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Some sockets on circuit not receiving power

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  • Some sockets on circuit not receiving power

    Hi...Recently some sockets (receptacles/switches) on a single circuit inside my house stopped working. (Note: house was built in 1989). The circuit includes some sockets in the Kitchen and some in the family room. I tested with a volt meter (non-invasive) to confirm that the sockets weren't receiving power. It seemed that the failure occured over time. First the under cabinet light, that I had and electrician install a year ago stopped working---8 mos post install) stopped working and then I lost four other sockets/switches (all in the kitchen area) at the same time. These sockets included:
    1) Switch that works the garbage disposal.
    2) Socket under sink where garbage disposal is plugged in.
    3) Kitchen counter top socket (same one where under cabinet switch is wired to).
    4) One socket in Kitchen nook

    Again it is important to note (and puzzling to me) that other sockets on the circuit still receive power when the breaker is on (one in the kitchen 3 in the living room)

    So what has changed that could be contributing to this problem???
    1) I did replace four receptacles in the kitchen 3-4 mos ago. They worked fine for months but now two of them are no longer receiving power. I was pretty careful in marking the wires to make sure that I reconnected it exactly the same as it was before. One of the receptacles (that still works) was a GFI replacement. I replaced the older one with a new Leviton Pro (Green LED). I checked this GFI recently with an Outlet tester and it confirmed that it was wired correctly. Plus because it can be reset this seems to indicate (according to Leviton website) that I connected this GFI correctly.

    2) As I noted before an electrician installed an undercabinet light that ties into one of the (now) failed receptacle.

    Here is what I've done so far to try and resolve the issue:
    1) I have reset the GFI in the Kitchen (Leviton Pro) and the Main breaker switch just to see if that might resolve the situation even though neither had been tripped.
    2) I've taken the receptacles and switches out of their box and checked for loose wiring/scorching marks, etc but haven't found any obvious issues thus far.
    3) Researched this forum and many other websites looking for clues that might help me.

    I'm determined to fix this issue on my own. I don't want to give up so I'm hoping that someone on this forum might be able to help me/point me in the right direction. I'm willing to do the work but I feel like I'm chasing my tail. At this time all of the receptacles are hanging out of their electrical boxes...and it's beginning to drive me crazy . I'm leaving them out just in case I have to ultimately turn to an Electrician and he/she will need to verify for themselves.

    The key thing that I don't understand is why am I receiving power to some of the receptacles on the circuit but not others.

    Please help if you can. This is my first real foray into doing anything in the electrical arena and I don't want to have to declare defeat .


  • #2
    check the white neutral wires. there may be hidden someplace a junction box.


    • #3
      Are you sure that the outlets not working are on the same circuit as the ones working!

      If so then remove the GFI from the box, (turn off power first) then turn the power back on and check to see if you have power coming in and OUT, GFI's are known for going bad internally and just the load side goes bad.

      Check other outlets for the same thing.


      • #4
        Re:Some sockets on circuit not receiving power

        Guys, thanks for the responses. I really appreciate it! (PS. Not sure why my post has a thumbs down symbol on it?)

        HayZee518, could you tell me what I should be checking for? Are you thinking that a white (neutral) wire is loose? Or are you thinking that a white wire is crossing a black wire or ground? If you can tell me what I might be looking for I will inspect the white wires this afternoon/evening. Thanks again.

        Good point. I guess I can't be absolutely sure that they are on the same circuit because they are not receiving current regardless of whether the main breaker is on or off. However, I strongly suspect they are on the same circuit for two reasons: 1) They are in close proximity to each other. In fact the Garbage disposal switch is in the same electrical box (not sure what you call it) as the light switch that I know is controlled by the breaker. Another receptacle that isn't receiving power is only six inches away. But you are right that I can't be sure.

        Regarding the GFI, when you say take it out of the box I assume you mean disconnect all wires? I can certainly do that please reconfirm.

        I'll post the results as soon as I've completed your suggestions.

        Last edited by JetMartin; 04-05-2011, 05:22 PM.


