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  • A collection of issues

    If some of this stuff seems familiar then it's because I posted one of these problems before.

    Here are the issues:
    1. outside lights above garage door used to work but now they don't.
    2. outside lights on corner of house - never seen them on, don't know how to switch them on.
    3. socket in family room used to power cabinet lights used to work, now it doesn't
    4. mystery switches - 1 in garage, 1 in foyer.

    It may be that one or more of these issues is related but at this point I don't know.

    I've checked every breaker in the box and they are all working. My circuit checker light indicated that there was a voltage on the out pin of each breaker.

    I'll tell you all I know about each issue in turn.

    [u]ONE : outside lights above garage doors</u>
    They used to work by switching a light in the basement. I replaced the bulbs first thinking it was a simple thing like that but it appears not to be. I replaced the switch even though I didn't need to and wired it properly (it was backstabbed before). There is voltage at the correct pins when the switch is flicked but there is no voltage at the lights. I can't follow the wiring because it goes behind the wall or into the ceiling.

    [u]TWO : outside lights on corner of house</u>
    Not too much of a problem here, there just doesn't appear to be a way to switch them on but issue 4 may be related to this.

    [u]THREE : socket in family room not working</u>
    When we moved in there were 2 sockets wired up on top of the built in cabinets. I used one of these sockets to power some lights I fitted inside one of the cabinets. The light was not on all the time, just when someone switched it on which was very seldom. At sometime the lights just stopped working. I checked the socket and there was no power. Same goes for the other socket. I am assuming the sockets are on the same circuit but since I never used the other socket I can't say that it ever worked.

    [u]FOUR : mystery switches</u>
    This is where it gets interesting.

    There is a switch in the garage (2 actually but one powers the internal garage light and works just fine). The switch panel is wired up in a strange way; I think trying to explain the wiring may be useless so I'll post a sketch at http://www.bodoin.com/images/switch.jpg. This switch doesn't do anything because the post that receives power when the switch is closed is not attached to any wire. As you will see from the diagram there is also a wire in the box that connects to nothing and has been wrapped in black electrical tape. It's as if someone has disconnected the switch for some reason but I don't know if it's safe just to re-attach it. If I am understanding the wiring correctly it looks as though even though there are two feed cables, only the live from one of them is being used. It's confusing and doesn't look right to me.

    The other mystery switch is in the foyer. It's in the middle of a 3-switch plate. The other switches power the internal light and the door light. The middle switch has been "taped" into what I think is the off position. There are no labels or anything like that.

    I'm thinking that this switch and the mystery switch in the garage may power the outside lights and, for some reason, the prior owner "disconnected" them. If that was the case then it would kinda solve 3 of the issues. If I could contact the previous owner then that would be great as I could ask him all these question, I think I'll try and track him down.




    That's all I have at the moment. It's really frustrating because (1) there appears to be power where there should be power, except at the appliances I mean, and (2) in some cases the appliance used to work. I am used to dealing with blown breakers and bulbs but this stuff is trickier. Most of the wiring is in the walls so I can't get to it. I know we have some mice in the basement because our cat catches them from time to time but it's not like we are infested. It would suck if some pesky rodent had chewed through a cable.

    If it's not a breaker and it's not a bulb and it's not a "broken" wire and it's not a loose connection, what else can it be? Can you buy equipment that tests cables for breaks?

    Let me know if there is anything you think I can try or if there is any details that I am missing. I am going to try and follow the cables as far as I can but there is a lot of ducting and stuff in the way, not to mention walls, etc.

    Cheers, Max

  • #2
    Unfortunately that JPEG didn't come through for me. But I'm wondering if maybe those two switches that are taped in the 'off' position and have a wire end taped up and a bare screw may need to be three way switches and wired up correctly. Could be soemone in the past had changed a switch not realizing that there's a difference between two way's and three way's. Can you tell us how many screws you see on those switches? If there's only two plus a green ground screw, then it's a two way. As for checking that wiring, you can use a volt/ohm meter for that. But you should turn off the power to those switches first. Then double check the wires in that box with your volt meter to verify that there's no power. Go to where the lights are that don't work. Check the wires there for power. If all are dead, then good. Disconnect the lamp and use a piece of 'bell' wire as a jumper lead. Connect it to one of the wires from the lamp, the other end you unravel 'till you can get over to where the switches are at that you already took apart. Now, use your ohm meter to test from the end of your jumper (bell) wire and the wires in that switch box. You may find that there's a connection. Do this with the other wire in that lamp box. Once you figure that, then you know which wires are the switch wires. One end, of coarse will be to neutral, the other would be the 'hot' and go to the switch. Do the same sequence with the bell wire jumper between the two switch boxes. You may find there's common wires in them. Once you get it all diagramed out on your 8 1/2 x 11 paper, then you may see that there was a need for a couple of those three ways. Or maybe not! But at least you will have eliminated that part. You may also find out why there's a wire that's been taped off. By the way, what color is that taped off wire?

    Comment


    • #3
      Sorry 'bout the image, for some reason the period after jpg was included. If you click on the link and then modify the URL in the address bar it comes through OK.

      The taped off wire is black.

      I once had a friend who worked for a data cable installation company and I think I recall him having a tool that you can connect to one end of the cable only and it would tell you if there was a break in the wire. Pretty smart tool but also probably very expensive.

      Thanks for the tips captain. I'll see what I can do. Hopefully the image will help clarify the wiring a little. When I next open up the switch box I'll check out the number of screws on each switch.

      Comment


      • #4
        Here's the image...



        Try
        Try

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks, Troy.

