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bemike61
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 67 kentucky
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2009-12-01          167125


any and all electric experts.
is there a way to check a wire that runs from the house to a garage underground for a break. i had service put in may 2008. the 10/3 wire, everything has been fine till 11-29-09. when i checked the panel inside the garage i only had one leg of 220. inside the house at the garage breaker i had 220v. is there a simple way to find if a wire is broken or not and where its broken at.this is underground service that crosses a driveway and sidewalk by the house.
dont know if theres something i can rent or only a electrican would have for this job. i just dont want to dig more than i have too. the guy i used lives in another state.

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Murf
Join Date: Dec 1999
Posts: 7147 Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada
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2009-12-01          167127


I don't think I understand what you mean by "check a wire", either it's a complete circuit or not.

You say you already know there's only one leg of the 220 working, what more needs to be checked?

Do you mean checking the continuity of the wire, versus say a bad breaker? If so the down'n'dirty method is to just swap a another breaker and see if the problem moves with the breaker.

BTW, you have double checked that the breaker hasn't just tripped but doesn't look like it has right? Flip it all the way off & then back on.


Best of luck. ....

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AlbertaDan
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 23 Alberta
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2009-12-01          167129


Quote:
Originally Posted by bemike61 | view 167125
any and all electric experts.is there a way to check a wire that runs from the house to a garage underground for a break. i had service put in may 2008. the 10/3 wire, everything has been fine till 11-29-09. when i checked the panel inside the garage i only had one leg of 220. inside the house at the garage breaker i had 220v. is there a simple way to find if a wire is broken or not and where its broken at.this isunderground service that crosses a driveway and sidewalk by the house.dont know if theres something i can rent or only a electrican would have for this job. i just dont want to dig more than i have too. the guy i used lives in another state.


From your description it sounds like you have a broken "hot" conductor. If you 220V at the breaker feeding the garage but only 120V at the garage then that is the problem.

To find the problem take all the "hot" wires off in both the house and garage. There should be a black wire and a red wire on your breaker that feeds the garage. Find the bare copper that is in the same cable going to the garage.

Do the house first to prevent a shock.

Join one wire at a time (either black or red) to the bare copper. Once one wire is connected to the bare copper go out to the garage and use an OHM meter (Usually looks like an upside down horseshoe on the meter). touch one lead to the bare copper and one lead to the color you had just connected inside the house. If your meter needle moves or your hear a beep (depending on your meter) that wire is good.

Repeat the process with the other colored wire and you will find which one is broken.When the needle stops moving or you no longer hear the beep you have found your broken wire.

Just remember when you are doing this in the house the panel is live so no mistakes are allowed. Electric shock is potentially fatal.

This usually works best if you have someone to help you. Get them to touch the hot and copper together. When you notice the movement or beep call out to have them separate the wires. Then re-touch to confirm you have the right set of wires.

I'm not an expert but do have apprx 20 yrs as electrician. Hope this helps. ....

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AlbertaDan
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 23 Alberta
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2009-12-01          167130


There is a circuit tracer but it usually for finding a circuit in panel. I don't know if it would work for finding a fault underground. Don't know if anyone has ever tried. ....

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Murf
Join Date: Dec 1999
Posts: 7147 Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada
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2009-12-01          167131


Maybe it's just me, but that sounds like an incredibly dangerous way to do it, even for someone who can read between the typos and knows a bit about electricity.

A MUCH safer way to do it would be to wire a 220 volt plug to 2 pigtail light sockets with bulbs and just plug it in. If you don't have, and don't want to buy, 2 pigtail sockets, use a split duplex receptacle instead and just plug a trouble lamp or something into one then the other socket.

If both the bulb that doesn't come on is hooked to the bad circuit.

No risk, no guessing, no burning anything down, no meter required. ....

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kthompson
Join Date: Oct 2005
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2009-12-01          167132


Well somehow he knows he has only 110 volts so he must have a meter or some other method of checking. If so it should be no problem to know which of the 110 legs is not conducting electricity. Assuming you are able to check and know which wire or leg is an issue do test the breakers as I have seen a breaker that looked good and felt as if it resect but was bad. Also be sure the wires are making good contact under the screw on the breakers.
If you have a cut wire there is a good chance what ever cut it also cut at least another wire enough to expose it to weather and danger. This is a great reason to run conduit and wire inside it for replacement without redigging.

If you know anyone with local phone or electric company ask them if they have method to test buried wire by above ground meter. I think they do.

There are those who will tell you can find it with the old method some used for finding water which can make sense as there is a magnetic field opened if the wire is cut.

The old method I am talking about for this is take like a metal piece of wire and make into a L shape for each hand and walk the wire watching for movement. The name has slipped my memory. ....

