.

electrical question

CaneyRiverDogCaneyRiverDog Member Posts: 33
Ceiling light in garage quit working and thought blown bulb. I change bulb still no light. Pull light fixture from ceiling box to investigate. There are a at least 6 hot and 6 common wires inside the light fixture. I swapped the standard light fixture and wired exactly how it was wired. Still no light. The three outlets in garage aren't working either but don't know if that was a before or after the light going out.  I've got an open neutral on the outlets which I'm sure goes back to the birds nest in the light box.  The outlets light my meter as hot but will not power anything.

IS there any one here that has any ideas of how to fix this? I'm not an electrician but could get testers and such to fix problem if I knew what to get and how to go about doing it. Im sure they are on the same run but dont know how to trace/ track them down. Testing hot makes me think its just a neutral or bad outlet but don't know how to check things like continuity when they are 30 feet apart. Any help would  be great, cant afford an electrician right now...

Comments

  • CaneyRiverDogCaneyRiverDog Member Posts: 33
    jimdeere said:
    I have one, thats what I used that read I had an open neutral on my outlets. I used the wand and it showed they were hot but wouldnt power anything. I plugged that in and all 3 showed an open neutral. Is there something else it will tell me that Im missing? or another way to use it that I haven't?

    One possibilty is one was wired backwards, like a white is hot and a black is neutral. I think its wired an old school way where they've run the wire from the breaker to the ceiling light then branched off of it down the walls to the outlets. I just dont know what set of wires go to which outlet, cant get in attic above ceiling light. The garage was an addition and theres access. I went to home depot and lowes yesterday looking for a "fox and hound" cause I  thought that might be what I need and to see if that would help, neither place had one. Im thinking I need something that will help me distinguish which wires run to which outlet. They so bunched up in that single box an expansion would help and another reason why its hard to distinguish whats going on..
  • toad67toad67 Member Posts: 9,937 ✭✭✭
    Going out on a limb, but guessing that you checked your breaker box? Also, see if there is a GFI plug that has been tripped. They will knock out all down stream power, just like turning the breaker off.
  • AlpineAlpine Member Posts: 14,466 ✭✭✭
    It would all depend on if you were showing power to ground or power to a neutral. I am guessing you have a loose/disconnected neutral.
    ?The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money.?
    Margaret Thatcher

    "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."
    Mark Twain
  • US Military GuyUS Military Guy Member Posts: 3,235 ✭✭✭
    READ ALL OF THESE INSTRUCTIONS FIRST! and - remove the light fixture again -
    1.  Mark each one of the wires (black and white).  It sounds like you might not have a three wire system because you don't mention the ground wire?  Mark the wires without removing the connections #1, #2, #3, #4, etc.

    2.  Take a photo of the wires (while connected) in the box.

    3.  Remove all of the connections.  This might sound like not a good idea, but it is all I can think of to track the circuits.

    4.  Get a real multimeter in order to measure voltage and turn the breaker back on.  WARNING at least one set of wires in the box is hot!  If you are not comfortable working with a "hot box", STOP and call an electrician.

    5.  Determine which set of wires is the "Line" (power) coming into the box.  Make a note of the numbers of those two wires - probably a good idea to "nut" them off so you don't get electrocuted from here.

    6.  Most likely (but nothing is absolute when talking about a box with that many circuits in it) one of the sets of wires is the light switch.  It should be a pair with the white wire marked as hot.  Anyway turn the switch on.  You did check to see if you had a good switch - right?  With the switch on and using your multimeter, determine which set of wire has continuity.  Verify by turning the switch off (no continuity) and back on (continuity restored).  If no joy at this step, make sure the switch is good.  This is NOT a three way switch correct?  It get a whole bunch more complicated if it is.

    7.  Once you have identified the switch pair, you will need to identify the individual pairs for the rest of the outlets.  The best way is most likely to "short" the outlet and check for continuity of pairs at the ceiling box. 

