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GFI outlet won't reset; voltage at lower terminals--bad outlet?

GFI outlet won't reset; voltage at lower terminals--bad outlet?

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  #1  
Old 06-06-13, 07:32 PM
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GFI outlet won't reset; voltage at lower terminals--bad outlet?

Hi All,

After an intense, close lightning storm, we noticed that one of the GFI outlets in our kitchen was not working. The "Reset" button was popped out, and you can't push it back in. There is no discernible click when you push it back in, and it pops right back out.

There is also a "downstream" outlet that is not working, presumably because of this GFI outlet is not working.

I talked to an electrician friend of mine, who is going to come out and look at it next week, and he said that I could open the outlets up and check to see if the white wire's bare copper was touching the ground (bare copper) wire anywhere. As best I can tell, they are not touching.

I used a multimeter to check for voltage at the GFI outlet and the "downstream" outlet. As expected, there is nothing at the "downstream" outlet, but on the GFI outlet, there is a voltage differential of around 120 volts between the lower two terminals (where a white wire and a black wire are wired into the outlet.

To be a little more clear, I'm talking about the leftmost pair of wires in this diagram:
Can't Reset a GFCI Outlet?

This makes me think that there is current available to the receptacle, but it won't reset for some reason.

As far as I can tell from the exposed wires (I took the plates off and pulled both receptacles out), the wiring job is neat and clean and there is no exposed copper, except for the ground and where the wires are connected to the receptables. In other words, it doesn't *look* to me like the any of the conductors are touching where they shouldn't be.

Should I suspect a bad GFI outlet at this point, or is there somewhere else I should go? I'm not an electrician but I'm doing my best to understand this stuff! Thanks for any tips you can give me.

-Josh
 
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  #2  
Old 06-06-13, 07:42 PM
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Yes.....you measured and verified power coming into the GFI but it won't reset and, of course, the receptacle connected to it is dead. You could remove the load wires from the GFI just to make sure that the downstream receptacle and associated wire is not causing the fault.

It does appear to be a defective GFI recepatacle. Not uncommon. I change them constantly for the same problem.
 
  #3  
Old 06-07-13, 05:08 PM
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I've had them reset after I turn the power to them off for awhile. Don't ask me why that should matter but it has, a couple of times.

BTW, "upper" and "lower" don't mean anything when connecting and installing devices - just turn it over and the distinction is reversed. That said, check to make sure that the wires you're measuring the 120V across are connected to the LINE terminals on the GFCI receptacle, and the other two wires are connected to the LOAD terminals (it'll be marked on the back). They probably are, or everything wouldn't have worked before.

After you try resetting it with the load disconnected, you can also use wire nuts to connect the wires through without the GFCI and see if the protected receptacle works OK.

If it were mine, I probably would have replaced it by now.
 
  #4  
Old 06-07-13, 05:20 PM
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Like PJ, I carry 3 white and 3 Ivory on the truck all the time. They do go bad.
 
  #5  
Old 06-07-13, 07:53 PM
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It's working now!

I disconnected the "load" wires to the other receptacle, and confirmed the GFCI receptable was still not working and there was still voltage at the "line" terminals on the GFCI receptacle (there was).

I cut the breaker off, and then took the old GFCI receptacle out and then wired up the "line" terminals and grounding wire on the new GFCI receptacle. Turned breaker back on, and confirmed new GFCI terminal was working. It was--great news, seems like I'm on the right track!

Cut breaker back off, wired up "load" wires on GFCI terminal, cut breaker back on, and confirmed power was now working at both new GFCI receptacle and downstream "regular" receptacle. All good! And the "test" and "reset" buttons on the new GFCI outlet work.

I pushed the receptacles back into their boxes, screwed them in, and put the plates back on. Everything still working, and I'm a happy camper. Glad I didn't have to call an electrician for this. Thanks for the help!

-Josh
 
  #6  
Old 06-07-13, 08:01 PM
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Glad you got it working.

Like PJ, I carry 3 white and 3 Ivory on the truck all the time. They do go bad.
I prefer to replace them with GFCI breakers, as they seem to last longer.
 
  #7  
Old 06-07-13, 08:19 PM
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I prefer to replace them with GFCI breakers, as they seem to last longer.
Both GFCI receptacles and breakers are highly susceptible to damage from lightning storms.
 
  #8  
Old 06-07-13, 09:53 PM
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Both GFCI receptacles and breakers are highly susceptible to damage from lightning storms.
Yep, and there's a reason for that.
 
  #9  
Old 06-07-13, 09:55 PM
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I pushed the receptacles back into their boxes, screwed them in, and put the plates back on. Everything still working, and I'm a happy camper. Glad I didn't have to call an electrician for this. Thanks for the help!
Thank you for letting us know that you got it fixed, and what you did to make that happen.
 
  #10  
Old 06-08-13, 04:55 AM
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Justin, my choice is a mere economic one. GFCI receptacles fit. GFCI breakers cost $35, and you will go broke keeping all the different styles on hand, whereas the receptacles can be bought in 3 packs for less. I do prefer GFCI breakers, mainly because the entire cabling is protected. Many people think just because the GFCI receptacle has tripped, they can go in and work on it without shutting down the power.
 
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