        • #5
          Re:Some sockets on circuit not receiving power


          Here is the status update for the GFI portion of your recommendation ....

          I took off the GFI and removed all wires from it (I assumed that is what you were suggesting). Turned back on the breaker. There is no current traveling to those "dead" receptacles/sockets.

          Also, interestingly enough of all the 3 live black wires that I had connected to the GFI only one of them is actually hot. Maybe that's normal.

          You also suggested that I do the same thing for the other receptacles. I had alread done that for the receptacles I assumed to be on the same circuit but none of them have any current running to them.




          • #6
            three black wires on a gfi screw would indicate that the live feed is traveling downstream of the gfi i.e. no protection on the downstream circuits. normally the top two screws [brass & nickel] is the feed into the outlet. the bottom screws [brass & nickel] are downfeeds from the gfi and they are protected by the trip circuit.


            • #7
              HayZee518, thanks for the reply. I'm not sure if the results from CharlieO's suggestion is what I was suppose to see or not (see prior post)? Any thoughts?

              Could you provide/clarifications to your prior recommendation (check the white wires....see my response to your posting. Here is your suggestion:

              "HayZee518, could you tell me what I should be checking for? Are you thinking that a white (neutral) wire is loose? Or are you thinking that a white wire is crossing a black wire or ground? If you can tell me what I might be looking for I will inspect the white wires this afternoon/evening. Thanks again."

              Note: It appears that a neutral (white) is wired together with two other black wires via a wire nut. This is in the receptacle where the Garbage disposal is plugged in (note: the switch that controls the garbage disposal is not getting any current). Could that be the problem? The one thing I'm confused about is I believe that this is the way this socket has always been wired since I've lived in the house 7 years. I've made not changes to this receptacle nor has any electricians. So if it is the problem why would I suddenly have a problem with it now?

              Last edited by JetMartin; 04-06-2011, 06:02 PM. Reason: Added in commentary about white (neutral) wired together with black wires.


              • #8
                Since this troubleshooting is going to be trial and error, [do you know how to use a multimeter?] If you do.... continue. If not, STOP! Don't go any further! Call an electrician!
                Shut off the breaker that feeds up to the kitchen. Physically look for the wire that exits the panelbox and see where it is going. Eventually it will go up through a drilled hole to a wall space in the kitchen. Now you are going to hafta determine which outlet it is hitting first. Easiest way is with a multimeter set on RX1. Assuming the bare grounds are all ok, you can read from the breaker to ground with the white and black temporarily shorted out. Then use the multimeter to "ring out" the downstream outlets that come to the first box.


                • #9
                  HayZee518, I just saw your last post. I have a couple of questions.

                  1) Did you see the note about the neutral wired together with the black wires via a wirenut. Is this itself a problem. I re-edited my last posting and want to make sure that I wasn't editing while you were posting?

                  2) Back to my original question (see prior postings)...I'm curious as to why you were suggesting that I examine the white wires. What am I supposed to be looking for?

                  3) I'm assuming that the wires exiting the breaker panel go immediately into the wall. How would I trace these wires unless I opened up the wall all the way from my panel to the kitchen...furthest room away from the panel? That would 60 feet of wall that I would have to open up.

                  4) I don't have a multimeter or do I know how to use one. Before I call an electrician you had suggested that I do #1 isn't there something else I can do to troubleshoot this problem.

                  By the way there are 3 or 4 breakers that feed the receptacles in the kitchen. How would I know which wire to follow?

                  Last edited by JetMartin; 04-06-2011, 06:30 PM.


                  • #10
                    a kitchen branch circuit consists of two or more breakers feeding outlets. this does not include the lighting circuits. you mentioned three black wires connected to one receptacle but only one pair had power on it. this I assume is your feeder. the pair you found with a white connected to a black indicates a switch loop for lighting. by code, no wires can be spliced in a box and be hidden within a wall space. they have to be accessible. if you are sure of which breakers feed the kitchen recepatacles, turn them off one at a time and check which receptacles have power and mark it accordingly. then go to the next one etc. leave them off as you go. like I said before its all trial and error.