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bemike61
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 67 kentucky
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2009-12-01          167133


i ll try to type better. i know that i have three wires one black, one white, one black with red stripe. i have pulled off panel cover. i have checked the black and black wire with red stripe at the top of service breaker, before it runs a-c to the other breakers. the screws are tight. when i use a meter from black to white i get 110v, but when i try black with red stripe to white, i get nothing. this in the garage. i did not have time today but inside the house i will switch the black wires on the service breaker to see if that changes the side that i was getting 110v on. i was looking at worse case, that i would have to dig a hole, wanting to repair that spot . did not know if there is a way to trace where a wire is broken.. the wire is in conduit, but there was not much room with three wires and alum ground, if i had to have new wire pulled. thanks for any info ....

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kwschumm
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5764 NW Oregon
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2009-12-02          167138


As for locating where a break is in a wire, in networking a device named a TDR (time domain reflectometer) is used. It sends a signal down the wire. When the signal hits the end of the wire (or break) a reflection is bounced back. The meter measures the time between the original signal transmission and when the reflection is returned and then can tell the distance to the end of the wire (or break).

In principle it seems they would work for typical home wiring too but I don't know that for sure. You might call a few electrical supply stores to see if they have such devices and if they might rent them out. ....

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harvey
Join Date: Sep 2000
Posts: 1539 Moravia, NY
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2009-12-02          167142


I really think Murf hit it in the first post of his. Start with your meter in the house at the source the circuit breakers. Check the breaker the connections then start down the broken wire path. ....

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auerbach
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 2168 West of Toronto
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2009-12-02          167143


Any break is likely to be aboveground rather than buried. Otherwise, even if there were an instrument that pinpointed the location of a discontinuity, I'd want to replace the entire line anyway. Electricians charge a decent buck -- and there's a good reason for that.

KT, you were looking for dowsing (using a divining rod).

....

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kwschumm
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Posts: 5764 NW Oregon
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2009-12-02          167145


Quote:
Originally Posted by auerbach | view 167143
Any break is likely to be aboveground rather than buried. Otherwise, even if there were an instrument that pinpointed the location of a discontinuity, I'd want to replace the entire line anyway. Electricians charge a decent buck -- and there's a good reason for that.KT, you were looking for dowsing (using a divining rod).


True about the likelihood of the break being above ground, however below ground breaks do happen. My brother just replaced a line in underground conduit that had a break in it. It looks like the conductor was nicked during installation and finally just opened up. Weird.
....

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kthompson
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 5219 South Carolina
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2009-12-02          167146


Quote:
Originally Posted by auerbach | view 167143
KT, you were looking for dowsing (using a divining rod).


A man with a working mind!

bemike61, if your wires are run in conduit it might be less cost to replace them than to hire anyone to locate the break if it proves to be a broken wire. You will need to use one of the good wires to pull with. ....

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Murf
Join Date: Dec 1999
Posts: 7147 Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada
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2009-12-02          167152


Quote:
Originally Posted by auerbach | view 167143
Any break is likely to be aboveground rather than buried. Otherwise, even if there were an instrument that pinpointed the location of a discontinuity, I'd want to replace the entire line anyway. Electricians charge a decent buck -- and there's a good reason for that.KT, you were looking for dowsing (using a divining rod).



It's been my experience, (including two of my own broken underground lines) that most breaks are way out in the middle of the run. Either water that got in and arc'd it into an open circuit, or more often a tree growing near the line grew enough to disturb the cable.

Finding the broken spot is pretty easy with the right test equipment or a really good ohm meter.

Best of luck. ....

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hardwood
Join Date: Dec 2002
Posts: 3583 iowa
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2009-12-02          167153


I never tried this but a friend told me once how to find where a wire is broken underground. Tune an AM battery radio to the low end of the dial below 550 so that it is all static. Move it along the route of the wire just above the ground, the static either gets worse or stops, I don't remember which when you reach the break in the wire. I'm not promising this will work, but this guy is an electrician. ....

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AlbertaDan
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 23 Alberta
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2009-12-02          167154


Quote:
Originally Posted by Murf | view 167131
Maybe it's just me, but that sounds like an incredibly dangerous way to do it, even for someone who can read between the typos and knows a bit about electricity. A MUCH safer way to do it would be to wire a 220 volt plug to 2 pigtail light sockets with bulbs and just plug it in. If you don't have, and don't want to buy, 2 pigtail sockets, use a split duplex receptacle instead and just plug a trouble lamp or something into one then the other socket.If both the bulb that doesn't come on is hooked to the bad circuit. No risk, no guessing, no burning anything down, no meter required.


