Breaker switch not reseting


Old 10-20-01, 02:14 AM
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Hi! The problem I have is that a breaker switch is not reseting. What do I do next?

I have turned "everything" off on that line upstairs, so there should be no overload situation, but I still can't reset it.

I'm assuming that there is a "short" somewhere on the line causing this problem!?!?

We've been having problems with one particular outlet. We avoid using it because whenever anything gets plugged into that outlet, it threw the switch in the breaker box (which was easily remedied by reseting the breaker box switch). But I can't reset it anymore. Is there anything I can do, or do I call an electrician. Thanks...Mike
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Old 10-20-01, 04:55 AM
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Mike, you may just have a bad breaker. When you use a breaker a lot, it doesn't last long.

First, I would completely remove the suspicious receptacle from the wall. Disconnect all the wires from it (make a record of how they were connected), and cap all the individual wires. Then see if you can reset the breaker.

If you cannot, then I would have an electrician replace the breaker (it's not very hard to do, but if you're inexperienced in electrical work, then a breaker replacement isn't the place to get started).

In any event, I'd put in a new receptacle. If you have aluminum wiring, don't attempt this without educating yourself in the proper methods.

If the new receptacle still trips the breaker, then you need to carefully inspect the receptacles on either side of this one.
Old 10-20-01, 05:07 AM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Fayetteville, NY, USA
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I can't know if you have electical knowledge or skills. The receptacle you mentioned as the one you avoid which trips the breaker when used seems like the probable cause. If you are able to do this with any confidence at all the procedure is not dangerous, and electrical receptacles are nothing more that basic nuts & bolts to install/replace. As long as you know a few of the basics.

First, I would always recommend having an electrical tester if you are working on electricity. I would make sure the breaker is off and then I would shove the two probes of the meter into the two slots of the receptacle to make absolutely certain the power is really off by the meter showing zero volts. A good little electric meter costs $9.94 at Home Depot, a Sperry SP-5A. Sperry is a top name, and that's a great little meter.

Now, take off the wallplate and unscrew the receptacle from its box. Pull the receptacle out far enough where you can visually inspect it. Look for insulation damage on the wires such as chafing or cuts. This often happens when cutting the white jacket off a romex cable, or when stuffing wires back into the box during installation. If you can see copper color through the insulation, tape it 4 or 5 wraps with high quality electrical tape. I personally recommend Scotch "33+" brand. It's good for 10,000 volts per wrap. If there is any damage internally you won't be able to tell visually, unless the plastic face of the recep is broken, but little brass & copper pieces inside it may be broken and touching each other where they shouldn't be, causing a short-circuit. You may have noticed that it doesn't "feel" right when previously plugging stuff into that recep. This would indicate broken internal parts.

The easiest, safest and cheapest solution is to buy a new duplex receptacle at your local home center and install it. You will want to make sure the wiring order is maintained from the old recep to the new one. One way I do this is to physically bend each conductor diagonally toward the top left, the top right, bottom left, bottom right, pointing clearly in the direction of the side screws I removed the wires from on the the old recep. You should have two blacks on one side, pointing up & down, and two whites on the opposite side pointing up & down. Just make sure that when installing the new one you place black wires on the brass colored screws and white wires on the silver colored screws. The ground, and there should only be one which is why I didn't ask you to keep track of it, goes on the green hex shaped screw.

It must also be confirmed that niether receptacle on this duplex receptacle is controlled by a light switch. You would know because one would be always live, and the other would be live with switch on and dead with switch off. This is for plugging in a floor or table lamp to illuminate the room from a switch near the room's entrance. Many people go wrong where a switch is involved, and become very confused. There are a few details that need to be explained, which are not difficult to follow, if a switch is involved. I won't muddy the water with these details unless this is your case and you ask for them.

Anyway, I feel that replacing this receptacle is the answer to your troubles. Please write back and let us know how it turned out, or if you have further questions. We always like to see a happy ending, or will try further to help make it happen. Good luck.

Old 10-21-01, 01:04 PM
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Thank you for your recommendations, the problem has been fixed.

I replaced the "problem" receptical and I was then able to reset the breaker. Thank you both for your recommendations, you were a great help!
Old 10-22-01, 02:13 AM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Fayetteville, NY, USA
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I always love to hear a happy ending. Good luck!


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