Yesterday, all lights controlled by multiple switches, on the front hallway light circuit started flickering and then went dark. The breaker was not tripped.

I reset the breaker anyway, the lights flickered for a few moments and went out again. The power outlets on the circuit are not working either.

Testing the power outlets, I am getting Hot Ground when the breaker is on. The electrical tester shows the wires are energized.

When the breaker is off, the circuit is dead.

There are not obvious burnt wires. All other electrical in the house seems to be working fine.

I've tried everything I can think of to trouble shoot the issue.

  1. Replaced the breaker (15A). Still not working and still showing open fault at the outlets.
  2. Replaced the dimmer.
  3. Replaced the timer for a set of lights.

Before this started no work has been done to the electrical for the whole house.

Any ideas?

  • 1
    Has any work like putting nails or screws into a wall/ceiling/floor been done? If not then mice.
    – crip659
    Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 12:03
  • 1
    With the breaker off and the circuit testing dead, start pulling outlets from the wall. Check all wire connections, take pictures. if all connections tight, then move to the switches then lights and repeat.
    – crip659
    Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 12:18
  • 2
    Adding to @crip659, tighten all screws as you go along. Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 12:57
  • 2
    Adding to @crip659, if you find any outlets or switches where the backstabs were used, rework with the screw terminals.
    – JACK
    Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 13:10

2 Answers 2


This might be an open neutral.

However, you've taken exactly the wrong actions to troubleshoot.

The first step is to ensure the circuit breaker is OFF.

After that, seriously reconsider whether this is a safe DIY project for your skill level.

Hiring an electrician is a valid and useful way to troubleshoot the electrical problems described in the question.

If you are interested in troubleshooting this safely, get the tools needed to disassmble the circuit and to measure voltage in various places.

Until the cause of the problem is identified, the circuit breaker should remain off when not briefly measuring downline voltage.

Update based on the new info: Correctly tightening neutral bus bars requires a torque wrench. Follow the torque requirements printed on the panel label. If you don't have a torque wrench, then acquire one and go back and re-tighten all neutral bus screws again.


Firstly, thank you for all the input and help.

I fixed it.

The neutral had come loose on the neutral bar at the box. It was hanging loose and I guess over time (40 year home), it had fallen out. I tightened all the others to prevent this in the future.

Until I figured this out, I tightened and inspected every receptacles and switches on the circuit.

Took me 5 hrs, but at least I avoid a service call.

Thanks again

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