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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

I have provided the following links that lead to fully detailed information on this website that will assist you with your electrical question.

More about Electrical Outlets

Electrical Junction Boxes
Electrical Code for How Many Wires in Junction Boxes
For more information about Outlet Wiring
Electrical Outlets

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

Make sure not to miss these Resources for: How-To-Pictures
Home Electrical Projects

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.

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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,