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Pole barn subpanel has suddenly dropped half of circuits

All breakers running off the red hot side of the subpanel cannot support load. the subpanel tests 120V between neutral and each hot wire and 240V across the two hot wires, but if any load is placed on the red side, the measured voltage disappears. the connection of the red feeder at the main panel was charred/corroded a little... I replaced the breaker and cleaned the connection, but this did not have any affect on the symptoms. I swapped the black and red at the main panel breaker and the symptoms are still showing up on the red side of the subpanel. I moved some of the circuits in the subpanel to the black side and they work fine over there. The only thing I can add is that I had one of several flourescent shop lights on the red side that had been flickering over the past week or so before that side of the box failed. Seems to me this is likely a fault in the red wire running from the house to the barn. How can I confirm prior to digging and replacing? Thanks.

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  • Frank
    Frank May 11, 2010

    check the ground, hot side seems to be OK, but the ground is "floating" the ground is the black.

    to test it out, run a ground wire from the house panel to the subpanel.

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Problem solved. I disconnected both ends of the feeder line to the barn and tested continuity by alternately hooking two wires together at a time and using an ohm meter on the other ends. The result of the testing was that the majority of the wires in the run were making contact with each other to varying degrees. We have seen a lot of rain this spring, so I assumed there was a break in the line that had gotten wet down in the ground. We had some work done last fall where they may have distrubed the line, so I dug around that area first and luckily found a splice that had been very poorly sealed against the elements. Got it dried out and everything returned to normal. I used layers of liquid electrical tape and heavy water proof tape to insulate and seal the repaired line prior to putting it back into its wet environment and back filling.

Posted on May 18, 2009

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