Electrical mistery

I hope you people can help. This house is from 1930, modernized over the years as needed.

I plugged the vacuum cleaner and when I turned it on I heard a very loud pop and the circuit went dead: two outlets and three lights. The circuit breaker was undisturbed, but I recycled it just in case. Nothing.

I checked the circuit breaker for current going to the circuit and it was OK. This means the pop indicated a fault somewhere else, away from the circuit breaker. I took out the outlet in question and a light switch above it -a dimmer- and there were no signs of a short. No current was getting to either


  • how can such a fault get past the CB on the panel?
  • any suggestions as to what it is I am looking at here?
  • I don’t want to tear the house apart trying to find the fault, but I don’t like the feeling of something like this left unattended because of any possible danger.
  • is it easier at this point to simply lay out a new cable?

I never liked little mysteries, so thank you for any help.

Locate all the GFCI’s. You likely have one that is hidden or not in it’s preferred location, (garage, exterior, etc.), or doing double duty on multiple circuits!


Welcome back to our forum, Arnold!..Enjoy! :smile:

Since the CB is still working and there is not voltage present on a portion of the circuit you have an open somewhere in the circuit (it could be a GFCI but that wouldn’t explain a loud popping noise). You will need to find every outlet on that circuit and check it. Since you heard a popping sound it appears that some component (device or splice, etc.) blew clear and opened the circuit.


often gfci are located in the hydro-tub compartments & not readily-easily accessible
at my casa a drywall panel requires removal for resetting, discovered when i did my own inspection 18 yrs ago when the hydro-tub didn’t operate, prior owner didn’t know why it didn’t work & never used other than as a bathtub
it’s old & does makes an audible pop when tripped, even though it’s essentially encased


I’ll second Robert’s comment above. A similar thing happened in my parents 1950s vintage house years ago. It turned out to be a soldered wire splice that broke apart in a junction box hidden behind drywall…

Old houses are always a mess of interconnected receptacles and lights. If any other devices powered by the breaker are working it might be worth looking at them to see something is damaged of their load side.

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My thanks to all who contributed, and to Larry Kage for his welcome. Michael, you are right about the mess of interconnected receptacles and lights, and I think this is what I have here. I have discovered that another circuit, functioning, has three lights in a three-gang box that do not work. They went out at the same time that my original circuit did. Coincidence? Hmm…

I think that my original circuit and the lights that went out in the second, working circuit are grounded together locally, somewhere behind the walls or in the ceiling. This ground split open and now I have a wife dreading holes in the walls and other places. I am not too happy with the idea either.

How can I trace these circuits? Is there a surefire way to get to the spot where the damage is without opening extra holes in the house?


There are tracing tools that can trace breaks in a wire, are you going to buy them?

Call an electrician and be done with it.

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What? Call an electrician? You mean, break at the slightest breeze?
And the challenge? And the satisfaction of overcoming a difficult problem? Missing the opportunity to learn something new? Missing the bonding experience with my wife while she berates me for the mess?

Jeffrey, Jeffrey! Perish the thought!

This ain’t over by a long stretch.

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Apparently, your wife has already won! Sad for you.

Do you have a wife, JJ?

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Cancer 2013.

Sorry for your loss, JJ.


Passed three months after being declared “cancer free” after her second remission!

THAT is why they say doctors are practicing…


She looks like she could handle you alright…good looking, too.


Sorry to hear, Mr. Jonas.

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Perfect match in most ways. Same sense of humor (twisted, warped, sarcastic).
Gave me a run for the money.
Learned early on to never talk politics with her.
Hardcore Democrat to my sensible Republican ways.
This last few years would have killed her if the cancer hadn’t got her first!!


She had to be tough to put up with ya. :slight_smile: