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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 and Wall Plugs, Checking Outlet Wiring, Troubleshooting an Outlet Circuit.

Home Electrical Wiring Video

How to Wire a GFCI Outlet
without a Ground Wire

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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.

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

See More about Troubleshooting Electrical Wiring

Repair Electrical Wiring

Troubleshooting Electrical Wiring Problems

For more information about Outlet Wiring
Electrical Outlets

This link is helpful as a Homeowner
Do-It-Yourself Electrical

Home Electrical Wiring Videos
Electrical Videos

The following may also be helpful for you:

Dave's Guide to Home Electrical Wiring:

» You Can Avoid Costly Mistakes! «

Here's How to Do It:
Wire It Right with the help of my Illustrated Wiring Book

Great for any Home Wiring Project.
  electrical wiring  

Complete Guide to Home Electrical Wiring

Perfect for Homeowners, Students,
Handyman, Handy Women, 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.

Learn more about Home Electrical Wiring
with my Online Video Course:
Basic Home Electrical Wiring by Example

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

Electrical Tips to Help You Wire it Right

The Safest Way to Test Electrical Devices and Identify Electric Wires!

The Non-Contact Electrical Tester
This is a testing tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and is the first test tool I grab to help identify electrical wiring. It is a Non-contact tester that I use to easily Detect Voltage in Cables, Cords, Circuit Breakers, Lighting Fixtures, Switches, Outlets and Wires. Simply insert the end of the tester into an outlet, lamp socket, or hold the end of the tester against the wire you wish to test. Very handy and easy to use.

The Quickest Way to Check for Faulty Electrical Wiring!

The Plug-In Outlet Tester
This is the first tool I grab to troubleshoot a problem with outlet circuit wiring. This popular tester is also used by most inspectors to test for power and check the polarity of circuit wiring.
It detects probable improper wiring conditions in standard 110-125 VAC outlets Provides 6 probable wiring conditions that are quick and easy to read for ultimate efficiency Lights indicate if wiring is correct and indicator light chart is included Tests standard 3-wire outlets UL Listed Light indicates if wiring is incorrect Very handy and easy to use.

Strip Off Wire Insulation without Nicking and Damaging the Electric Wire!

The Wire Stripper and Wire Cutter
My absolute favorite wire stripping tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and this is the tool I use to safely strip electrical wires.
This handy tool has multiple uses:
The wire gauges are shown on the side of the tool so you know which slot to use for stripping insulation.
The end of the tool can be used to grip and bend wire which is handy for attaching wire onto the screw terminals of switches and outlets..

The wire stripper will work on both solid and stranded wire. This tool is Very Handy and Easy to Use.

More articles about Electrical Wiring, Outlets and Home Electrical Wiring:
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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

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

  2. 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!

  3. 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?

  4. 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,

  5. 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 .

  6. 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,