  • US Military GuyUS Military Guy Member Posts: 3,235 ✭✭✭
    I have no idea why I type up a whole bunch of detailed instructions and half of them don't show up afterwards.
    Anyway, this is most of it (Don't you just love it when you get "most" of the instructions?).
    Let me know, if you need the parts that are missing.  Probably not that important.  They just talk about fire, death, insurance, permits, licenses, and that sort of thing.
  • gartmangartman Member Posts: 570 ✭✭✭
    Look for a tripped GFI outlet. Mine is in the bathroom and will take out everything in the garage.
  • nmyersnmyers Member Posts: 16,314 ✭✭✭
    You've checked exterior outlets to be sure one of those isn't upstream from the garage?  Water leaking into a box eventually leads to rust & a short.
    Neal
  • varianvarian Member Posts: 1,262 ✭✭✭
    if you have voltage but not enough current to do the work, you most probably have a loose connection in the circuit.  start at the power source for that circuit and check all connections.  remember voltage and current are two entirely different things.
  • CaneyRiverDogCaneyRiverDog Member Posts: 33
    No outside outlets, breaker is not tripped, no gfi's, no grounds. There is an exterior flood light that has its own light switch but it only worked when the other light switch was on (the switch by entrance door controlled the switch by garage door). The light in garage was a single bulb pull string fixture. I would leave the light switch on so the motion flood would work and pull the string when I needed the light until it quit working. Originally I assumed the pull switch failed.
  • CaneyRiverDogCaneyRiverDog Member Posts: 33
    edited October 5
    I have not done any tests on the light switches.  There are some red wires connected to white tucked up in the box.  I really only unhooked those connected to the light fixture and reconnected but its a good possibilty one came loose when I pulled light fixture down to unhook.  This may be a blessing cause all of them are only connected with old electrical tape.
  • montanajoemontanajoe Member, Moderator Posts: 51,001 ******
    Make sure the connections in the circuit panel for this circuit are tight.
    With the breaker turned off, remove one at a time, each outlet, switch, fixture on this circuit.  Make certain all connections are clean and tight.  Any where you have wires wire nutted together, remove a wire nut one at a time.  Make certain a wire did not break off in the wire nut.  Make sure the wires twisted together and screw on a new wire nut.  
    More than likely you have a very loose or broken off neutral.    Good luck.
  • CaneyRiverDogCaneyRiverDog Member Posts: 33
    Make sure the connections in the circuit panel for this circuit are tight.
    With the breaker turned off, remove one at a time, each outlet, switch, fixture on this circuit.  Make certain all connections are clean and tight.  Any where you have wires wire nutted together, remove a wire nut one at a time.  Make certain a wire did not break off in the wire nut.  Make sure the wires twisted together and screw on a new wire nut.  
    More than likely you have a very loose or broken off neutral.    Good luck.
    Thanks. not a single wire nut in the box. Not to make an excuse for them but you probably cant get all the wiring in the box with wire nuts. lol Think Ill have to add a junction box to the side of this one to get everything back in. 
  • montanajoemontanajoe Member, Moderator Posts: 51,001 ******
    So, how do they join the wires together?
  • mohawk600mohawk600 Member Posts: 2,682 ✭✭✭
    toad67 said:
    Going out on a limb, but guessing that you checked your breaker box? Also, see if there is a GFI plug that has been tripped. They will knock out all down stream power, just like turning the breaker off.
    I was going to suggest that you see if it is on a GFCI. If it's in the garage, chances are its on a GFCI......check all of those.
  • jimdeerejimdeere Member Posts: 20,069 ✭✭✭✭
    National Electric Code specifies how many conductors in an enclosure, based on volume (cubic inches).
    https://www.ecmag.com/section/codes-standards/splices-and-conductor-fill-enclosures-and-wireways

  • OkieOkie Member Posts: 314 ✭✭
    Bottom line:

    You need a electrician.
    This is advice from a Registered Journeyman electrician and Lic'ed Electronic Tech.
  • firstharmonicfirstharmonic Member Posts: 893 ✭✭✭
    edited October 5
    THIS ^^^^^^^^^^ ! There are just too many possibilities. A loose wire or bad connection anywhere in a circuit can cause a high resistance arc or hot spot, with the potential for really bad things to happen. It's no coincidence that the National Electric Code gets its authority from the National Fire Protection Association. 

  • Mr. PerfectMr. Perfect Member Posts: 59,459 ✭✭✭✭
    Just get the electrons to start flowing through the bulb. Simple really.
    Some will die in hot pursuit
    And fiery auto crashes
    Some will die in hot pursuit
    While sifting through my ashes
    Some will fall in love with life
    And drink it from a fountain
    That is pouring like an avalanche
    Coming down the mountain
  • montanajoemontanajoe Member, Moderator Posts: 51,001 ******
     Any help would  be great, cant afford an electrician right now...

    From what you further describe,  you can't afford NOT to get an electrician. 
  • CaneyRiverDogCaneyRiverDog Member Posts: 33
    So, how do they join the wires together?
    electrical tape
  • montanajoemontanajoe Member, Moderator Posts: 51,001 ******
    So, how do they join the wires together?
    electrical tape
    Good gosh!!   :o
  • Flying Clay DiskFlying Clay Disk Member Posts: 34,836 ✭✭✭✭
    First off, you have a FIRE HAZARD in the making with no wire nuts!  This MUST be fixed!  <no ground, seriously???  Spooky!!!>
    Secondly, I strongly recommend hiring a qualified electrician for this.  No excuses.  However, if you insist on investigating the matter yourself, here are some suggestions.  The following narrative is for entertainment purposes only, with no guarantee expressed or implied.
    First some questions:
    - How old is the house, and how long have you owned it?
    - How long has the light in question been working before it started to act up?
    I presume you know what circuit breaker controls the light circuit, correct?  If so, here's something you could try:
    Try "ringing out" the whole rats nest; this is what I'd probably do.  You kind of need to do this anyway to find out if there's any other 'stupid electrical pet tricks' along the way.  Anyway, get yourself a long piece of wire, maybe even a spool of wire (long enough to reach to the furthest point from the light).  Next, turn the circuit breaker OFF.  Undo all the wires in the rats nest at the light (make sure all the conductors are separated).  Now turn the circuit breaker ON and locate the hot wire or feeder (you'll need all potential switches turned to the ON position).  Once you have located the feed, turn the Circuit breaker OFF.  Now tape off and label the hot leads.  From there it's just a matter of chasing down what wires go where (this is where your long piece of wire will come in).  Basically, you just wire nut your long wire to each of the conductors at the light and take the other end, along with your multi-meter, to every switch and outlet on the circuit.  Check for continuity at the far end.  Once you identify one, label it at the light and tape it off.  Identify where all the wires go and label them BEFORE trying to connect anything back together.  Once you have everything identified and labeled, draw a schematic of how everything is connected.
    Note - From what you have described, some hack has cobbled something together and there's about a 95% chance it's wired incorrectly.  There's no way you can have (6) hots and (6) commons in a single circuit.  There's (1) hot, some switched legs and associated neutrals, some travelers and it sounds like there's also some outlets cobbled into this as well.  Chances are almost certain this can be simplified, but will likely require some re-wiring.  Just the simple fact that no wire nuts were used tells me this whole mess is pretty honked up and done by someone who had no idea about what they were doing (you may also look around for some shallow graves in the area!), but I digress.
    Once you have a schematic drawn up of what you have, then you'll need to set about drawing another schematic of the way it SHOULD be.  This might take a couple schematics with the first being an ideal world scenario, and the second being one that works with the least amount of re-wiring (but still correct and not a FIRE HAZARD / Death trap).  Notice I did NOT say "no re-wiring" here, because some will almost certainly be required.

