A few days ago I was using a multimeter to check for current to the thermostat on my garage refrigerator. I wasn't thinking and did something wrong (wrong HOT, I believe) and power to the refrigerator died. Believing I'd tripped the circuit breaker, I checked the panel but there were no tripped breakers. The multimeter shows no current to the outlet. The refrigerator functions when plugged into a different outlet (via extension cord so it's not an actual workaround).

I've tested all other outlets in the house and there is one that appears like it could be on the same circuit (given proximity and common sense, an unsafe criterion for sure), but there is also an outdoor outlet that is not functional. I can follow the circuit from that outlet for a bit and it does not seem to be on the same circuit (though who knows if that's true or not). I've also reset all breakers in the panel and no change. Additionally, I've walked through the house and tested/reset all GFCI outlets that I could find.

At any rate, it seems like these three outlets could be on the same circuit and that I somehow shorted it when I tested incorrectly. What can/should I do to trace and resolve this?

  • 4
    Check the breakers again, sometimes when they trip they don't look tripped (don't flip all the way to OFF position). Also, look for tripped GFCIs.
    – Tester101
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 2:31
  • @Tester101 thanks for the comment. i actually (should have put this in the question) reset every single circuit breaker at the panel and tested/reset all GFCIs (that I could find).
    – swasheck
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 2:34
  • 1
    Thanks to your answers, I saved an unnecessary visit from the electrician. Check the circuit breakers at the board, when you've checked them, check them again and if still not fixed, check them again ;). When I use the word "check", I mean firmly switch off, push down harder in the off position, then switch on (first unplug everything that was on that circuit) ... even though the breaker may look like it's in the 'on' or 'off' position, it may just not quite be seated/connected perfectly due to dirt buildup etc. Thanks again.
    – user48337
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 15:29

5 Answers 5


We are talking about garage and outdoor receptacles. These are both required to be GFCI protected. It is extremely easy to trip a GFI if you are working on the circuit live. Simply touching the neutral to ground, or even testing from hot to ground can trip them.

You have a tripped GFI somewhere, you need to find it. Could be nearly anywhere; garage, somewhere outside, near the main electrical panel, etc. Let us know what you find.

  • 7
    Sorry for the very, very, very late accept. In the end was a GFI in a corner of my basement that was on this circuit, too.
    – swasheck
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 14:26

If the above excellent answers don't work.... The three outlets may be daisy chained, and one may have internally failed, or a wire connection loosened...effecting it like a chain of old school Christmas tree bulbs.


Sometimes breakers can die if they are overloaded. (They aren't supposed to —they're supposed to trip—but not everything works perfectly forever.)

Go to the main breaker box and test all the breakers to see if any of them has no voltage on the output side. (Or shut off the main disconnect and test them all for continuity.)

P.s. I assume you have no sub panels anywhere, or you've already checked them.


Go to the main breaker panel, examine the neutral return connections at the bus bar. At my home, I just found one lug screw for a neutral return loose, burnt, and arcing. It destroyed the control panel in the oven at first, then a few outlets failed a few days later. all caused by the tightening screw being slightly loose for years.


I had a similar problem in my basement where all the outlets were dead except the two that control each garage door openers. I made a jumper cable with two male ends and fused the hot line with a 10 amp automotive fuse. You plug one end of the jumper into the door opener plug and the other end into one of the dead outlets. Now all the rest of the plugs on that circuit work which indicates a open wire from the door opener plug to the nearest dead outlet plug.Turns out it was a burned up outlet the garage door opener was plugged into.

  • 1
    An outlet jumper like that is very dangerous and ill advised. It's completely bypassing the few safety features that exist in American receptacles, leaving a possible 120v on the exposed ends of a plug. If the actual issue is a failed neutral and the outlets are on separate legs, you could also be creating a direct 240v short that could creating much more damage to the wiring.
    – BMitch
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 11:55

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