Know that not all electrical issues are related. A lot of electrician’s experience when troubleshooting wiring systems has revealed that a few electrical issues are caused by human error.
Other mistakes occur because of incorrect or faulty wiring which eventually goes bad. There are also times when electrical devices or equipment fail due to incorrect or bad connections that may have been aggravated by moisture and other extreme environmental conditions.
Asking the Right Questions
Before setting out to provide a solution, try to ask yourself these relevant questions –
- Is the light bulb already burned out?
- Is the switch turned on?
- Is the GFI breaker or receptacle tripped?
- Is a fuse blown?
- Is the circuit breaker tripped?
Sometimes, troubleshooting is quite obvious and easy such as the switch that was not turned on or a light bulb that has burned out. There are moments when the GFCI plug tripped and is just behind a pile of boxes in your garage and no one ever suspected that there was a plug there.
This list about wiring troubleshooting could go on and on but there are strategies that can help you save a lot of time, money and emotional woes.
Identify and Eliminate
There is a process of elimination which all begins with identifying the concern first.
Safety first: Begin by not working with energized circuits or wires. Point out the circuit then shut it off. Prior to testing, cap the wires using wire nuts or insulate them with electrical tape.
Identify hot wires with black or red electrical tape so that you are forewarned. You are flagging the hot wire by doing so.
If you do not feel comfortable solving an electrical problem, then it is best to not take your chances. Call an expert electrician and share your woes with him.
The Process: Begin by identifying the cable that provides the power. Never work on a circuit while the power is on. While this is obvious, there are some who totally forget to turn off the power source only to realize later that they have already endangered themselves.
Turn the power off then label the circuit to warn others that you are currently working on it.
Check the devices that are being served by each cable. Disconnect the devices that could be connected to an associated cable. See if the devices are still functional. It is best to isolate or set aside any malfunctioning device to eliminate the failing components.
Next, check the switch with an ohmmeter. Is it a fixture that no longer works? Safely test this fixture using a spare cord to find out if it is still working; if it is not, then check the bulbs and fixture wirings.
Space heater warning: A few space heaters with high wattage that have been used over time can be the reason for receptacle overheating, especially the neutral side.
A discolored receptacle where cords are normally plugged in is likely to be burnt. Make sure that the receptacle circuits are all turned off prior to the removal of the cover plate.
Check the wire connections: Connections, primarily, should have been properly installed. Loose connections can only cause burnt wires and shorts which can become the worst fire hazards.
Using pliers, twist the wires before screwing on the wire nuts. This ascertains that you will have a good connection. Do not over tighten the wire nuts, though.
As the circuit and its components are checked, make sure to finally see the problem. Most of the time, it is obvious; but there are moments when you have done everything and yet you still have not seen what’s causing the electrical issue. In such cases, call an electrician and let him take care of your unknown electrical problem.