Non-loaded GFCI Won't Reset

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Old 12-19-12, 09:55 AM
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Question Non-loaded GFCI Won't Reset

I have a circuit that branches at the breaker box - one branch goes into a conduit leading to my garage outlets, the other wire goes 4 feet to the back of an exterior outlet. I upgraded this exterior outlet to a GFCI a few years ago.

Three times this month, the GFCI tripped. I attributed it to my Christmas lights getting rained on. But the third time, it wouldn't reset. Assuming it went bad, I replaced it with a new GFCI. The new GFCI has an LED to indicate when it's tripped. It is lit up, but the reset button doesn't work!

I tested with my multimeter, it shows a steady 120v between ground and hot, and 0v between white and ground.

I'm having trouble believing that BOTH GFCIs are bad, including the new one I just bought. What could be causing this? Could it be something wrong on the parallel circuit (the garage outlets I described above)? Could this be a bad breaker?

The circuit to this exterior GFCI is very short - a 4-foot piece of wire coming from the side of the breaker box to the back of the exterior junction box, which is only 4 feet from the breaker, so I don't think it's likely there's a problem with that.

Also, I didn't try plugging the Christmas lights back in after installing the new GFCI outlet - just in case you're wondering if there's a horrible short-circuit there that could have nuked both GFCIs.

Thanks, I'm dumbfounded by this! ...and annoyed that all the work I did on the Christmas lights is going for naught!
 
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Old 12-19-12, 10:26 AM
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Welcome to the forums!

I tested with my multimeter, it shows a steady 120v between ground and hot, and 0v between white and ground.
What do you see hot-to-neutral?
 
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Old 12-19-12, 11:54 AM
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120V. And the rest of this is because it won't let me post less than 25 characters.
 
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Old 12-19-12, 12:06 PM
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Oh, I also tried hooking it up without the ground wire attached, still wouldn't reset.

Also, the junction box is metal, and very tight. I wondered if something was touching the sides, so I turned on the power with the outlet pulled out - still wouldn't reset.

One other oddity - not sure if a big deal - while trying to figure out what was wrong, I arced the hot wire (had too much insulation exposed, I've since shortened to fix). It tripped the breaker, but the breaker consists of two small breakers that fit into a single breaker slot, with a plastic bit joining the switches. It looked like only one breaker tripped, the plastic bit joining the switches doesn't stay rigid enough such that the two switches stay synced - the plastic bit was at sort of an angle. I've never seen a half-breaker like this outside my house - I have other circuits (furnace, dryer) that have two full-sized breakers joined by a bit of plastic. Why would this circuit have two half-breakers? Maybe one goes to the outdoor outlet, the other to the indoor garage outlets - but if so, why would they be joined with the plastic bit at all?
 
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Old 12-19-12, 12:18 PM
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Multi-wire branch circuits are required to have the handles joined in a manner that requires a common disconnect but does not trigger a common trip. Do the two circuits share a neutral?

If so, I would try supplying the outdoor GFCI with its own neutral.
 
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Old 12-19-12, 12:21 PM
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Just to state the obvious be sure you both the line hot and line neutral are on the correct side. With conduit if you have two black and two white it is easy to mix up which is which.
 
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Old 12-19-12, 12:41 PM
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When all else fails, believe me GFCI's can go bad and BE bad from the shelf. I bought two one day and went through exactly what you are going through. Surely the second one couldn't be bad, but it was. I had another brand on my truck and installed it and it worked fine, so don't give up too easily on it.
 
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Old 12-19-12, 01:29 PM
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Yeah I thought of that - but I was careful to make sure I got the colors right. Also, I thought sometimes the colors get installed wrong, so I tried reversing too, but no joy. Thanks for the suggestion though!
 
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Old 12-19-12, 01:32 PM
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I guess I could always keep an extra GFCI on the shelf if this doesn't work, but I suppose I could go get a third GFCI to see if they are both bad.

I didn't see if they share a neutral wire, the split happens inside the breaker box. The garage must be inside one of the conduits coming off the top, while the wire going to the junction box comes out the right side of the breaker box.
 
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Old 12-19-12, 06:55 PM
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Did wire this using the LINE side terminals?
 
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Old 12-19-12, 07:50 PM
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Multi-wire branch circuits are required to have the handles joined in a manner that requires a common disconnect but does not trigger a common trip
That isn't exactly correct. With a multiwire branch circuit, the breakers handles can be tied together with handle ties or a 2 pole breaker can be used. In the case of a 2 pole breaker, tripping will be common between the 2 poles.
 
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Old 12-19-12, 10:45 PM
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That isn't exactly correct. With a multiwire branch circuit, the breakers handles can be tied together with handle ties or a 2 pole breaker can be used. In the case of a 2 pole breaker, tripping will be common between the 2 poles.
Sure its correct! I didn't say you couldn't use a 2-pole breaker if you wanted to. I just said you didn't have to!

Regardless, I would try wiring the outside GFCI with its own set of unshared wires.
 
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Old 12-20-12, 08:27 AM
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NashKat1> Regardless, I would try wiring the outside GFCI with its own set of unshared wires.

You mean give the outside GFCI its own breaker? Because right now it has its own wire (three wires inside a single insulator - roamex I think it's called?) coming off the side of the breaker box - I can see every inch of the wire as it goes to the back of the outside junction box, it isn't split anywhere. The garage circuit must be inside the conduits coming off the top of the breaker box. The split happens inside the breaker box.
 
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Old 12-20-12, 05:32 PM
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You mean give the outside GFCI its own breaker?
If you have room for another breaker in the panel, that's what I would do just to keep it separate from the garage circuit.
 
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Old 12-24-12, 04:03 PM
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Do you have power to the wires going to the GFCI? I would remove the wires from it and check for voltage on the supply side, A GFCI receptcale wouldn't reset without power,and whereas you shorted out the circuit you may have destroyed the breaker.I have seen this happen more than once.
 
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Old 12-28-12, 03:01 PM
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SOLVED:
Root cause was aluminum wiring coming into the house, it was corroded and making a bad connection. When I corrected this, the troubled GFCI suddenly worked! My voltage looked stable when I measured at the GFCI with my multimeter (as I mentioned), but it must have been creating tiny fluctuations that wouldn't let the GFCI reset.
 
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Old 12-28-12, 05:36 PM
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Time out.......Are you referring to the aluminum feeder from the transformer to the panel, or aluminum wiring inside your house? If the former, how did you tighten it without having the POCO remove the meter. Curious.
 
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