I am having a problem with outlets that work intermittently in my 1965 house. Some of the electrical has been redone, however this particular circuit is still on original wiring, i.e. no neutral or ground wires running through the outlet boxes. The circuit feeds 9 outlets, no light switches. 4 of the 9 outlets always work. The other five will work for weeks at a time, then not work, then work again.

Using a receptacle tester, the 4 outlets that always work show correct wiring.
The other outlets show hot/neutral reversed when they are working, and hot/ground reversed when they are not working.

Three of the outlets that don't work are part on an "in-floor" outlet network that was tied back into the other outlets when we did a remodel. That connection is made in one of the outlet boxes that works intermittently.

I've opened all the in-wall outlets and checked the connections, which are solid. I couldn't check one of the in-floor outlets as I had trouble opening it.

Any suggestions would be most welcome, thanks in advance.


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    Are the outlets in question wired using side-screws or backstabs? Do they all get wired in a daisy-chain pattern, or does the circuit look more like a tree? Commented Jun 11, 2020 at 21:17
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    What does your tester show on the 4 outlets that always work? How can you have power if there is no neutral are present in the outlet box? You have to have a neutral and hot wire for power. Commented Jun 11, 2020 at 21:22
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    "No neutral or ground wires running through the outlet boxes" Are you sure there's no neutrals?
    – JACK
    Commented Jun 11, 2020 at 21:30
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    If you truly have the outlets daisy chained, i. e. one wire to an outlet, then another wire from that outlet to the next, and so on, then things are completely miswired and this cannot work correctly. Stop now and get a professional in to look at it!!
    – DoxyLover
    Commented Jun 12, 2020 at 0:08
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    Can you post photos of the insides of the boxes please? Commented Jun 12, 2020 at 11:54

1 Answer 1


Since you have used backstabs , time to get better quality receptacles (back and side) and wire them using the screws.

Backstabbed receptacles are the leading electrical failure in residential wiring.

The problem is at the last working receptacle or the first non working receptacle. With your magic 8 ball tester as they are referred to here a loose connection can show reverse connection when every thing is correct but a bad connection.

If you have two many wires in a box to be able to remove the receptacle the box fill is probably well beyond code values, I like to use a hair dryer on high when I have intermittent problems it will usually cause the failure and I can check to find the last good receptacle and the problem will be there on the “load” side the side feeding the next receptacle or the line side of the first dead receptacle line is the feed from the previous receptacle.

You can find many examples of backstabs having problems on this site alone, it can be a loose wire nut or broken wire Also but if backstabs are used they will the problem 96% of the time.

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