          Comment


          • #6
            Boy! It seems more to me now that that just may have been a 3 way switch setup and somebody changed things around a bit. Don't understand why there'd be a need to jumper a wire from the right switch to the left and then to the bottom wire feed. That switch for all intents and purposes is useless. I wonder what that black lead is? Do you know if it's hot?

            Comment


            • #7
              I haven't tested it for hotness yet but that is on my list of things to check.

              Comment


              • #8
                This gets even better (and by that I mean if worse=better, then this is better).

                http://www.bodoin.com/images/switch_3.jpg

                That image shows you the 3 switches we have in our entrance way. The middle switch was taped in the closed position and switching it off seems to have no effect. Let me know what you think of this new image. I don't even know where to start. What bemuses me is the white wire coming from the middle switch and connecting to the black wire of the right switch which basically means that the, hell, I don't know what it means.

                Edit:
                left switch = entrance way light. It's a 3 way switch and works just fine.
                middle switch = ????. Dunno what this does. Since it was taped up in the closed position, it's almost as if the switch is not supposed to do anything at all (other than provide power to some other circuit)
                right switch = door light and it works just fine.

                Comment


                • #9
                  If that's a three way setup - IT IS COMPLETELY WRONG!! You're carrying through the bare ground as a current carrying conductor - A sure fire waiting to happen!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    From the diagram things do look completely wrong but can you explain how the ground is a current carrying conductor? Is that because the white wire from one cable is connected to the black wire of another? When looking at the drawing I basically resigned myself to the fact that someone has wired up a circuit using the wrong colours for hot / neutral. If the wires ARE correctly identifiable by their colour then the diagram just plain doesn't make sense.

                    From experience, do you think I will have trouble getting an electrician in to look at it for me? I've heard that some electricians don't like jobs like this because they can be a pain in the ass.

                    EDIT: just so it's clear, I didn't do any of this wiring. Don't want people thinking I'm that much of a dummy.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Let's do some troubleshooting first. Take off the wirenut and unsplice the white. Take a tester and read between the red and either white. If this follows through like a conventional circuit the top would normally be the feed, but we don't know this. Check between the upper wire ground and white. Tell me what you read. IF the ground is HOT then it's feeding power to the single pole switch (as indicated) The switch on the right looks like a backwards fed three way. But let's get the mystery out of this circuit wiring first. Establish the hot and neutral. ok?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        UPDATE:

                        (3) above has been solved, we found a switch on the other side of the room that powers those outlets and it was in the off position. Flicking it on and the sockets work!!

                        I found another 3-way switch in entrance way but that apparently doesn't do anything either!! The switch has three screws on it and one is always hot. The other two alternate "hotness" depending on which way the switch is flicked which seems to make sense to me. I don't have a picture of that switch, it seems fine, we just don't know what the hell it does.

                        A friend of mine is going to get a hold of a device that sends a signal down the wire and then you can trace the wire through the house. Kinda like making the wire a transmitter I guess. I don't know what those things are called but it sounds handy.

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                        • #13
                          I hate when people do stuff like that! Is that black and white actually wire nutted together? Dang! If it were my rats nest, I'd remove all the switches out of there and check to see exactly what's hot and what's not. I suspect you have two other locations that have the other ends of those two upper left hand wires (the r/b/w/g)'s, and that the four wire was used for a three way circuit. Not a bad thing to do. But the connecting of that white wire to a black!! that's making the item at the other end of that wire hot in reverse! So if you turn off it's switch, the item's still hot!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            "Is that black and white actually wire nutted together" -- oh yeah, I'll take a photo of the "rats nest" and post it to http://www.bodoin.com/images/ratsnest.jpg

                            I solved another couple of mysteries though and thankfully these were schoolbpy error on my part. The "new" 3-way switch I found and one of the mystery basement switches control the outside spotlamps, the bulbs were just shot. The reason I didn't check these before s because I was 99.9% sure they had never worked in the past. My bad. What this basically leaves me with is:
                            1. no outside garage lights (different from the spot lamps)
                            2. a switch in the garage that has been disconnected for some reason (still to check and see if the disconnected wire is hot).
                            3. a mystery switch in out entrance - the one taped into the on position. I'm starting to think that this switch and the one discussed in (2) actually control the lights in (1) which would mean I am down to a single problem (and some really funky wiring!!!)

                            I've left the photograph at it's original size (over 200Kb) but at least it's clear. What you can't see are the 2 whie wires hoinh into the screw nut but they do, trust me.

                            Thanks guys!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              quote:Originally posted by Max

                              "Is that black and white actually wire nutted together" -- oh yeah, I'll take a photo of the "rats nest" and post it to http://www.bodoin.com/images/ratsnest.jpg

                              I solved another couple of mysteries though and thankfully these were schoolbpy error on my part - I thought the switch I was testing used to operate different lights (maybe it's supposed to operate all of them).

                              The "new" 3-way switch I found and one of the mystery basement switches control the outside spotlamps, the bulbs were just shot. The reason I didn't check these before s because I was 99.9% sure they had never worked in the past. My bad. What this basically leaves me with is:
                              1. no outside garage lights (different from the spot lamps)
                              2. a switch in the garage that has been disconnected for some reason (still to check and see if the disconnected wire is hot).
                              3. a mystery switch in our entrance - the one taped into the on position. I'm starting to think that this switch and the one discussed in (2) actually control the lights in (1) which would mean I am down to a single problem (and some really funky wiring!!!)

                              I've left the photograph at it's original size (over 200Kb) but at least it's clear. What you can't see are the 2 whie wires hoinh into the screw nut but they do, trust me.

                              Thanks guys!

                              Comment

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