Some thoughts on non working receptacle

What can you determine by this test? If anything…


I put the black probe into the smaller slot and pinch the red probe between by thumb and fore finger to see if it lights up. If it does, chances are it is wired properly.

If I put the black probe into the larger slot and pinch the red one and it lights up, chances are that is wired reverse parity.

1 Like

Yep, would you chase a broken neutral wire or a loose neutral connection first or any more thoughts


Is this your house, Thomas? If yours, I may look for a reverse polarity first if comfortable.

Broken neutrals can be quite a problem but I would refer it our to a qualified licensed electrician for assessment and correction.

1 Like

A house i inspected, there were some loose outlets in an owner finished basement, an open ground and a few other open j boxes etc. Electrician there fixing things and now homeowner wants to know why I missed this reverse polarity. BTW I typically plug into every receptacle that is available in my inspection so this is most likely a chain reaction due to other repairs, and of course it’s hard to know what else has changed since I was there, at least two poorly installed boxes were in that basement area… I was going to stop by tomorrow… no one is in a bad mood yet, but I was just curious what you all thought.

This is really a case of who touched it last, :laughing:. I can hear the conversation now , I dunno ask the Inspector why I can get it to work, it was prolly something he did…

I would just listen and make no comments. See if you can get some pictures of the electrician working on the receptacles. One reverse polarity receptacle is such a small item in the grand scheme of his problems.

If things get warm ask to see the permit for the homeowner work and insinuate that that may be your next stop so your buyer has all the facts of the home inspection. After all, you want everyone to be safe and not be concerned about a fire.

Good night, my friend.


Appreciate all your great advise Larry, Cheers!

1 Like

Wiggles are not my choice to probe outlet slots. In older homes the contacts in slots can be worn to the point where the wiggle contact pin does not engage a conductive surface leaving you look like you are fumbling around with a simple continuity process. Not a good look, armature some might say, and you do not want to portray that look to all the attendees.
Use the proper tool or equipment.

If you promise your client to test every single outlet, you will have issues like you are now. Only representative number of outlets should be inspected per contract, from there you can test as many as you can. Promising to test each outlet is like promising to inspect every single nail on a roof. You will miss a few :slight_smile:


If I’m correct, the InterNACHI SOP’s say that we are supposed to check a “Representative” number of outlets. This means that we don’t have to test them all. The other thing is that when outlets get used a lot and stretched out the can produce different or inaccurate readings by the tester. When I run into one of these, I write it up even if wiggle the tester around gives me a “correct” reading. I’d rather have the client believe that it needs replacement than count on a old, sketchy outlet.