Wiring headache!

Discussion in 'Shop Talk' started by WanderingOak, May 21, 2006.

  1. WanderingOak

    WanderingOak Well-Known Member

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    I just spent the past three hours attempting to wire an outlet. I had already run the romex, installed the outlet box, and connected the breaker a few months ago. Other projects prevented me from finishing the outlet until today. I wired the outlet without any problem- took me all of 15 minutes, including looking for all of my tools. However, when I plugged a circuit tester into the outlet and turned the breaker on, there was a small blue spark in the breaker box and the breaker tripped back off. Double and tripple-checking my connections did not find any problems. I tried it with a different breaker- same problem. I tried a different outlet, no difference. I even tried the tester on a different circuit and cycled the breaker. Nothing happened. 'Must be a short in the romex', I thought to myself. So I disconnected both ends, went back into the crawl-space and removed it. Using a multimeter, I checked for shorts and opens, but couldn't find anything wrong. There were a few kinks in the line where the cable had to go through tight clearances and a few places where the insulation was slightly abraided (probably from un-stapling the romex), but everything looked intact. Does anybody out there had any idea what went wrong here?
     
  2. moopups

    moopups In Remembrance

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    Are all the components new? Install a plug to the wire and place it into a non related circuit, that will tell if there is a wire problem, if the circuit breaker trips.

    The wire colors are black to the circuit breaker, white to the buss bar (the neutral), and green also to the buss bar. The theory is that a 'pathway must be established back to the circuit box' even though currant is not returned, it is consumed at the appliance or light at the outlet. Use your meter on the outlet insert itself, there may be a manufactures defect - what do the Chinese know anyhow?

    A wire staple may have punctured the wire, see first paragraph. The black wire goes to the aluminum screw, the white to the copper screw; green (or bare) to the mounting at the end of the circuit insert, upper or lower.

    In that your meter did trip other circuts it may be at fault, I think you have a two stage problem here.
     

  3. WanderingOak

    WanderingOak Well-Known Member

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    I tried this with three seperate outlet connectors, all were new. One I bought this morning. The outlets and breakers were wired correctly (and all said 'Made in USA'). I did try the test with the romex plugged directly into another outlet with an outlet on one end. Breaker tripped just as before. Then I took a look at how I had wired the outlet and realized that I had wired the bloody thing wrong. Both hot and return were wired to the same @#$ side of the outlet, creating a short. Well, I am writing this up as a lesson learned. I won't be making THAT mistake again (I'll be making all new ones, of course).
     
  4. tiogacounty

    tiogacounty Well-Known Member

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    Although you found the problem, the biggest thing to remember in electrical troubleshooting is to isolate the problem. If you suspect that the romex is damaged, remove the outlet and flip the breaker, if it still trips you are probably right. If you develop a tripping problem with a circuit, one of the first things you should do is to swap the breaker for another one that you know is working. A lot of residential breakers are cheap garbage made in third world countries, and failures are more common than you would think. CFCI receptacles are also amazingly failure prone, but they have gotten better lately. One of the first things I think about with a new problem is, "what was done in the area lately?" I recently had a dead short in a GFCI protected circuit. I removed the load side wires from the GFCI receptacle and everything was fine. I knew that a receptacle "downstream" on the circuit had been replaced recently. I found that the mounting screws were lost, and the monkey who replaced it used 1-1/2" sheetmetal screws to mount the new receptacle. One screw went straight through the romex and shorted the ground to the neutral, which tripped the GFCI. It was a quick easy fix because I isolated the problem, and thought about what had been "tampered with" on the circuit, prior to ripping and tearing anything apart.
     
  5. deberosa

    deberosa SW Virginia Gourd Farmer!

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    The black wire or hot wire goes on the copper colored screw, the white wire goes on the silver colored screw, green on green ground screw.
    kurt