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I checked the breaker box and none were tripped. I eliminated the breakers and located the one feeding the outlets that are out. The breaker showed 120 volts from terminal to neutral bar. I checked the outlets hot to neutral is zero. Hot to ground is 120 volts and neutral to ground is 120 volts. ON EVERY OUTLET. What to do next?

  • Have there been any changes to the wiring to cause this, or has it just happened on its own? It sounds like somewhere along the line, somebody connected a wire to the wrong terminal. – Tester101 Jan 8 '15 at 11:02
  • I had this happen where all the outlets quit working once before but the breaker had tripped and I reset it and it still didn't work because a GFCI had also tripped and I reset it and everything was back to normal. This hadn't happened before. – James Thorne Jan 8 '15 at 20:09
  • No electrical work has been done. No outlets were replaced. I never had neutral to ground read 120 volts, ever. I really appreciate your help. I think your plan sounds best so I'll start pulling plugs and testing. I'll let you know what I learn. – James Thorne Jan 8 '15 at 20:26
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Something is seriously messed up! If you are not experienced with electrical work do not try to fix this yourself, call someone!

If you are knowledgeable (I guess you must have some knowledge to test like that), then most likely a neutral wire fell off of one plug and managed to land on the hot.

How the hell it did that I have no idea.

Or maybe there is some strange fault in the plug.

The outlets are usually chained together. Sometimes you can get lucky and guess the order of the chain from the layout in the room and where the wires from the breaker panel come in.

Figure out which is the first outlet and look for the fault there.

If necessary pick a random outlet and remove it from the wall and disconnect the wires and cover them with wire nuts secured with a bit of tape so they don't fall off. Then turn the power back on and check which outlets are working and which are not.

Continue in the direction of the working outlets and try to figure out which is the first in line, then test that one.

Good luck, and be safe! ALWAYS test the wire before touching it using a neon tester EVEN if the power is off. (Normally power off is fine, but with a strange situation like this don't take any chances.)

  • OOps I meant your plan sounds like the best way to go. Good luck is always best but I also have good safety equipment, Thanks – James Thorne Jan 8 '15 at 20:28
  • The outlet that intuitively would be first has one 120 volt blk wire and one 120 volt white and 1 blk and 1 white that read zero volts. They were speed wired thru the holes in back in holes next to each other 2 blk and 2 white. Strange that it has been working all this time? – James Thorne Jan 8 '15 at 21:29
  • So the two wires with 0 just go to the next outlet in the chain, it's the white wire with 120 volts that is interesting. It's 120v to ground? What's the voltage between the black and white? Is it 240v or 0v? – Ariel Jan 8 '15 at 21:44
  • I didn't connect the 2 hot wires to measure their voltage but I suspect it would be 120. the wires come into the outlet enclosure in two white and black 2 strand wires. Both on one wire say 120 and both on the other wire say zero. I wonder if I somehow damaged a cable? – James Thorne Jan 8 '15 at 22:17
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    You need to trace the hot white wire farther back. It's not just damaged - if it was then there would be a short. The hot white wire is somehow disconnected from neutral and reconnected to hot. I suspect this was done by someone by mistake and is not random damage. – Ariel Jan 8 '15 at 23:12

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