  • Toolman286Toolman286 Member Posts: 1,003 ✭✭✭
    The electrician who wired my house was mad at me because he kept having to come back to fix things while the house was being built. He got even madder when I pointed out that it was one of his workers that did it wrong in the first place. One of the workers didn't twist the wires before he put on a wire nut. Years later when something stops working, I find that a wire end has slipped out. Even worse if all they used was tape. There is no shortage of Bubbas.
  • CaneyRiverDogCaneyRiverDog Member Posts: 33
    First off, you have a FIRE HAZARD in the making with no wire nuts!  This MUST be fixed!  <no ground, seriously???  Spooky!!!>
    Secondly, I strongly recommend hiring a qualified electrician for this.  No excuses.  However, if you insist on investigating the matter yourself, here are some suggestions.  The following narrative is for entertainment purposes only, with no guarantee expressed or implied.
    First some questions:
    - How old is the house, and how long have you owned it?
    - How long has the light in question been working before it started to act up?
    I presume you know what circuit breaker controls the light circuit, correct?  If so, here's something you could try:
    Try "ringing out" the whole rats nest; this is what I'd probably do.  You kind of need to do this anyway to find out if there's any other 'stupid electrical pet tricks' along the way.  Anyway, get yourself a long piece of wire, maybe even a spool of wire (long enough to reach to the furthest point from the light).  Next, turn the circuit breaker OFF.  Undo all the wires in the rats nest at the light (make sure all the conductors are separated).  Now turn the circuit breaker ON and locate the hot wire or feeder (you'll need all potential switches turned to the ON position).  Once you have located the feed, turn the Circuit breaker OFF.  Now tape off and label the hot leads.  From there it's just a matter of chasing down what wires go where (this is where your long piece of wire will come in).  Basically, you just wire nut your long wire to each of the conductors at the light and take the other end, along with your multi-meter, to every switch and outlet on the circuit.  Check for continuity at the far end.  Once you identify one, label it at the light and tape it off.  Identify where all the wires go and label them BEFORE trying to connect anything back together.  Once you have everything identified and labeled, draw a schematic of how everything is connected.
    Note - From what you have described, some hack has cobbled something together and there's about a 95% chance it's wired incorrectly.  There's no way you can have (6) hots and (6) commons in a single circuit.  There's (1) hot, some switched legs and associated neutrals, some travelers and it sounds like there's also some outlets cobbled into this as well.  Chances are almost certain this can be simplified, but will likely require some re-wiring.  Just the simple fact that no wire nuts were used tells me this whole mess is pretty honked up and done by someone who had no idea about what they were doing (you may also look around for some shallow graves in the area!), but I digress.
    Once you have a schematic drawn up of what you have, then you'll need to set about drawing another schematic of the way it SHOULD be.  This might take a couple schematics with the first being an ideal world scenario, and the second being one that works with the least amount of re-wiring (but still correct and not a FIRE HAZARD / Death trap).  Notice I did NOT say "no re-wiring" here, because some will almost certainly be required.

    House was built in 1968. Fuse box was replaced to breakers in 2013 according to date in breaker box. I do know which breaker is for garage as its labeled and the one I flipped before replacing light fixture.
    I bought in September 2019. Not sure when light quit working. The light switch to the flood light only worked when the overhead in garage was switched on. So I just took bulb out of overhead so light wouldn't be on all the time and my motion activated flood light over drive way would still work. About a month ago I needed extra light in garage so I put bulb in and it didnt work. Figured it was just the light fixture cause it was a really old ceramic type light. Thought I would replace it with a new light with a pull string, that way I could keep light switch on for floods and use pull string when I needed light. Took light fixture down, wired new one, and ...... light didn't work. Then later the outlets no longer worked. ( cant say if this all happened at once or if outlets not working was result of me replacing light)
     So now I have no working electricity in garage. Outlets will read hot with the tester that you hold over the outlets but will not power anything. If you plug in the tester it reads that all three outlets have open grounds. I havent  took an outlet out and tested for 110v.
    I may have confused you in saying 6 hots for I havent tested them. I meant 6 black and 6 white with a red or two thats wired to whites. Sorry for the confusion. I have read that an old school way of wiring was to run the hot to the light and then all other wiring ran from light box to the outlets. I thought this may be the case with so much wiring in the box.

