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My daughter’s bedroom has 4 outlets. 1 of the outlets is connected to a wall switch. All 4 outlets are currently out and each is an open neutral (ground-hot=120V; neutral-hot=0V). I checked the breaker and it appears to be fine (ground-hot=120V; neutral-hot=120V). The switch is also functioning properly I think (I get the same voltage readings in the on/off positions as I do for a different bedroom with an identical 4 outlet + switch setup).

What could be the issue that’s causing all four outlets to fail and be open neutral, and also how did this even occur given that 1 is on a switch? I’m basically going to replace all four outlets and the switch and hope for the best.

I’d love to hear any ideas you have on how to identify the culprit.

  • Are the outlets wired using the side-screws or the backstabs? – ThreePhaseEel Jun 5 at 22:43
  • Backstabs. But I’ve replaced all outlets with side screws. Still same problem. Interestingly, when I check switch for continuity (with breaker off) using my multimeter, I get around 0.00 ohms when the switch is on. But there is no continuity at the outlet it powers. The other outlets also lack continuity. What might this mean? Might the culprit be the wire between the switch and the outlet it powers? I’m almost out of options at this point. – stewy0013 Jun 6 at 22:43
  • Have you checked to see if the neutral wire is making good contact with the neutral bar in the breaker box? – ThreePhaseEel Jun 6 at 22:43
  • Sort of. 120V neutral bar-breaker and 120V ground wire-breaker. – stewy0013 Jun 6 at 22:45
  • What voltage do you measure neutral-to-ground at the first outlet in the chain? – ThreePhaseEel Jun 6 at 22:47
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Most likely the outlets are all wired together in a "daisy-chain" fashion, so an open neutral from one would affect all others farther downstream. I'd recommend opening up the first outlet (or all of them, if you don't know which is which) and check if the neutral has come loose. In particular, if these outlets are wired with so-called backstabs where the wire is only held in by a spring clip, that's a likely culprit. When you re-wire, it's highly recommended to use the screws since they're much more reliable.

  • Thank you for the comment and tips. Here’s an update: I’ve replaced all 4 outlets and switch, but still no power, and all 4 outlets are open neutral. Interestingly, when I check switch for continuity (with breaker off) using my multimeter, I get around 0.00 ohms when the switch is on. But there is no continuity at the outlet it powers. The other outlets also lack continuity. What might this mean? Might the culprit be the wire between the switch and the outlet it powers? I’m almost out of options at this point. – stewy0013 Jun 6 at 22:43
  • Continuity between what and what, precisely? I'm not clear on what you measured. Regardless, yes, a wire break within the wall would be possible but extremely rare unless you recently drove some nails into that wall. The problems are almost always at splices and junctions. Speaking of which, are you sure it's a direct path between the switch and the outlet, and there's not another junction box hiding in the middle somewhere (the attic perhaps)? – Nate Strickland Jun 6 at 22:52
  • I checked continuity of the switch and separately of the outlet. I don’t have a long enough cable to check for continuity from the switch to the outlet. There is a junction box in the attic, come to think of it. What would I check for there? – stewy0013 Jun 6 at 22:56
  • At the junction in the attic, look for loose wirenuts, wires that go nowhere or look like they may have pulled out of a wirenut, burned or melted insulation, etc. To check for continuity between far away outlets, you can use a common household extension cord to bring the outlet to you -- you don't need a special long probe for your multimeter. – Nate Strickland Jun 6 at 23:00
  • Excellent—thank you. I’ll try these and update tomorrow. – stewy0013 Jun 6 at 23:02

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