strange circuit problem

Old 11-27-11, 07:23 PM
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strange circuit problem

I have a problem with a circuit that works some days after resetting breaker and other days the breaker cannot be reset. I tried changing the breaker and found the old breaker appeared singed. After putting in new breaker and switching it on it emitted a large spark but the circuit worked for the rest of the day. Next day it was off again and couldn't be reset. We've done recent electrical work but nothing on this circuit or on the panel. As I recall we had to replace a breaker on this panel previously, possibly the same one. Of course the day we had an electrician visit it worked fine so we wasted $100. Any ideas out there?

Old 11-27-11, 07:41 PM
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pvlindenver, I am not a electrician, but being a home owner, and working Maintenance in 300 unit housing complex, I have picked up a few things. It sound like to me, you have a intermediate short some where, that is frying the breaker. Sorry but I don't know how you would go about finding it.
Old 11-27-11, 08:29 PM
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Intermittent problems can be hard to find. Where does this circuit go, what does it feed? I'd try unplugging everything from this circuit and then resetting the breaker and see what happens. If it continues to trip, start removing receptacle and switch devices and look for the short; it could even be in a light fixture. If you are lucky, the short will be in a piece of plug-in equipment.
Old 11-27-11, 08:36 PM
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That is an "intermittent" problem and one of the most difficult to find/repair!

And as a rule, as soon as the electrician walks in the door, it will start working perfectly!

But we have our methods...

First turn the breaker off and see what no longer works, learn what all is on that circuit. Then back on after you have identified everything.

Mention here what all is on the circuit.

Next if this is a 120 volt circuit and things are plugged into outlets on that circuit, move EVERYTHING you can off that circuit and onto another circuit. For example if there is a clock, get an extension cord and plug that clock into an outlet in another room.

Once everything has been moved off that circuit you can, then wait and see what happens. If you are lucky, another breaker will start tripping and the original breaker will be fine.

Then that would mean something which was moved is causing the problem. So then move one thing a week (or whatever) to yet another circuit. If the problem moves again, suspect the last thing you moved.

If the above does not work, then trace the wiring. If it goes to 4 outlets, disconnect the last two outlets. See if the problem stops. If that cures the problem, then reconnect one of those outlets. Etc.

Using these methods, you can narrow down the location of the problem. It could be a nail through a wire somewhere? It could be a faulty appliance plugged in? It could be a poor wiring job in an electrical box?

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