So I had an outlet that was sparking and sometimes cutting out (till I moved it to an angle) so I decided to change it. Turned the breaker off, replaced it, turned it back on and find out my room and a few other things on my side of the house don't have power. Now this had happened before with my bathroom on the same circuit so I know what breaker it is. So a few outlets on the way from the breaker box (on the same breaker as my room) to my room work, and stop about halfway through. I bought a multimeter and tested my outlet and get ~120 Volts. Tested a light switch (that wasn't working but on the same breaker) and same thing, so I'm at a loss of what to do. Any help would be appreciated.

  • On the old receptacle, are any tabs broken off? Was the old receptacle anything special like a GFCI? Are you jabbing wires into the backside holes, or wrapping wires around the screws? Aug 15, 2018 at 17:32
  • @Harper It's a normal outlet, doesn't look like anything is broken off but here's pictures of the old one for reference. imgur.com/a/3Uw27k5 Aug 15, 2018 at 17:38
  • Jim it's in the pictures (4) but they're so perfectly side-on that I can't quite tell. I don't see any tabs at all, usually the neutral tab is intact. I can't quite see. Got an ohmmeter? Can you measure continuity/resistance between the two brass/hot screws and the two silver/neutral screws? Aug 15, 2018 at 17:46
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    Those "magic-8-ball" 3-lamp testers often give you very strange answers that are not true - hence the nickname. What they are good for, is removing an unrelated phenomenon called "phantom voltage", which can cause a lot of problems for DVMs. Stick a 3-lamp tester in one socket and measure the other with a DVM, you will get true readings. Aug 15, 2018 at 21:51
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    "hot-ground reverse" is the magic 8-ball answer most likely to be totally wrong. Aug 15, 2018 at 21:52

1 Answer 1


What I'd do is first systematically correct all the receptacles in one circuit, then examine the switches for the light fixtures and insure that the switches are in the hot line and not in the neutral. This means that each 1-pole switch should have an always hot on one contact and switched hot on the other. Note that a white colored wire can be and often is used as a hot or switched hot in a loop for a light.

I hope this won't happen but it could be that if you correct a receptacle and turn the breaker on, it will trip because incorrect wiring in either a remaining receptacle or in a loop for a light makes a short. If that happens you will have to correct all the remaining wiring before proceeding, instead of going receptacle by receptacle, switch by switch, light by light.

Finally, after all the receptacles and switches have been corrected move up to the light fixtures and insure that the switched hot goes to the proper wire lead or contact. In a screw base fixture this means the central contact is switched hot and the neutral. In others generally the switched hot lead will be black. Note that a white wire could be used for a switched hot so you could be connecting a white wire to a black wire (something you would usually not do with receptacles).

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    I was about to write something similar. The only thing I'd add is As you work through the connections, if any are backstabs, move those wires to the screw connections. Aug 15, 2018 at 21:53

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