Circuit breaker trips with no load

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Old 07-11-17, 07:18 AM
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Circuit breaker trips with no load

The circuit breaker for outlets in our 2 bathrooms and outdoors (front of the house for Christmas lights, etc., and deck in the back of the house) trips immediately after I flip the circuit breaker on. To test at least if current is flowing, I plugged in a lamp on the bathroom outlet with its switch turned on. I then flipped on the circuit breaker and the lamp immediately lit for the fraction of a second it took for the circuit breaker to trip -- so I know power is flowing.

I read online that the likely causes are three: (1) overload (there is nothing plugged in so I don't think this is the problem), (2) short circuit, and (3) ground fault.

I intend to unscrew the cover on each of the outlets and eyeball the wires -- try to see if there is any wire touching something it shouldn't be touching.

My question is, can I also use a multimeter to test each individual outlet to see if it is shorted or has ground fault?

Thanks a lot.
 
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Old 07-11-17, 07:38 AM
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I'm assuming you use the bathroom receptacles daily so you know exactly when this started happening. What was going on around the house when this started? Did you drive any nails into the wall to hang pictures, etc? Are any of the outlets loose in the wall or did anyone monkey with them recently? Do any digging outside?

Is this a normal breaker or an AFCI/GFCI breaker?

I personally would remove the wire from the breaker to make sure it resets, before I started opening up boxes. The breaker could be bad. Shut off the main breaker first just to be safe. If you don't feel comfortable working in your panel then don't.

You can check for continuity between hot and neutral in any of those outlets. That won't tell you where the problem is though; just that it exists somewhere. To narrow it down you'll need to start disconnecting runs, which is rather tedious.
 
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Old 07-11-17, 08:08 AM
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As Core asked, is this breaker a GFCI breaker, it has a GFCI test button on it?
 
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Old 07-11-17, 08:26 AM
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Hi, core, pattenp. Thank you. It has been this way since we moved in over 10 years ago. I removed the GFCI in one of the bathrooms and replaced it with a regular AC outlet some years ago (on the suggestion of our next door neighbor whose brother was an electrician, if that counts for anything), but the circuit still trips. So I don't think it's something we did to the house.
 
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Old 07-11-17, 08:37 AM
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The breaker switch has a test button.

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Old 07-11-17, 08:55 AM
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You haven't had any working receptacles in either of your bathrooms for 10 years? And you are still married? There's gotta be an award for that or something.

So who knows what the previous guy did to cause this. I guess I'd start by pulling the outlets out of the boxes in all 4 locations. You don't need to disconnect any wires at this point, just have the boxes hanging out of the wall so that all the wires are nicely separated and not touching anything. See if the breaker resets then.

Normally when I run into this it's because the bare ground wire got a bit too close to the hot or neutral terminals while the person was stuffing the wires back into the box. Also look for nicks in the insulation.

If that doesn't work, then you'll likely have to disconnect all of the receptacles so everything's isolated and go from there with the testing. Unless someone else can think of an easier way.
 
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Old 07-11-17, 12:33 PM
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Thank you, core. Lol! I hope it's just that -- ground close to hot wire. I'll check and update this thread.

EDIT: Forgot to say the bathroom ceiling lights work so they must be on another circuit. We weren't showering in the dark for the past 10 years.
 
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Old 07-11-17, 12:40 PM
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I hope it's just that -- ground close to hot wire
Keep in mind it also may be ground close to the neutral wire, since this is a GFCI breaker. Be on the lookout for anything suspicious going on with the grounds or neutrals. Previous owner may have done something silly in an effort to fool the home inspector when he was selling the house. Or if one of the bathroom receptacles is in the same box as the light switch, someone may have accidentally grabbed the wrong neutral or connected all of them together where they shouldn't be.
 
 

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