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How To Troubleshoot Electrical Outlet Wiring Problems

How can I find out why my outlets are not working? How to Identify Electrical Wiring Problems with Outlets, Checking Outlet Wiring, Troubleshooting an Outlet Circuit.

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Outlets that Do Not Work
Electrical Question #1: How can I find out why my outlets are not working?
I have several outlets that are dead and not working.

There are five outlets on one circuit. The fourth outlet had power supplies for a cordless phone and charger plugged in. The phone was not working, and I noticed charring on the face of the outlet cover plate. The circuit breaker did not trip. I inserted a circuit tester and had the lights indicate the Hot and Ground are reversed. I have not worked on, or done anything with any of the electrical outlets on the circuit, however all outlets are dead, with the same indicator from the circuit tester. Should all of the outlets be checked for loose wires, wires touching, etc.?

Background: Robert, a Homeowner from Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Electrical Question #2:

This electrical wiring project involves Electrical Safety and a Outlet in the Kitchen of a Old Home.

I have 2 outlets in a box. I discovered there are two wires coming in to the box. One wire only has black wire. The other wire has both black and white wires. Black and white from same wire are tied together and connected to gold terminals on both outlets. Other wire with only black is connected to silver terminals on both outlets. Is this correct?

This electrical wiring question came from Jason, a Homeowner in Englewood cliffs, New Jersey.

Dave’s Reply:
Thank you for your electrical questions.

How to Identify Electrical Wiring Problems with Outlets

Application: Troubleshooting and Repairing Outlet Problems.
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced. This electrical repair project is 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 inspected, evaluated and repaired.
Precaution: Identify the outlet circuit at the electric panel, turn it OFF and then Tag it with a Note before performing any wiring inspections or electrical repairs. If an outlet or the electrical wiring is found to be damaged then repairs and replacement parts should be obtained with the same voltage and amperage rating.

Troubleshooting Wiring Problems with Outlets

More about Troubleshooting Electrical Wiring

Repair Electrical Wiring

Troubleshooting Electrical Wiring

For more information about Outlet Wiring
Electrical Outlets

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Complete Guide to Home Electrical Wiring

Perfect for Homeowners, Students,
Handyman, Handywomen, and Electricians
Wiring GFCI Outlets
Wiring Home Electric Circuits
120 Volt and 240 Volt Outlet Circuits
Wiring Light Switches
Wiring 3-Wire and 4-Wire Electric Range
Wiring 3-Wire and 4-Wire Dryer Cord and Dryer Outlet
How to Troubleshoot and Repair Electrical Wiring
Wiring Methods for Upgrading Electrical Wiring
NEC Codes for Home Electrical Wiring
....and much more.

Be Careful and Be Safe - Never Work on Energized Circuits!
Consult your Local Building Department about Permits and Inspections for all Electric Wiring Projects.

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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

6 Responses to “How To Troubleshoot Electrical Outlet Wiring Problems”
  1. Jace says:

    We had a bad outlet outside. We repaired it with a new one and we are still not getting anything when we plug something into it. So we tested to make sure it had current going to it and it does but when you plug into it nothing works. Just wanted to see if you had any suggestions, we are lost for words.

    Thanks .

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Jace,
      It would be good to test the outlet with a plug-in analyzer to see what the readings are. Depending on how you are testing the outlet, it may appear to have power, but it could be that the neutral has lost it’s connection within the circuit. Without the neutral devices will not work. Review the troubleshooting tips in the above article for more assistance.
      I hope this helps,

  2. Dale Albrecht says:

    I had a GFCI outlet that quit working. The outlet was bad so I removed it. Now lights and outlets in part of the house do not work. I’ve checked the breaker and it wasn’t thrown and does have power going through it. When I test the wires coming to the outlet, I have no power. What’s the next step?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Dale,
      Troubleshooting a GFCI Outlet Circuit
      From what you have described, when you removed the faulty GFCI outlet the circuit electrical wiring which supplied power to the other lights and outlets has become disconnected. Therefore a replacement GFCI outlet must be installed to continue to provide important ground fault protection to the circuit and in turn provide the circuit power which has been disconnected to the other affected devices.
      Be Safe,

  3. don gardne says:

    I cut the extension cord to my hedge trimmer and it was sparking, yet continued to run. I unplugged the cord at the outlet. The wires were severed and the hot (black) wire was fried and the insulation was cracked and brittle up to about 4 feet from the trimmer. The breaker did not trip. I checked the wiring to the outlet and used a circuit checker to confirm. It tested correct (both yellows lights, no red) I’m puzzled as to why I did not trip the breaker.

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Don,
      I agree, the circuit breaker should have tripped off when the trimmer cord was cut. I would check the circuit breaker to make sure it is sized properly for the circuit wiring, and if the breaker appears to be correct then consider having the breaker replaced it with a new one. You may consider either replacing the circuit breaker with a GFCI breaker or install a GFCI outlet at the location the cord was plugged into. GFCI ground fault protection is of utmost importance when using electrical equipment outside.
      Be Safe!

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