    Had house inspected before I bought and none of the light switch problems where indicated. 
    I appreciate all your help!!
  • bpostbpost Member Posts: 30,976 ✭✭✭✭
    Careful there, you can get an indication of a line being hot, it will have VOLTAGE but the instant load is applied it is gone, there is no current.  The only way to trace it down is start at the bitter end of the line, check for voltage and CURRENT at every connection hot and neutral going along until you find the issue. A construction string bulb with a 100W bulb attached to it will supply load.  If you attach the wires to the supply/neutral in the box and it does not light you have to keep going back in the circuit until you find the one that does light.  It is then the issue is most likely in that box.  
    I had a similar issue in my basement, it was a dead short, I opened and disconnected wires in a dozen boxes until the bitter end where a single duplex on an outside wall had shorted to ground popping the breaker instantly.  Patience is your friend, caution is the name of the game and having a helping hand to turn a breaker on and off is a huge plus.
  • varianvarian Member Posts: 1,262 ✭✭✭
    circuit breakers can be resistive also.  just because they show you have voltage on both sides doesnt mean they will carry the necessary current.  they can be easily and safely checked by replacing the suspected defective breaker with a known good one and seeing if your problem changes
  • CaneyRiverDogCaneyRiverDog Member Posts: 33
    Update. I havent checked continuity on every wire yet but think Im getting closer. 
    What I can confirm is one set is the incoming hot and neutral, one set runs to the outlets, one set is the light itself, two are the lines to the two way switches. Im guessing the sixth set of wires in the box are to flood light but I havent done a continuity on those yet. (been raining and didnt want to get in the flood light wet). I think one of the neutrals came loose wiping out my outlets. Ive connected them better than just laying all of them together and electrical taping. This restored power to the all the outlets to 120v. I drew a diagram as suggested and not sure how the light ever worked. Hard to see but the Black 1's are connected and the B's with a 2 in them are connected.  Apologies for my rudimental diagram.
  • varianvarian Member Posts: 1,262 ✭✭✭
    continuity is NOT current flow
  • Toolman286Toolman286 Member Posts: 1,003 ✭✭✭
    The whites on the right are not connected to the whites on the left (but the blacks are.) If the green is the ground, it should hook to grounds for everything. Do you have the 3-way switches connected correctly? If your wiring is good, swap our outlets & switches one at a time incase there is a bad one.
  • CaneyRiverDogCaneyRiverDog Member Posts: 33
    The whites on the right are not connected to the whites on the left (but the blacks are.) If the green is the ground, it should hook to grounds for everything. Do you have the 3-way switches connected correctly? If your wiring is good, swap our outlets & switches one at a time incase there is a bad one.
    The whites on the right go from switch up to box and connect to each other. The three way wiring is the wiring with grounds in the hole box. The majority of the outlets in the house are two prong. I doubt theres much ground wire line in the home. 
  • CaneyRiverDogCaneyRiverDog Member Posts: 33
    varian said:
    continuity is NOT current flow
    True but it will help me establish where each wire runs to.. correct?
  • Toolman286Toolman286 Member Posts: 1,003 ✭✭✭
    If you're using the black power from the left, you should connect the white neutrals also. If the old wire is BX (spiral armored,) then that should act as the bare ground.
  • CaneyRiverDogCaneyRiverDog Member Posts: 33
    If you're using the black power from the left, you should connect the white neutrals also. If the old wire is BX (spiral armored,) then that should act as the bare ground.
    The four white neutrals on the left were connected, the two on the right come from the light switches and connect together at box.
    The best way to describe the wire is it looks like sardines. It's almost like threaded tar paper with a silver coating. No metal spiral. The diagram I posted is how everything was wired in the box when I got everything pulled out. I bought some plastic connectors that will lock 4 wires together. They're smaller than the wire nuts they had used and a lot safer than those that were just twisted together and taped. Im still not sure how the light remotely worked the way it was wired.  The hot only ran to the hot to the outlets and a hot to one of the light switches.
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