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I have two receptacles that I haven't used in months that now don't have power. One is outside in the back of house, the other is in the garage - in the front of house. They are on different circuit breakers and neither have GFCI outlets or circuits on their lines (after this issue is figured out I'm planning to replace these with GFCI -- good ida?). The breakers are not tripped.

I tried flipping the circuit breakers on/off - didn't help. I used a voltmeter on the wires -- no current.

Is there anything else I could do to troubleshoot this issue? Run a continuity test somewhere? How would an electrician troubleshoot this?

Thank you

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    How old is your house? – Retired Master Electrician May 17 '18 at 12:43
  • Have you installed any GFCI receptacles around the house? Did you take the tape off the load terminals? – Harper - Reinstate Monica May 17 '18 at 13:38
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    1993 is what I get subtracting, and yes it would have been required in the 90’s. In that era tho they were stingy with them, one or two per house and wiring to tie all the required locations together. 1973 for outdoor outlets, 1978 for garage outlets. I use this list frequently. – Tyson May 17 '18 at 19:40
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    I forgot your second question: yes, look for a tripped GFCI anywhere in your house. They used to make one or two long circuits that zig-zagged around to required locations. – Tyson May 17 '18 at 20:14
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    Also think about places an outlet might be that’s been covered up with junk for awhile... odd stories include behind 30 sheets of plywood stacked on a wall, in a bathroom cabinet, behind stuff on garage shelves... you should get the picture 👍 – Tyson May 17 '18 at 21:13
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Thank you - with lots of very helpful comments posted I was able to get to the bottom of this. Both garage and outdoor receptacles were indeed controlled by a sole old GFCI outlet in completely opposite side of the house, with the circuit zig-zagging throughout the house to accommodate it. This was very confusing because I have lots of newer GFCI outlets (probably from more recent remodeling) in much more logical places. Next step is replacing outside outlet with proper own GFCI receptacle and a proper weather sealed cover.

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Both are in locations that high draw tools may have been used, what I usually find is the back stab connections have failed and are usually not hard to replace. With the circuit breaker off, pull the outlet out you are looking for damaged or over heated insulation (the quickest way to spot a bad connection) it can also be a wire that had a knick and broke over time at a screw terminal or pigtail but almost 89% of all failed outlet circuits I have repaired are from failed back stabs. It is possible the failure could be from the outlet prior on a daisy chain but since you only mentioned 1 outlet on each circuit I would expect it to be at that location. It would be a good plan to replace the outlets with weather resistant GFCI outlets at a minimum (WR outlets have the electronics coated so moisture won't cause false trips and reduce the life of the outlet) on the exterior location a in use cover or extreme duty cover is now code get a metal one the plastic ones do not last even with careful use in my opinion. Note if you pull the outlet out don't see anything but normal looking backstab connections and put it back in and it works it is a failed connector and it will fail again and the outlet needs to be replaced.

  • Thanks I'll check the back stabs. What's also puzzling me however is that I don't detect any voltage with a contactless probe. If it was contacts or back stands I would still detect voltage right? – John May 17 '18 at 17:44
  • If the hot lead was the one to fail you may not detect anything with a non contact, sometimes with multiple wire runs in parallel a non contact will show voltage on the neutral, – Ed Beal May 17 '18 at 20:15
  • This outlet turned out to be protected by GFCI on completely opposite end of the house. Now with the advice in this answer I am planning to install a proper outdoor rated GFCI outlet with a metal weather-proof box that latches properly. – John May 18 '18 at 23:01

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