As far as electrical maintenance is concerned one of the biggest weaknesses in this specialised field is fault finding. But it is a crucial aspect that every professional electrician should master to be successful in the trade. In the following section of the blog post let us discuss about finding faults in electrics systems. The information shared here is expected to help enrich your insight. 

To start with, you should better have a stepwise approach in finding faults in electrics systems. This will make your task easier as well as less time consuming. 

You should also remember that electrical downtimes prove costly for everyone. Therefore the objective must be to avoid downtimes at any cost. As far as electrical fault finding is concerned, thanks to unprecedented evolution of technology, now there is a large number of equipment that is not only reliable but also helpful and easy to use. Thus reliability on equipment is the buzzword in the profession. Using the modern range of equipment identifying faults can be done faster provided one proceeds with a logical approach on the mission. Based on feedbacks received from customers, one thing is clear that in fault finding the aspect of ‘root cause analysis’ is very important. Apart from those feedbacks if you look at it from the other way around you will invariably realise that even it does not cater to the financial clause to keep coming back to the same issue repeatedly. 

Here is the stepwise approach to electrical fault finding – 

Collect the evidence – start with collecting the evidence carefully. Make sure the evidences collected are relevant to the problem in hand. If you are doubtful whether evidence is relevant what you should do? Just include it for the time being for deeper analysis and then you can discard it if it seems to be irrelevant. The volume or quantity of information that you collect is not so important as is relevancy of the information collected. If you think it safe then you should also observe the system running. Summon all your senses while collecting evidences.

  • Smell – whether there is a burning smell
  • Touch – whether it feels hot to touch
  • Sight – unusual physical condition
  • Hearing – vibration of the system while running

Evidence analysis – take into account every evidence that has been collected. After thoughtful consideration if you consider anything to be irrelevant then dispose it. Analyse the remaining evidences that you consider relevant. Analyse carefully using logical thinking. Diagnose the fault or the area where it occurred. This will open up doors of possibilities to reach the right conclusion provided you do the things correctly.

Identify the fault – as a matter of fact this is just an extension of the process of analysing, we discussed above. The area of your focus is systemically shrunk until a particular part can be identified as faulty. An example here will make things easier to grasp. Suppose a doorbell suddenly stops buzzing. It is only through a systematic approach you can reach the conclusion that the bell itself has given off and so the problem has arisen.

Zero in upon the fault and its correction – the reason behind an electrical fault must be resolved else the problem will recur even if it has been rectified previously. Let us use a suitable example to make this point clearer. A puncture has occurred in the inner tube and as a result a bicycle tyre goes flat. Here puncture is the fault. If the puncture is repaired, that is the fault is corrected that does not make much of a difference. This is because the root cause of the puncture was not identified and thoroughly looked into. As a result although the puncture was repaired but the right action has not been taken. The reason of the puncture could be nail that somehow penetrated into the inner tube. Only when the exact cause of a fault is excavated and the necessary correction is made, it can be said that appropriate action has been taken. 

Fault rectification – referring to the example above, a fault may result from a minor problem. But in many cases in real life a fault may also result from a major issue. Whatever may be the actual reason, one has to get to the heart of a problem and then take corrective measures to sort it out.

Check the system thoroughly – in case of every electrical fault you have to be absolutely sure that the machine, equipment or system is working normally once the reason behind the fault as well as the fault itself both have been dealt with. For a professional electrician who is worth his salt there is just nothing to leave to chances in this respect. Using sophisticated equipment that is available these days you may have to fine tune the system to return it to its optimum level of performance. 

Common causes of electrical faults

Suppose a plug-in appliance is not working. If it is light bulb, first try replacing the bulb with another. If that works you may have a fused bulb in hand. If the second bulb to does not glow, the socket may be faulty and needs to be replaced. However this is a much simplified example that has been given above. In real life an electrical fault may result from more complex issues. 

Dealing with a dead circuit – first switch of all the lights or unplug all the appliances that are running on the faulty circuit. Then access the consumer unit to switch off the main isolation switch. Fix the fuse of the circuit or reset the RCD or the circuit breaker to ‘on’ position. Now resume the power connection by switching the mains on. Turn on all the lights or the appliances one by one. This tells you the item that is causing the fuse to blow or the circuit breaker to trip. As such fault finding in electrical circuit is not exactly rocket science. It requires logical deduction more than anything else. However in certain circumstances technical expertise of skilled electricians is also required. In the situation given above if the fuse blows or the circuit breaker trips again then chances are high fault has occurred in the fixed wiring. You need a licensed electrician to fix that problem.


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