Yesterday, I was replacing an old outlet didn't notice it was a metal box, and when I was pulling out the outlet, I hit the side, and it sparked; Oops. Anyways I noticed another outlet in the room was off as well. OK, so the breaker has tripped, right? So I replaced the outlet. Once replaced, I went to the breaker panel to flip the breaker, and no breaker was tripped, so I switched off all breakers and turned them all back on. I tried both outlets again, and neither is working. I checked to make sure there were no GFCI, and sure enough, there isn't, so I am stuck. Would anyone know what may have happened? I am at a loss

  • 7
    Wait, you were changing an outlet on a live circuit?
    – Machavity
    Mar 23, 2021 at 2:53
  • 2
    You should read up on safe procedures before you do any more electrical work. Some conductor in the system may have burnt out or broken, or the breaker for those receptacles is at another location. It's best to find out what is on the circuit you want to work on ahead of time for this and other reasons. If you have a 3 light plug tester, you should test the receptacles you just repaired as well as both sockets on every receptacle in the house. On rare occasion if a breaker doesn't trip fast enough the breakoff tabs that turn duplex receptacles into split duplex receptacles can burn out.
    – K H
    Mar 23, 2021 at 6:33
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    What K H says... changing receps live is super dumb, even pros don't do it. But back to your question... do these wires involve jabbing into a hole, or do they use the side screws? Mar 23, 2021 at 6:52

1 Answer 1


Ok what probably happened is the overload found a weak point in the wiring that blew open during the short as the breaker was tripping.

I am not going to brow beat you up about working on a live circuit it should not be done but yes sometimes pros do have to work on live circuits. And pulling out a circuit to test it is quite common.

What you need to do is work back towards the breaker panel.

This failure is very common with backstabbed receptacles you are looking for the receptacle that is failed closest to the panel or the one that is working feeding the failed one.

What you are looking for is the black or white wire to be loose or damaged at a connection point. Wire nut, screw terminal or back stab.

If back stabs are used you may pull out the receptacle (power off) and see nothing wrong then put it back together. In many cases the damage is inside the receptacle and you may be able to pull the wires and use the screw terminals to fix the connection.

If you put things back together without fixing and they work that’s great and all but it will fail again and Murphy says it will happen at the worst possible time.

So coming from the panel direction away it will be the last working device or first non working with very few exceptions. If none of the receptacles work it could be in the breaker panel at the breaker or neutral rare but it happens.

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