                    • #11

                      Thanks again for your responses...I appreciate your responsiveness and patience. I'm willing to do the work to isolate the problem...just need some direction on what to you are providing. Also in general it is helpful for me if I understand the goal of the steps that I'm following. At this point I realize that we are trying to determine what breakers are involved in powering the kitchen (other thank the lights) but not sure how this will help us. Can you provide any insights?

                      FYI...okay it sounds like this wiring is okay...the receptacle with the white and black wire connected together is the place where the garbage disposal plugs in. The Garbage disposal is controlled by a switch at the countertop near the sink. Is that the "light" that you referenced.

                      I followed your instructions. There are 3 breakers that control the receptacles in the kitchen.

                      1) Controls the Microwave and one receptacle (thought a Microwave was suppose to have it's own circuit breaker?).
                      2) One that controls the GFI receptacle. (Does it seem strange that the GFI would be the only receptacl on the circuit breaker?)
                      3) One that controls the light switch over the sink (this is the one that shares the same box as the garbage disposal switch thatdoesn't receive current and is in very close proximity to another receptacle that also isn't receiving any current.

                      What should I do next?



                      • #12
                        outlets no power

                        try this drawing and see if it fits your requirements.


                        • #13

                          Thanks for the drawing. Not sure if I am interpreting it correctly...I think there are some differences...Let me try to describe in words and then maybe you can translate that into a picture if needed. It took several hours to map this out. Hopefully it will help you help me determine what is going on. There are several questions embeded in my description. Let me know if you want me to take action on these.

                          First there are a total of 7 receptacles in the kitchen area..(Not including receptacles where Microwave and Fridge are plugged into. Also I assume that the Dishwasher has its own receptacle but is not visible...must be behind dishwasher.).

                          Receptacle #s:

                          #1 GFI Receptacle (two sockets) - There are 3 "3wires" (White, black & Bare in a single sheeth). I replaced this GFI receptacle with a new one 6mos+ ago.Two of these 3-wires are for fluorescent under cabinet lights). It looks all of these are are wired directly to GFI Receptacle. After close inspection it looks like the 3 wire nuts are all connected to wiring for one of the fluorescent lights...seems kind of weird to wire it this way. As noted previously one one of these wires is hot and as one would expect this is the one unassociated with the Fluorescent lights. Note this receptacle works.

                          #2 Receptacle (two sockets) - There are 3 "3wires" coming into it. One of 3 wires is for Fluorescent undercabinet light. All 3 3-wires plug directly into this receptacle (No wire nuts). This one appears to be on the same circuit as the Microwave so I'm guessing that this receptacle gets it's power downstream from the Microwave receptacle (above the Microwave). As I referenced above I'm not counting (describing the Microwave receptacle) as one of the six.

                          Note: Kitchen is |_| shaped and these two Receptacles are on the same wall on either side of the Range. The lower leg of the kitchen is where the sink & garbage are located and 3 receptacles/switches. The other leg of the kitchen is a nook with windows and one receptacle.

                          On the other wall you will find....

                          #3 Receptacle (two sockets) - this is under the sink and it is the receptacle where the Garbage disposal is plugged in. It is one of those that is not receiving current. There are 3 3wires in this box. The receptacle has 1 black wire connected, two neutrals and one ground wire connected to it. There is one wirenut in the box that connects two black wires and one neutral together (as described previously there is a separate switch...receptacle#4). Two of the ground wires (bare) are wrapped around the one ground that is connected to the receptacle.

                          Note: Receptacle #4 & #5 (Toggle switches) are side by side in the same box (I'll refer to it as a "dual" box.

