Plug-In Testers and Faulty Receptacle Outlet Readings


By Dave Rongey - Summary:

My plug in tester says the wiring is wrong, How should I fix the problem? Plug-In Tester Readings, Re-Wiring a Receptacle Outlet, How to Repair Outlet Electrical Wiring Problem.


Plug-In Tester Shows an Outlet Problem

Electrical Question: My plug in tester says the outlet wiring is wrong, How should I fix the problem?

  • My “Bull Head Tester” or circuit outlet analyzer is indicating that a defective receptacle I was trouble shooting needs the ground and neutral wires reversed.
  • Is the ground bus bar always located at the bottom of the panel box and the neutral bus bar always to the right?
  • All the neutral wires are on the bottom bus bar and the ground wires are all on the right bus bar.

This electrical repair question came from: Roy, a Inspector from Durham, North Carolina.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical repair question Roy.

How to Repair a Outlet Wiring Problem

Application: Troubleshooting and Repairing Outlet Problems.
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced – Best performed by a Licensed Electrician.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools, Voltage Tester or Volt Ohm Meter or plug-in circuit analyzer.
Estimated Time: Depends on the age of the home and the condition of the electrical wiring and access to the circuit wiring to be evaluated.
Precaution: Identify the outlet circuit, turn it OFF and then Tag it with a Note before performing any wiring inspections or electrical repairs.

Re-Wiring a Receptacle Outlet

  • Not all ground and neutral terminal strips are in the same locations.
  • The layout of the electrical panel may be unique to the age and brand of the panel.
  • If the plug in tester identifies that wiring is incorrect then the circuit wiring should be identified at the outlet locations and then repaired as needed. In most cases, the circuit wiring in the panel is correct and does not need to be changed, unless recent wiring changes have been made.

Plug-In Tester Readings

  • When a plug-in receptacle outlet tester indicates that an outlet is not wired correctly the problem is usually the wiring at the outlet and not at the electrical panel.
  • In fact the neutral and the ground wire should never be reversed in a sub-panel where the ground and neutrals are isolated and on their own terminal strip.

How to Test an Outlet Circuit

How to use a Plug in Tester and Circuit Analyzers for Testing Outlets

  • The circuit should be positively identified and shut off. The wiring at the outlet should be inspected and corrected as needed.
  • If the outlet wiring is correct and the plug-in tester shows a fault then there may be a problem somewhere else within the circuit wiring, such as another outlet box, switch box or a junction box.
  • Polarity testing of the affected circuit may be required which is best performed by a qualified licensed electrician who will be able to identify the problem and make the necessary repairs.

More about Electrical Repairs for Home Wiring

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When working on home electrical wiring using voltage testers can play an important part in electrical safety. Electrical testers enable you to identify electrical circuits and help prevent the possibility of accidental electrical shock.
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Wiring Electrical Outlets for the Home

Home electrical wiring includes 110 volt outlets and 220 volt outlets and receptacles which are common place in every home. See how wiring electrical outlets for the home are done.

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House Wiring Circuits and Circuit Breakers

This article looks at common 120 volt and 240 volt house wiring circuits and the circuit breakers that are installed identifying the types and amperage sizes used in most homes.

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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

2 Responses to “Plug-In Testers and Faulty Receptacle Outlet Readings”
  1. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Frankie,
    From what you have described there is no circuit power to the outlet, so the power has become disconnected somewhere before the location of the outlet you are testing.
    I hope this helps,
    Dave

  2. Frankie Gonzalez says:

    I plugged in a outlet tester but nothing lighted up on the tester. I checked the circuit panel and all switches were on. I plugged the tester into another outlet and it lit up. Any idea what it means when the tester doesn’t light at all?

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