I have a power outlet in my kitchen that has been impossible for me to figure out what is wrong.

Problem: The outlet works for seemingly random amount of time, then stops working for a random amount of time.

Background: My kitchen was remolded a few years ago, and all electrical was replaced. The outlet in question was added to power an under cabinet appliance. This outlet worked without a problem for at least a year. Then, without a known cause, it started intermittently stopped working. The breaker never trips, the outlet stops working for a while, then starts working again for awhile.

Tried so far:

  • Replaced outlet
  • Replaced circuit breaker
  • Had electrician visit (outlet was working during the visit, never stopped working)
  • Turned off the breaker to see if any other outlet is on the same circuit, none found.
  • Plugged in night light to watch if there is a pattern to when the outlet works or stops working (none found yet)

Does anyone have any ideas on how I can continue to diagnose the problem?

Thanks in advance.

  • When you replaced the outlet, did you use the side-screws or the back-stab holes on the back? Commented May 21, 2020 at 2:42
  • Q1 - "Outlet added" means a dedicated new breaker was added and a dedicated new cable was pulled for that outlet from that new breaker to that new outlet? Q2 - What exactly did the electrician test with his test equipment? Q3 - the night light does show also a random pattern of working/not working, and does not have any light sensor to switch it off if enough light from daylight or other lights is detected?
    – xeeka
    Commented May 21, 2020 at 4:44
  • By chance, are you able to trace the wire from the breaker to the outlet? Asked before, is this a dedicated circuit? If not, where this branch was jointed to the feed circuit may be loose causing the intermittent failure. Commented May 21, 2020 at 6:43
  • I haven't found another outlet that uses this same circuit. I tested this by tripping the breaker, then testing each outlet along the path from the flakey outlet back to the breaker. The night light doesn't not have any photo senors, so it should always be on.
    – user117549
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 15:41

1 Answer 1


I find intermittent receptacles quite often are caused by backstabs, you replaced the receptacle but the problem may be from the receptacle feeding this one.

It most likely is a bad backstab but can be a loose connection or broken wire. When on a chain of receptacles the problem will be in the last working receptacle or first non working one.

You replaced the non working one moving closer to your service panel find the next receptacle if that is working it could be the connection for the wires feeding the problem receptacle. Back stabs are the cause in the very high 90% range but a broken wire loose wire at a wire nut or screw can also be the cause.

It can be either the hot or the neutral.

You did not find an outlet but there is a connection someplace since the breaker, & outlet were replaced other that is a nail or screw driven through breaking the wire. Put a load on the receptacle like a hair dryer it will probably fail quickly. There are circuit tracers that can find broken wires in walls. These are expensive and not all electricians have them.

  • I haven't found another outlet in the on this circuit, so I believe there needs to be another bad connection along the path. I also haven't been able to cause the outlet to turn off due to a heavy load, including running a toaster oven. I agree this is a bad connection somewhere finding it is the tricky part.
    – user117549
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 15:46
  • It could be a nail or screw driven through the cable if no other receptacles or switches , don’t forget the other side of the wall even if it is an exterior wall a receptacle can be in the chain then corroded connections are likely. I turn the power off to that branch circuit and check lighting circuits and all receptacles in that quadrant of the house I have found receptacles even in crawl spaces and attics (both cases the owner was not aware of ) other than that find a electrician that has a scanner (not just a toner but a scanner like the greenlee cs8000 I use this inside homes).
    – Ed Beal
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 17:05

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