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How to track down a bad neutral in a home electrical circuit

Discuss How to track down a bad neutral in a home electrical circuit in the DIY Electrical Advice area at ElectriciansForums.net

Rayzen

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Ok, please be aware that I am a 'do-it-yourself-er,' so if this isn't the right place to be posting this thread, let me know where I should be posting it.

The other day, my wife plugged in the vacuum cleaner and the whole living room circuit went dead. I figured that it was just either a problem with the vacuum cleaner, or else maybe the circuit breaker, or maybe a tripped GFI. However, the vacuum cleaner worked just fine on a different circuit, and when I went to the breaker panel, I could see that the circuit breaker hadn't tripped and was working fine, since, when I switched it back & forth, it sent power to the dead circuit each time I switched it on and then checked with my voltmeter; i.e., each time I switched the breaker on, a given breaker box would show 120 volts between the 'hot,' black wire and ground. To check the two GFI's in that circuit, I saw that neither had been tripped, and just to be sure, I reset each of them twice, all to no avail.

So, having ruled out the vacuum, the breaker, and the GFI's, my next guess was that I had a bad neutral-wire connection somewhere between the breaker and the dead/bad outlets. To test this, I just grounded one of the outlets' white neutral wire and, sure enough, that did the trick, as I then had power to the outlet.

The problem that I now have is how to find the location of that bad neutral connection, which is where I need some helpful advice.

My game plan is as follows; please tell me if I'm heading in the right direction or if there is a better method of doing this:
1. After removing my temporary 'test ground,' so the whole circuit returns to its 'dead' state, identify what is on that circuit (outlets, lights, fans, etc. To do this, I will just look to see what is now dead even when being turned on.
2. Starting close to the breaker panel and then working my way toward the end* of the dead circuit, inspect and test each load in that circuit, looking for a loose or broken connection.

*To find the end/last load in the circuit I will just look into each junction box until I find the one which doesn't have any wiring continuing on to some other load; i.e., I will look for a junction box that has only one 'input' wire/cable and no 'output' cable going to yet another load.

Any other tips, ideas, hints, precautions?

All help would be much appreciated as I don't really know what I'm doing.
 
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