GFI outlet problem that won't reset ???

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  #1  
Old 04-28-06, 11:53 PM
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Question GFI outlet problem that won't reset ???

I'm having a GFI circuit problem... The other night my wife was ironing, & all of the sudden, she said the TV flickered a couple of times, & then everything shut off including her iron. Now all these things that went out "all of the sudden", are all on the tailing end of a GFI outlet that is located in our bathroom. She has been ironing in this same place now for a couple of years now, & we never had any problem before with the circuit kicking out until now. So I thought maybe it was just a fluke thing, so I tried resetting the GFI outlet, since it was tripped, & it wouldn't reset. I don't know if it matters or not, but the breaker in the main panel for this circuit never tripped, it was just from the GFI & all the outlets past it. Anyway, after trying several times to reset the GFI, to no avail, I figured maybe something that was plugged into one of the outlets shorted out, or something. So I unplugged everything that was on this circuit & tried to reset the GFI again, & it reset fine. But now my problem is that no matter what I plug into this circuit, it will trip the GFI outlet. I tried plugging different things into different outlets (on the same circuit) & no matter what I plug-in, or where I plug it in, on that circuit, it blows the GFI. So I figured maybe it's the GFI outlet that was going bad. So I replaced the GFI outlet with the same rating & all, & I tested it (as per the instructions) & it tested fine, so I know that I wired it up right, but I still have the same problem. Plug anything into this circuit & it will blow the GFI outlet. Now if nothing is plugged into the circuit, the GFI outlet is fine, it doesn't kick-out, & it will "test" just fine, until something is plugged into the circuit that it is on & it will trip.. So now I'm not sure what the problem is. The only thing I'm sure of is the iron is still good & works fine on a different circuit, & I'm not sure about the TV yet.
But anyway, I would really appreciate any advise, or suggestions, that any of you may be able to give me. Or steer me in the right direction to fix this problem. Thanks in advance for any & all help, I appreciate it very much. Also, I'll be more then happy to furnish any addition info about anything if needed. Just let me know. Thanks again... JT2Fast4u
 
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  #2  
Old 04-29-06, 02:07 AM
bolide's Avatar
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It sounds like a neutral-to-ground fault... at least if I had to re-create the symptoms you observe, that's how I'd do it.
Candidate are the the box the GFCI is in, the first one after it, or the wiring in between.

I'm assuming that you have a new GFCI that won't reset unless correctly energized on the line side.

As for how the problem arose, think back for anything that has been changed.

What is the number on the breaker in the panel for this circuit?

The correct term for your outlet is a receptacle.

The wiring in your house does not meet current Code.
The bathroom, laundry, and TV possibly would be required to be on three separate circuits if wired per the 2005 NEC.
Bathroom circuit must be bathroom(s) only.
Laundry circuit must serve laundry functions only.

Frankly, the circuit sounds overloaded. I would run a new 20A circuits for the laundry and TV.
 
  #3  
Old 04-29-06, 02:56 AM
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GFCIs can fail after a time for often what appears to be no reason. They do have delicate electronics in them and these aren't protected as well as the newer devices and some varieties are prone to fail as you describe. Most of the newer devices have a light that comes on when the GFCI is tripped. If yours lacks this you can probably assume you have an older device.

Assuming you don't have a tester of any kind, the easiest way to find the problems here is to buy a new GFCI receptacle and install it - pay particularly close attention to which wires go to the load and line terminals. Obviously, turn off the power when you do this.

If the new GFCI continues to trip, begin removing the receptacles on the same circuit one at a time (power off, of course) and inspect for scorched or burned spots on the receptacle and wire. Check the connections at any wire nuts in the boxes by removing them and looking for discolored wire. Reinstall the wirenuts making sure they are snug. Check the screws on the rceceptacles for tightness - if the receptacle was wired with the push-in connector in back give each wire a good pull to see if the connector is still snug (although a bit of work, I'd recommend you remove any backstabbed connections like this and move the wires to the screw connections) While each receptacle is out of the box, turn on the power and plug something in to the GFCI and see if it still trips. This may help you pin down which receptacle (if any) is causing the problem. Report back if you see anything unusual.

