My outlet tester shows correct but the top light is dim. This does not happen with the other outlets I've tested. The outlet with the issue does work but this worries me. What could be the issue? If I touch the ground and neutral with my voltage tester, the dim light gets bright.



2 Answers 2


Each of the 3 lights is simply a connection between two of the three wires. The top light in this particular tester is for hot to ground. Receptacles can connect to ground in two different ways:

  • Wire to screw on receptacle
  • Automagically via receptacle yoke to metal box

You have the second situation, which is preferred (metal boxes are awesome). The catch is that if the receptacle is hanging out of the box then it won't have ground at all and if it is loosely connected (e.g., pushed in but not screwed tight) then you can get a bad connection - which manifests as a dim light. Once the receptacle is screwed tight, the ground is 100% and the tester light goes on.


I fixed the issue by screwing the outlet into the junction box. Looks like testing with the receptacle hanging out of the wall will give false positives.

  • 1
    This rather suggests that the outlet's wires were not securely screwed down to the outlet. Is the outlet using the backstabs to connect the wires? If so, pull the wires out and use the screws instead. Backstabs are very prone to failure over time. Commented Jul 8 at 13:34

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