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Troubleshooting Electrical Outlet Problems

Some of my outlets are not working and will work only if something is plugged into a different outlet: How to Troubleshoot and Repair Electrical Outlet Problems.

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Problem with Electric Wall Outlets
[ad#block]Question: Why are some of my outlets not working?

Some of the outlets in my living room walls are not working. We have 4 outlets in the room and two of them work only if something (anything) is plugged into the 2nd outlet on the wall. None of the electrical outlets after the 2nd box work if there is not a plug in the top receptacle on outlet two. When I plugged an empty extension cord into outlet 2, a fan came on that was plugged into outlet 4. What do I need to look for?
This question is from Barb, a Homeowner in Ohio.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical question Barb.

Electrical Outlet Problems

Application: Electric Outlet Problem.
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced. This electrical repair project is best performed by a Licensed Electrician.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools a Voltage Tester or Plug-In Circuit Analyzer.
Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience, ability to work with tools, the extent of the electrical repairs the number of outlets that are affected.
Precaution: Identify the kitchen outlet circuit, turn it OFF and  Tag it with a Note before working with the wiring.

How to Troubleshoot and Repair Electric Outlet Problems

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Complete Guide to Home Electrical Wiring

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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

5 Responses to “Troubleshooting Electrical Outlet Problems”
  1. djray says:

    wired a sub panel and have three breakers that are noy functioning. one problem is the leg has power but when I install breaker it has no power. also if I TURN ON BREAKER 3, BREAKER 5 is off but when tester is placed on it, it seems to have power. the power is jumping from both breakers. not sure what is causing this.

  2. rick says:

    I want to wire a plug in next to my garage light switch so when I turn on my lights my outlet quits. Any thoughts?

  3. Dave Rongey says:

    Sure – all you need to do is use a 3-way switch. The power source would be connected to the common terminal, then one of the screws at the opposite end would be for the light, and the other would be for the outlet. The connections for the light and outlet may need to be swapped depending on the orientation of the switch. The reason why this would work is because a 3-way switch is actually a single pole, double throw switch which works just like a standard relay.
    Enjoy and Be Safe!

  4. jerry says:

    I have a circuit that works in 3 outlets and 3 that do not. I have a tester that reads correct in the 3 that work, in the other 3 it reads hot and ground are reversed. I have lived in my home 15 years and never had a problem with those 3 outlets, and its all original wiring, and looks to be correct. Could it be something else other than the hot and ground be reversed? Any suggestions.

  5. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Jerry,
    The reading from the tester is the result of a lost connection within the circuit wiring which is producing a back feed condition. The problem is typically a loose or burnt connection where the wires connect to one of the outlets, or a wire splice is faulty. The outlet circuit wiring will need to be examined starting at each working outlet until the problem has been discovered and repairs applied as needed. This is best performed by a licensed electrician who can ensure the proper repairs have been made and your outlet circuit is back up and running.
    Be Safe,