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I was replacing an AC outlet with a new one (the fancy type with USBs). When first testing after installation with breaker on USBs we’re getting power, then I tried plugging in a regular AC plug and got a quick spark and short that tripped the breaker.

I investigated what happened and the live wire came into contact with the outlet box, noted by a blackened mark on the inside of the box.

I then covered the wires with electrical tape. Tried again and no current. I thought I had fried the outlet itself, so used a new one and still nothing.

Finally I used a multimeter to confirm the wires are dead even when breaker is on.

All other outlets on this breaker are fine, just this single outlet.

Any ideas?

  • 1
    are you sure the breaker is on? – jsotola Feb 25 '18 at 20:46
  • @jstola 100%. The other outlets on this breaker are working and have reset it a couple times. – GottaTinker Feb 25 '18 at 20:57
  • make sure your multimeter works, check it on the other live outlets. Is this outlet at the end of the chain or are there two cables that enter the electrical box? – Jon Feb 25 '18 at 21:15
  • 2
    Just figured it out. Other outlet on the breaker had an AFCI that was tripped. Had to reset it, then the other outlet worked. – GottaTinker Feb 25 '18 at 21:41
  • @GottaTinker -- post that as an answer and I'll give an upvote :) – ThreePhaseEel Feb 26 '18 at 3:08
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Case 1

If you had a short circuit that popped the circuit breaker and then when reset there is no power I would begin to suspect that a wire connection has become unreliable due to the current surge of the short circuit.

The most likely thing that could be a problem here is if one or more of the wire connections in the circuit consists of the the poke in style terminations. This type of connection is notoriously unreliable. When the wire is inserted a spring tension of a bent piece of metal is all the holds the wire in place.

Over time the string can get weak due to temperature cycling that happens when the contact is asked to deliver relatively high current alternately with relatively low or no current. It is possible that the very high current surge of the short circuit has led to a failure of an already marginal contact.

So I suggest that you check all the outlets on that circuit and see if they are using the poke in style terminations. If so replace all of those with the better quality outlets that have screw terminal terminations for the wires. Some of these will use a wire bent in a loop under the screw head and others may have a clamp device that you insert a straight wire into and then tighten with the screw.

Case 2

Another possibility is that the outlet in question is wired down wind of a GFCI unit that has tripped due to the circuit imbalance in the HOT and NEUTRAL wires when the short of the HOT to the electrical box occurred.

In this case you will have to study the circuit layout to see if there is a GFCI in the circuit someplace.

  • Thanks Michael! Case two was it. Thanks so much for your help. – GottaTinker Feb 25 '18 at 21:41
1

There was a GFCI outlet on the same breaker that was tripped. After resetting the GFCI outlet, the other one came back.

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