I have a strange issue with my kitchen electrical. The electric starter on the gas cook-top stopped working. It is plugged into a socket under the cabinet. The toaster will also not turn on. It is plugged into a socket at counter level near the other socket. Both sockets show "hot" when I use a non-contact voltage tester. I plug my toaster into a 3rd socket and it works fine. Now the really strange part, when I plug the toaster back into the original socket it works again, and the starter on the cook-top works again. This has happened twice so I don't think its a fluke.

Any ideas on what could be causing this and how to fix it?

UPDATE: Thanks for everyone’s input. The problem was a lose neutral (came out when I pulled the socket out of the box) on the load side of the third socket, as many suspected. I replaced it with a new socket and everything is working great.

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    Does it always start working again after plugging the toaster to that particular outlet? Did you try plugging the toaster to any other outlet first, and if so what was the outcome? There could be a failing connection behind that 3rd socket and plugging the toaster (or anything else) to it, or even striking it, might be enough movement to make and break the connection.
    – Greg Hill
    Oct 21, 2019 at 17:48
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    Often times electrical wiring is run from outlet to outlet and the wires are connected “through” the first outlet. If a wire has come loose there, it could interrupt the power and banging on the outlet could bing the wire back into contact. Check the outlet that you plugged the toaster into.
    – DoxyLover
    Oct 21, 2019 at 18:19
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    That's an answer I'd upvote @DoxyLover
    – GdD
    Oct 21, 2019 at 19:01
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    Try a dipole tester (like a simple multimeter) and see if the sockets are still hot. Non-contact testers have been proven to be unreliable in plenty of cases.
    – Mast
    Oct 22, 2019 at 5:40
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    A suggestion that would allow you to provide more diagnostic info: I would try a multimeter to see not only if there is power, but what the power there is like. To build on the "Maybe it's a bad connection upstream" idea, maybe the poor connection allows some power through but in some error state... maybe it's intermittent power? If you have intermittent power from repeated loss of contact, there could be sparking. If there is excess resistance from a poor connection, it could be getting very hot in the wall. Please be careful to avoid a fire.
    – Aaron
    Oct 22, 2019 at 15:57

4 Answers 4


Most commonly if you are getting power to the receptacles is a loose neutral. Especially if you are only using a non contact voltage tester. It will show power but there is no return.

Good luck

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    Indeed, maybe note to make sure the right amp rating outlets are used, the right gauge wire, dont use any backstabs, and certainly don't overload the circuit.
    – noybman
    Oct 22, 2019 at 1:29

Often times, outlets are wired sequentially, with the wires from the power source going into one side of an outlet and the wires to the next coming out the other side (or top and bottom). It sounds like the problem is that the neutral wire coming into to the outlet for the toaster is loose. When it loses contact, the neutral opens for both outlets, thus your non-contact tester still shows hot.

When you bang on the first outlet (plugging the toaster in seems to be enough), that neutral makes contact again.

Do not continue to use the outlets. The loose connection could heat up, causing a fire!

You need to pull out the toaster’s outlet and check that the wires are tight. If the back-stab terminals are being used, you should disconnect these and use the screw terminals instead. If anything looks discolored or blackened, replace the outlet.


This could also be failing back stab connections on one or more out the outlets. If you have backstab connections the best course of action is to cut power at the breaker panel and replace with new outlets that have screw terminals.

Do not reuse the old outlets an new ones are not expensive. I do suggest to buy the better grade that are a few dollars each instead on the cheap ones that are 49 cents each in boxes of ten.


Current flows in loops. If hot is testing hot, then it's probably a neutral wire break. You can test that by plugging an appliance into the dead zone, turning it on even though it doesn't work, and measuring the neutral in another dead zone outlet. If it suddenly lights up hot because the other appliance is on, that confirms broken neutral wire.

Circuits are typically daisy-chained from outlet to outlet, sorta like Christmas lights. Wire problems are either at the last working outlet in the chain, or first defective outlet.

I do not recommend arbitrarily replacing outlets without a positive diagnosis, no matter how cheap they are. Replacing outlets invites several mistakes, and then you have bigger problems.

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