Scratching my head after trying to troubleshoot some failed outdoor lights. It is a long story.
The issue was with the outdoor lights outside my garage door. There are 3 sconce lights, and one overhead light that is controlled by a motion detector. All 4 lights are controlled by a single switch. There are other lights inside the garage (including garage door opener) that shares the same circuit breaker, and they are working fine. This is a relatively new house, originally built is 1996, but significantly upgraded in 2006.
Wife complained that the overhead light always stays on (i.e. not controlled by motion detector), and the sconce lights never turned on.
I first tackled the overhead light. The motion detector was bad; so I changed the motion detector, and it started working correctly. So far so good!
Then I started checking if any power is coming to the bulb holders of the sconce lights. Verified that all 3 bulbs are good. Also put a "Lamp Holder to Outlet Adapter" in the bulb holder, checked the voltage using a multimeter, and got ~120V between hot and neutral.
However, when I connected a LED light to that adapter, I got a very dim output. Also tested it using a "Klein Tools Digital Circuit Breaker Finder/Receptacle Outlet Tester", making sure to connect the ground wire to it as well. It showed correct wiring (2nd and 3rd yellow lights were on), but these lights were dim and flickering. I saw the same issue at all three sconce lights.
In addition, if I connect a light bulb to the bulb holder, then the outlet voltage drops down to almost zero, even though the light bulb does not turn on. If I use a CFL bulb instead of filament bulb, I see a faint flickering.
At this time, I found that the overhead light has stopped working altogether. I removed the overhead light, and saw the same issue there as sconce lights; i.e. 120v but outlet tester was showing dim/flickering lights.
To isolate any issue with the devices, I completely removed all the 4 lights, leaving only the wires coming out of the outside wall. Still seeing the same issue.
As the next common point was the switch, I removed the switch completely, and connected the black wires together. Still no change. Also, if I use the outlet tester at the switch, then the two yellow lights are bright and steady. I also checked that the neutral wire at switch box is securely attached with the other neutral wires (there is another switch in the same box).
At this point I am at a loss. I hate to think that this is a wire issue, because the wires go above the wall of the finished garage, and not easily accessible.
Is there any other experiment that I can do?
PS: Adding more datapoints based on the suggestions below.
Tried these experiments:
(a) Connected an Edison bulb to one of the sconces, and on 2nd scone bulb-socket, attached an extension cord to bring the point near the switch. With the light-bulb connected, the voltage between the hot and neutral of extension cord drops to 1 volt. Now, I checked the voltage between neutral of extension cord and that of the switch. It was 0 volt. Next, checked the voltage between hot line of extension cord and that of this switch. It was 120volt.
(b) With bulb removed and power turned off, I measured resistance. Between neutral of switch and extension cord, it was 0 ohm. Between hot of extension cord and that of switch, it was about 6 M-ohm. This should also ideally be close to 0, right?