I have a situation where I have a circuit which includes;

  • Front outside door lights,
  • Hall lights
  • Closet light
  • 2 ceiling recessed lights

They all go dead, then a few days later work again. I checked the breakers, and nothing has set it off. Went to each outlet and switch to check for good connections, all good. Tested with a light tester I got a positive test when touching a lead wire, but had to touch box to get it to light and am getting 120 volts from volt meter. Do I have an open circuit and if so how can I pinpoint it with a volt meter?

  • You put "AL" at the end - are these your initials or are you trying to tell us you have aluminum wiring? – Steven Mar 18 '15 at 20:28

Sounds like you have a break in a wire or a corroded terminal somewhere. Usually, breaks and corrosion happen where the wire connects to things, and not in the walls.

So first thing to do is to take each device off (switch, outlet, light) and inspect the wire that you can see for break. Inspect the device, too, especially outlets with back-stab connections. While you have the outlets out, switch from back-stab to screw terminals.

If you can't find the problem there, it's time to call a professional. Intermittent connections like this can be dangerous because broken wires and the like can cause arcing, heating, and fires.


Forgive me, I am not sure I understand completely what you are saying, does this seem right to you ?

Have a circuit includes about 7 lights.

They work , Stop working, Start working again

When lights stopped working, no breaker was tripped.

Went to each outlet and switch and none of the wires or connections looked bad

Tested with a tester that uses a light bulb - it would light up when touching the Hot wire and the electrical box that holds the light or switch.

Tested with multi-meter and got 120 Volts from Hot wire to electrical box.

Do light bulbs use 120 Volts where you are, or 240 Volts ?

If your breaker stays on, and if your breaker is good, you are not getting a short between power and ground.

But you could have a bad neutral wire, and the lights turn on by using the Hot wire and ground. This would be an open neutral wire, like you asked.

I think the lights work some days, and not other days because of some switches being on and some being off. I think you test the lights using some switch, but not always the same one. This makes it hard to find out where the problem is.

We need to work on only 1 thing at a time, all other things must be the same.

The next thing for you to tell us, is how many switches, and how many lights go to each one.

Something like this:

8 total switches 10 total lights

for outside lights - 1 switch and works 2 lights for hall lights - 2 switches work 3 lights for closet lights - 1st closet - 1 switch and 1 light 2nd closet - 1 switch and 1 light recessed light - 1st lights - 1 switch and 1 light 2nd lights - 2 switches and 2 lights

I hope I make sense - problem is small , but makes many things not work we will find it - the lights will not win

Ask questions, I will do my best to help

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