Breaker Waon't Reset


Old 02-13-05, 10:20 PM
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Breaker Waon't Reset

I am in the midst of trouble shooting various problems with a fixer-upper I just bought.

The most recent problem is with an electrical breaker that will not reset. When the main power is off the breaker will go to the on position, but as soon as the main power is turned on the breaker trips. The Breaker runs an outdoor outlet and an outlet in the bathroom.

Any tips to solve this problem would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks, the non-electrician
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Old 02-14-05, 04:10 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
There is a fault somewhere. You need to find the fault.

Start at the breaker and work out. Disconnect the wire and make sure that the breaker functions with no load. Then try a load from a working breaker/circuit. If the breaker works then move on to the receptacles/outlets on the circuit.

Disconnect the loads at the various outlets. That means disconnect the receptacle or light and see if the breaker works.

You will eventually isolate the problem to a particular switch, receptacle or light attached. or to a section of cable. When you have isolated the problem, you need to replace whatever is bad.

If you are lucky it will be a receptacle or switch. If you are unlucky it will be a section of cable. My money is on something to do with the outdoor receptacle.
Old 02-14-05, 04:20 AM
Join Date: Dec 2000
Posts: 510
Is there anything plugged into this circuit? If so, unplug everything and try again. If the breaker does not trip, start adding the loads back in one at a time until it trips again. The last thing you plug in before it trips either (1) has a fault (short) and needs to be repaired/replaced or (2) adds enough load to the circuit (when combined with whatever else is plugged in) to overload it. If the breaker still trips with the circuit completely unloaded than follow racraft's procedure.
Old 02-14-05, 08:14 AM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: United States
Posts: 18,497
Does the breaker have a "test" button on it?
Old 02-14-05, 09:02 AM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Fayetteville, NY, USA
Posts: 1,052
When you are removing receptacles and switches on that circuit look inside the boxes and inspect the wiring with a flashlight. Sometimes people will cram the wires in there with a screwdriver and nick the wire insulation. If the boxes are metal one of the terminal screws may be in contact with the grounded box, causing a dead short. If there is a bare ground in the box sometimes it is not stuffed in there carefully and makes contact with one of the terminal screws. Sometimes the wire is stripped too far back and makes contact with another wire or the box. And sometimes, when stuffing the receptacle into the box a wire nut is disturbed and comes off. And Racrafts money is well wagered - the outdoor recep may be wet and could be where your short is occuring.
Hope that helps.

Old 02-14-05, 05:22 PM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: United States
Posts: 18,497
Originally Posted by Denman
Dear John,

Thanks for responding to my query. Yes, there is a yellow test button beside the breaker switch. If this helps any, the breaker trips without any load on it (all lights are turned off).

Thanks again,
This is a GFCI breaker. It's probably tripping due to a ground fault rather than due to an overload. Common causes of ground faults are (1) The neutral and grounding wires (or a metal box) are touching somewhere on the circuit, either accidentally or foolishly on purpose. (2) There is moisture in one of the boxes on the circuit.

There's no shortcut to finding the problem. Just start looking.
Old 02-14-05, 07:25 PM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
Outdoor receptacles commonly get wet and cause the GFCI to trip. Allow the outdoor receptacle to dry out (possibly help it with a hair dryer) and see if the problem goes away.

If it is water in the outdoor receptacle, check the cover to see if it watertight and consider installing an in-use cover.

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