I have two outlets in our kitchen, one on either side of the sink, where only the top plugs work. I've tried to do some trouble shooting and here is what I know:

  • There is a red, white, black, and ground wire on both.
  • The tabs are broken on the hot side (the side with the black and ride wire)
  • They are run off two breakers on the breaker panel that are tied together
  • I checked the panel with my multimeter and both wires at the breaker (red and black) give a reading of ~120v

I'm not sure how to troubleshoot further to figure out what's failing. It's an old house so I'm chalking it up to age.

  • Do both the red and white wires read 120 at the outlet?
    – longneck
    Oct 28, 2014 at 16:29
  • Have you flipped the tied breakers off and back on?
    – bib
    Oct 29, 2014 at 14:30
  • @bib I have several times. Nov 7, 2014 at 17:43

2 Answers 2


Usually, a red and black wire connected to an outlet with a broken off tab indicates that one of the outlets is controlled by a wall switch somewhere. Typically this is used to control a light from the switch next to the door to the room. However, this is an unusual configuration for a counter-top outlet in the kitchen since usually the lighting is ceiling or cabinet mounted.

My next step would be to try to identify a wall switch that could be controlling these outlets.

Alternatively, just disconnect the dead wire, cap and tape it, and bridge the screws on the hot side of the outlet.

  • Almost caught me in the same thing, so I just edited the question - "switches on the breaker panel" almost certainly means a dual, tied breaker, not a wall switch. So this will almost certainly be a MWBC as is common in kitchens to provide the 2 20-ampere countertop circuits required; so disabling one side is less than ideal, as solutions go.
    – Ecnerwal
    Oct 28, 2014 at 16:25
  • Ecnerwal: That's right it's a dual, tied breaker. Oct 28, 2014 at 20:06

Several possibilities - the tabs may (also) be broken on the neutral side, in which case the "dead" side may have 120V in, but without neutral it's not a circuit. If you have a multimeter, you should be able to check from the "hot" (small) blade on the "dead" receptacle to the "neutral" (wide) blade on the working receptacle to check that possibility.

The "switches" are the breakers, at the breaker panel. It should be tied together for this type of outlet wiring (Multi-Wire Branch Circuit - very common in kitchens) so that any fault will trip both sides of the circuit at the same time.

Are the non-working sides of the outlets the same color wire on the hot side? Are there other outlets on the same circuit that have both sides working? The most likely cause is that at some point you have a broken or disconnected wire from an outlet closer to the breaker panel, or at least somewhere between the breaker panel and the non-working outlets. Nothing magical about tracking it down, you simply have to (carefully) do it - start with figuring out what all the outlets connected to the breaker are, and how many of them work.

  • 1
    Less likely, but there could also be a tripped GFCI outlet upstream of the dead outlets. Oct 28, 2014 at 18:33
  • Thanks. Tabs aren't broken on the neutral side, just the host side. I don't have any light switches around it and have test all of them just to make sure. They did work before (about a year ago, never got around to investigating).Both lower plugs have a red wire going to the hot side. Oct 28, 2014 at 20:04

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