I just moved to a new house and was troubleshooting a dryer when I noticed my outlet is giving me incorrect voltage. I know I should have two hots (A and B) on either side, a ground at the top (C) and a neutral on the bottom (D). When I hook up the multimeter I get the following readings: AC 120, BC 120, AB 240, AD 0, BD 240, CD 120.

Can anyone tell me what the problem is?

2 Answers 2


You have an open neutral on this circuit. You are getting a reading on it to ground and one leg due to a load backfeed on the neutral.

If everything else in the house works fine then the problem is almost certainly isolated to this circuit.

Physically check the connection of this circuit's neutral wire at the panel.

  • If the neutral is open, and nothing is plugged in. Wouldn't the neutral simply be floating? I guess it's possible that the OP is testing with the dryer plugged in, but I'd say not likely. Maybe I've missed something, but there should be no load to backfeed through.
    – Tester101
    Jul 12, 2015 at 22:19
  • I see no other explanation as to how he is getting a 240V reading hot-to-neutral. Jul 12, 2015 at 22:41

A and D are connected somewhere, since they're at the same potential.

If D really is grounded (neutral), then it may not be properly bonded. A short to the grounded (neutral) should trip the breaker.

Start by turning off the breaker, and making sure power is off. Then open up the outlet, and see if the two conductors are touching. If not, open up the panel and check. If everything still looks okay, trace the cable and look for other junctions and/or damage to the cable.

Wild Guess

If I had to guess, I'd say it's a "bootleg ground" gone wrong. The cable feeding this receptacle is probably only 3 wires, but somebody wanted to install a 4 prong receptacle. To do this, they tried to connect the grounding terminal to the grounded (neutral) terminal ("bootleg ground"). Instead they accidentally connected the grounded (neutral) terminal to one of the ungrounded (hot) terminals.

If this is the case, you'll probably see the problem as soon as you pull the receptacle. Since there's probably a short bit of wire between two terminals.

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