                          #4 Toggle swich - this controls the light above the sink. I replaced this switch with a new one 6mos+ ago. This one is working properly. There are a total of 4-3wires coming into this "dual" box. (Note: One of the three wires plugs directly into #5 Toggle switch so I'll leave that out for now.). So that leaves 3 3wires to discuss. I'll describe where each wire goes.
                          - Black: connects to upper screw of Toggle switch. (note this wire is not hot when breaker on).
                          - White: connected and terminated to whites from other two 3wires.
                          - Bare is wrapped around bares from other two 3-wires. No wirenut.
                          - Black connected to wirenut. (see note below).
                          - White is terminated in wirenut as noted above
                          - Bare is wrapped around bares from other two 3-wires bares. No wirenut.
                          - Black connected to wirenut (see note below).
                          - White as noted aboe 3 whites are terminated in wirenut.
                          - Bare is wrapped around bares from other two 3-wire bares. No wirenut.
                          Note: two black wires from 3-wire #2 & #3 are connected via wirenut. A third short "extension" black wire has been added to the wirenut to connect these blacks to the toggle switch via the lower screw. This connection is the "hot" connection. I'm not sure which 3-wire (#2 or #3, or both are "hot"). To determine which is hot I think I'd have to remove the wirenut and separate the wires. If this would help let me know and I will do this.
                          FYI. There are only 3 screws on the Leviton toggle switch. Two on one side and the ground on the other side.

                          #5 Toggle switch - this controls the garbage disposal. I replaced this switch with a new one 6mos+ ago. It is not receiving current. The fourth 3 wire (as noted above) is directly connected to the switch (black, white and bare).

                          #6 Receptacle (two sockets) - this is six inches from the "dual" box (note immediately above) on same wall. I replaced this receptacle with a new one 6mos+ ago. There are 3-3wires coming into this box. I know that one of the 3 wires is associated with an under cabinet light. Don't know what the other 2 3-wires are for. I assume one of them is pulling current from and upstream receptacle and the other is carrying current downstream.

                          #7 Receptacle (two sockets) - This one is on the nook wall. It receives no current. There is only one 3-wire going into this box. All wires are connected to socket.

                          A few other notes that might be relevant to this discussion are:
                          - The breaker that turns off current to the Toggle switch for the light above the sink (#4 above) also controls two switches (one in the garage - closest to the panel) and one in the family room (adjacent to the kitchen). It also controls two receptacles in the family room and one outside receptacle on the patio. I've taken out the receptacle for the light switch in the family room, the two sockets in the family room and the external patio receptcle and I didn't find any loose wires. I haven't checked the light switch in the garage to confirm there are no loose wires. Should I?
                          - There is actually a eighth receptacle (two sockets) in the kitchen that I didn't mention. This one is on the island in the kitchen. It's definitely on a different circuit then Toggle switch #4. Should i isolate this one to determine which breaker it is on?
                          - As you know I had made the assumption that sockets 3-7 were on the same circut because of their relative proximity to each other but as you correctly pointed out I can't be sure because

                          I know this is a lot of information but I wanted to described the details because that is where I think the devis is in this case. Hopefully this is enough information to paint the picture for you.

                          Let me know if I can provide any more details or take any further steps.

                          Best regards,


                          • #14
                            ok, the hot that feeds power to your disposal is not getting power. you need to track down the path of this cable. there may be a junction box in the basement. [this is getting very confusing]


                            • #15

                              Thanks for reviewing. I agree this is a bit complicated but I wanted to share all the details with you so that you would have a complete picture. I don't have a basement (I'm in San Diego) and as far as I can tell there are no junction boxes. A couple of follow up questions:

                              1) Is there something specific that makes you think that there might be a junction box?
                              2) Is there anything in particular that is confusing that I can clarify or re-confirm?
                              3) It sounds like you believe that the Garbage disposal black wire is not getting current. What makes you believe that?...just trying to understand why you've come to that conclusion. Also you referenced that the disposal isn't getting power. Are you refering to the switch that controls garbage disposal or to the receptacle where the disposal is plugged into?

                              4) You suggested that I track down the path of this cable. But I'm not sure how I would do that as all cables run from the breaker panel through the walls (none are exposed until they appear in the electric boxes at the receptacle). Suggestions?

                              Thanks again,