I have an outlet that has stopped working. When it used to work I previously labeled which circuit it was on at the breaker. I'm rather certain I know which breaker supplies it. It also supplies other lights, which continue to work.

Turned off breaker, removed outlet from wall and disconnected from wires. Powered on breaker, and confirm with multimeter no AC measured on bare wires at outlet. (Proving that this is not a faulty outlet.)

Have a continuity tester (part of a tone generator). I am getting continuity across hot and neutral on these wires. (Edit: also getting continuity between neutral and ground wire, as well. 20 ohms hot/neutral, 1 ohm neutral/ground, 20 ohms hot/ground. WTF??) What does this imply? How could I have done this?

I'm still trying to use the tone generator to trace where the wires feeding this outlet come from, but the continuity is making the signal very weak.

  • 4
    1 ohm neutral <---> ground is normal; 20 ohms Hot <--> neutral & ground sounds like you are detecting some other device in the circuit. Nov 25, 2018 at 23:48
  • 1
    Is there anything plugged into the circuit? Unscrew all the lightbulbs on it and unplug everything attached to receptacles on it, and see if you still get continuity Nov 26, 2018 at 1:52
  • 1
    Thanks @manassehkatz for encouraging me to disconnect everything else until I found the problem (see my answer).
    – Phrogz
    Nov 26, 2018 at 3:00

1 Answer 1


Thanks to @manassehkatz I went to all light switches on the same circuit and disconnected them. The outlet retained continuity.

I then traced the wire through the crawlspace to a wall with another light switch that I did not realize was on the same circuit. Opening that box and removing the switches I found that the line to the outlet comes from that box, and I somehow failed to reconnect power to the outlet when I was changing out my dimmer switches. The neutral was connected, but the hot line to the outlet was just loose in the back of the box. (Yikes.)

I'm not sure what connection it was making when everything was crammed into the box. I'm guessing it was loosely connecting to one of the free ground wires. Once I removed the switches from the box continuity disappeared. And, once I connected the wires properly, the outlet works again.

  • 1
    The lose hot wire was probably touching the metal box, giving continuity to ground and thus to neutral. 20 ohms because it wasn’t making good contact.
    – DoxyLover
    Nov 26, 2018 at 4:47

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