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Reversing black and white wiring in an outlet?

795 Views 26 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  Jeekinz
Hello all,

I'm trying to troubleshoot the lack of power I'm getting from an outlet ... and I'm wondering if the existing wiring has somehow been reversed. I'd love to swap the black(yellow) and white wiring to test the possibility, but I'm not sure the ramifications if I'm wrong and wanted to ask first.

Details of what I'm dealing with:

  • See attached picture of the outlet.
  • It is a bathroom ceiling fan outlet connected to a wall switch.
  • I've tested electricity at the wall switch and it is ok.
  • I've tested electricity coming to the outlet in the picture, and all the wires are live.
  • The wall switch successfully turns on and off current to the socket.
  • I had a replacement socket head (with attached wires) sent to me from the fan company in case the old one was faulty, but swapping it has not fixed the problem.
  • The wires going into the socket head are live.

In short, it appears all wiring leading up to the socket head itself are working, and the socket head is brand new ... but ... there is no power to anything I plug in. The fan won't power up. And separate appliances I've plugged in also don't power up. The fan and separate appliances all work fine with other outlets.

So this leaves me wondering if the black and white wires were potentially wired backwards ... or if that would even cause the socket not to work.

Any help/thoughts appreciated and ty.


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21 - 27 of 27 Posts

· Registered
7,759 Posts
Problem is, with a non-contact tester you're only checking for HOT wires.

You're not checking for valid NEUTRAL wires. If neutral is working properly, it's cold.
If it's not working, it's also cold.

However you can trick the "dead part" of the neutral to be hot. Simply plug a lamp that is turned on into the dead socket. Wherever neutral is dead, it will now be hot (because it can't get back).

This may lead you to a faulty connection. Make sure to bone up on "how to make good connections" - avoid backstabs, use Wago lever-nuts, make wire nuts VERY tight, and torque lugs and screws to the specified torque don't guess.

· Registered
459 Posts
There is a failing or failed neutral in the wiring for the fan.

Check the connections in the switch first, then any of the other devices that you said appear to be working. Look for a multiple white wires under one nut. It looks like conduit so the neutral could be coming from any one of these.

(remove power first like others have indicated)

· Registered
664 Posts
Those non-contact testers are not for troubleshooting.

For instance, if you go to check a ceiling light but the light switch is OFF, the tester will still detect the current on the non switched leg.

You need a multi meter or circuit tester. You can find them for $20 or so.
21 - 27 of 27 Posts