If you find nothing obvious , the next step involves buying a tester. A meter that will make the required tests will run about $20.00 or so. Check back and we can talk you through the proceedure.
 
  #4  
Old 04-29-06, 04:18 AM
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The most likely scenario is as follows:

The heavy current draw of the iron caused a weak or poorly done connection to open. It is most likely a neutral connection. One or both of the neutral wires are now contacting the ground, perhaps through the metal junction box. When you attempt to operate something, the GFCI senses a ground fault (since some or all of the current is reaching ground) and trips.

You need to check each and every receptacle or light on the circuit. At one location you will find a failed connection. Repair the connection and you will be back in business.
 
  #5  
Old 04-30-06, 01:08 PM
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Would this be my problem?

First off, Thanks to all of you for the quick responses & detailed information you guys have given me, I really appreciate it very much. You guys have been VERY HELPFUL!!!

Now I'll try to answer your replys/questions:

bolide-
1-yes, it is a new GFCI that won't reset unless its correctly energized on the line side.

2-Nothing has changed on that circuit that I know of,in fact, the room where the charring occured, is a spare bedroom, & is very rarely used.

3-The number on the breaker for this circuit is 20 (amp).

4-I'm sure my house isn't up to "current" code, considering it was build in the mid 50's.

Itsunclebill:

1- I purchased another new GFI receptacle, with the built in trip-lite, just to be sure it was the most up to date type.

2-See below for the results that i got for testing the receptacles & wiring.

3-I have a digital multi-meter & know the basics for using it (if this helps).

racraft:

yes, you are right, about the neutral wire contacting ground. But there's something I don't understand about this, & I'm hoping you could explain this to me briefly. Why wouldn't the GFI kick-out as soon as the circuit recieved power from the main breaker? Since one of the neutral wires was contacting ground, wouldn't it, or shouldn't it (the GFI unit) have kicked-out right away, instead of waiting until something was plugged into the circuit? I thought that's what the GFI units are suppose to do. I thought that it would have sensed that "neutral-to-ground" fault that it has, even before anything is plugged into the circuit. But I'm no electrician by any means either, & that's probably why I don't understand it.

Anyway, thanks again to everyone that has helped me, it's truely appreciated.


Now here's what I did today, as far as testing the receptacles on my problem circuit. First, I went out & got another GFI receptacle, one with the trip-lite built into it,(since the other new GFI unit didn't have that trip-lite built into it) & installed it, & tested it like the directions say to do, & it tested ok, as long as nothing was plugged into any of the receptacles on that circuit, but it would kick-out & wouldn't reset if something was plugged into any of the receptacles. So basically it's the same problem as before. So then I disconnected all the wires on the 1st receptacle following the GFI unit, & checked for a "neutral-to-ground" fault on those wires, & one of the white wires had the "neutral-to-ground" fault. It wasen't the "line" wires (not sure if you call these by that name on a regular receptacle or not, but I have named them that just to show which wire is which), it was the white wire ("white load wire?") that leaves the box, & goes to the next receptacle (box #2) across the room. So then I disconnected all the wires on the #2 box (across the room) & found that one of the white wires had the "neutral-to-ground" fault in it also. It was the white ("line wire"?) the one the comes into the box. All the other wires were fine.
So, would it be safe to say that from the above results, that my problem is either in the #1 box where the wires go out, or in the wiring in the wall, between these boxes, or where the wires enter the #2 box?
I also noted some charring on the ends of both the black & white wires where they connect to the #1 receptacle, & also a little bit on the end of the white wire where it connects to the #2 receptacle.(BTW, all the wire connections were done with the screws on the sides of the receptacles, no "back-stabbing". So I purchased two new receptacles to replace the old ones where this charring occured. (which brings me to another question, but I'll start a new thread for that one).

Thanks again for the awesome help you guys have given me so far. You guys were "dead-on" on my electrical problem. You guys sure know your sh#$, that's for sure!!!
JT2Fast4u
 
  #6  
Old 04-30-06, 02:08 PM
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A properly working GFCI does not trip until and unless it sees a ground fault. For there to be a ground fault, there needs to be more current flowing on the hot wire than there is flowing on the neutral wire. If you have nothing plugged in then the current flowing on the wires is zero amps.
 
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