interesting, the breaker did not trip, and I actually had live electricity all the way down the fixture to the lights, BUT no lights came on. Could this mean that something is wrong with my neutral connection? Why would there be electricity all the to the bulbs but no light?

I feel like I'm making some progress in at least determining the issue. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! thanks!

***also to clarify, the wires coming out of the house to the fixture are: one white, one black, and one bare copper. I believe the white is neutral, black is hot, and copper is ground - please correct me if this is incorrect. I've got white connected to white, black to black, and the copper wire kind of wrapped around the meta bracket by what I believe is a ground screw. The wires is too thick to actually connect it to the screw.

taz :-)

user62257 09-12-2009 03:48 PM

Trouble, trouble


I hope you have re-solved the the problem by now.

But here what I do when I have a wire problem with track lighting.
1st. I remove the track.

2nd. then I wire a pigtail lamp socket onto the wires that were feeding
the track.

The pigtail socket lamp should be about 15 watts, 25 watts is okay.

Now I have remove the track from the problem, I start trouble shooting
my wiring.

At the outlet I want to see a Black, White, bare copper/green insulated

Now is there more than three wires, and there could be, I need to look
for the reason why.

One reason is the this outlet may have power directly feed into it.

Next there may be another cable that come into this outlet box that
may have 3-wire, (red/black/white) or (black/white), the ground is alway

Now I would open and take apart the switch box, and look to see how
the control switch, for my track lighting, is wired.

If I only see one cable in the box, with (black/white/bare copper), I
reason this will be made into a switch loop.

In a switch loop with two wires, the black wire and the white wire
attach directly to the side screws on your switch, (do not back feed
the switch). If there 3-wire, the I use the red and back wire.

Back at the outlet box, I would take the power wires, in this case I
would start with the white wire, and attach it to the black wire going
back to to my switch box. Next I would attach the black wire to one
wire on of my pig tail lamp socket. Next I would go back to the power
wires coming into the outlet box and reach for the white/neutral wire and
attach this wire to the other wire that is part of my pig tail lamp socket.
then I would turn back on the circuit breaker.
If the lamp was off I would check the switch to make sure it was in
the on position. Now if the lamp, turn on and off, then the problem
if with the track lighting.

Post back, if you didn't understand what I wrote in this post.

Work safe, alway work with the power off, and never trust you life to
one of those tickle stick voltage sensor. Check it with the a pigtail
lamp socket.


The dimmer switch you remove, don't use it, until you fix your wiring problem, stick a standard on/off
toggle switch, then after you have fix the problem you can install the dimmer, but be careful, dimmer
are rated for 600 watts, bulbs that add up to or exceed 600 watts will cause your dimmer to burn out.

tazmajazz 10-19-2009 10:09 AM

sorry for the late reply, I thought I had closed our this thread already. I was able to fix the issue finally. Bascially, I un-did all the wiring, and then re-wired everything, checking for electricity and to see if the breaker would trip each step of the way. Then after everything was re-wired, the lights were turning on without tripping the breaker. Now the only problem left was the blown dimmer. So I replaced the dimmer and BAM everything works great!

MANY thanks to everyone for all the help!!!

taz :-)

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