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Circuit tester says open neutral, multi-meter says something else

13 years ago

A circuit in my house suddenly stopped working - no tripping of a breaker, GFCI, smell of smoke, etc. There are about 6 outlets, one smoke detector, two switched ceiling fixtures, and a ceiling fixture on a three-way switch on this circuit.

First thing, I tested all the outlets with voltage tester - this appeared to show that BOTH hot and neutral sides had voltage. Then, I used a 3-prong circuit tester which showed "hot/ground reversed." After doing some homework about the limitations of these circuit testers, I removed every load on the circuit (which at this point, was only a couple light bulbs). I re-tested the outlets with the 3-prong tester and now it shows "open neutral."

I've checked ALL the wire connections in the outlets, and they appear to be solid. Finally, I used a multi-meter on the outlets, and here's where it gets kinda weird...for all of the outlets on the circuit, this is what I'm showing:

Hot to neutral: about 87 volts

Hot to ground: about 120 volts

Neutral to ground: about 30 volts

At this point, I have no idea what is going on. Is there a loose neutral connection? Why the voltage between neutral and ground? I'm lost.

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