The method i spoke of is actually the safest way to do it. The only safer way is to pull the house meter and turn off all power to the house.Rigging up some homemade contraption to test 240V with 120V light bulbs sounds like someone is going to get a shock or get broken glass flying everywhere.

The method I described is much safer than pulling breakers out of a live panel. and swapping them out. Many panels have bolt in breakers and need an insultaed screw driver to install them safely. This is because they bolt in to the live bus bars of the panel. Touch the shaft of the driver and you get the whole power coming to the house.

I'va also seen breakers shatter as they are being removed causing the screw driver to short from the bus bars to the back of the panel. Again with the full power to the house going to the screw driver and arcing to ground.

My suggetsion to KT is to replace the breakers. Some have been found to be faulty. One brand in particular lost there ULC rating because a 15 amp breaker did not trip until well over the 15 amp allowable limit. Needles to say the risk of fire in this case is outrageous. KT should talk to his friendly neighborhood electrician about this. Either that or PM me and i will emlighten him as to what i know about the subject.

If a meter gets pulled the local utility comoany would want to know why the seal is broken. If they don't have a record of a call to tell them why they might get upset. Some are very territorial about things like that.

As for meters they are a cheap investment. A decent one is only a few bucks a the local hardware store. Granted my meter I paid a good dollar for but I need mine do do a lot more than just read 120 and 240V.

The best way to find a break is to think back about what was done in the area. Was any landscaping done? Or renovations to the house? Was the driveway plowed by somebody else and the conduit hit? this the type of stuff that causes a wire to break. VERY rarely does a wire break underground. The only time i have heard of naything like this was when conduit was not installed correctly and the ground heaved due to frost. The conduit that was not glued basically cut the cable. ....

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kthompson
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 5219 South Carolina
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2009-12-02          167158


albertadan: "My suggetsion to KT is to replace the breakers. Some have been found to be faulty. One brand in particular lost there ULC rating because a 15 amp breaker did not trip until well over the 15 amp allowable limit. Needles to say the risk of fire in this case is outrageous. KT should talk to his friendly neighborhood electrician about this. Either that or PM me and i will emlighten him as to what i know about the subject."

I do not understand your comment here for me. I did not say or don't think so I have such breakers. Rather have seen them. Matter of fact I was the electrician who replaced those bad breakers. A couple of other points the state of SC has for about 40 years not allowed the use of 14 gauge wire for circuits nor 15 amp breakers just for info which I really appreciate.

bemike61: your breaker box may have main breakers which cut off the full panel or there may be a disconnect between the meter and the box. If you have either cutting or pulling those which ever you have would be much safer than working in a live box. Note, some parts of a box may still be live with main breakers cut off depending on the design of it.

A thought came to my mind sitting here typing this as it is really pouring rain. Depending on the total situation if your wire is cut and type of conduit and if sealed or not, you could have a live current leak. It might not be enough to trip a breaker but to shock you still. It would seem if you have a major current leak in the conduit with a open bare ground it would trip the breaker.

....

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Murf
Join Date: Dec 1999
Posts: 7147 Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada
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2009-12-03          167174


Quote:
Originally Posted by AlbertaDan | view 167129
Just remember when you are doing this in the house the panel is live so no mistakes are allowed. Electric shock is potentially fatal.


"The method i spoke of is actually the safest way to do it."

Sorry, working on a live panel certainly doesn't sound very safe to me.

As for the "Rigging up some homemade contraption to test 240V with 120V light bulbs sounds like someone is going to get a shock or get broken glass flying everywhere." I thought you were an electrician?

A 220 line will give you 110 on each leg to the neutral, as such, hooking 2 pigtail sockets, each one to the neutral and one to each hot leg and sticking a plug in a socket doesn't sound nearly as dangerous as sticking a screwdriver into a live panel.

BTW, "The only safer way is to pull the house meter and turn off all power to the house." seems like a lot more work than merely flipping the main service breaker off.


Best of luck. ....

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AnnBrush
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Posts: 462 Troy OH
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2009-12-08          167335


Before any of the preceding is considered, think about this. Has ANY construction, post driving, drainage work, driveway grading, trenching etc been done anywhere near the area. If not I would concentrate on looking at breakers, contacts and splices near load and service equipment. If it has I would take a close look at the work site where the construction etc was done, chances are thats where the fault is. ....

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bemike61
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 67 kentucky
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2009-12-10          167414


to all who gave me some good insight, the wire was in conduit underground. had electrician check it out , found a short that was causing voltage drop. was able to dig by front of building and get lucky and find problem. going to replace wire. thanks ....

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Murf
Join Date: Dec 1999
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2009-12-11          167425


Did the electrician give you any clue of what caused the short?


Best of luck. ....

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