A tripped circuit breaker can be a sign of trouble with wiring, and may require a trained professional to get to the root of the problem. This guide is about troubleshooting circuit breaker problems.
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Here are questions related to Troubleshooting Circuit Breaker Problems.
Does a breaker trip due to wet/moisture near the circuit? The old fridge has been replaced and a new cable has been run due to the moisture from the AC before. That circuit has been changed, now the breaker trips after a short period. Any explanation why it keep tripping?
By tek from Dallas, TX
I plugged in a vacuum cleaner in the living room and had other things going (TV, etc.) and blew the circuit. I unplugged everything and tried to re-set the circuit breaker (switch to off then back to on position). However, the switch will not switch completely to the off or on position. I can move the switch in either direction, but not enough for it to stay there. It goes right back to the middle. Can someone tell me if there is anything else I can try, or does thia mean I have to pay to have an electrician come in and repair this? Many thanks in advance!
Frazzled in Mass from Needham, MA
By Bret (Guest Post)11/22/2008
Thanks for your post. I was able to successfully change a circuit (15) by using your directions. It solved my problem. I noticed some people saying you should not do because you could burn your house down and such. But if they follow your instructions and turn off the main. It is relatively simple to do. I just made sure I had rubber handle needle nose to guide the house wire back into the new circuit as well as a big rubber handle screwdriver. Thanks for people like you. Bret
I turned off the main breaker and when I turned it back on my pool equipment is not working.
This is not a good sign-have a licensed electrician out to troubleshoot this because it's not a simple fix. Something in the wiring between the pool system and the circuit breaker is chewed/frayed/broken or loose, and a professional will have the specialised tools to track it down quickly.
I am working on my basement. I've installed new lights on a breaker, laundry room lights on the second breaker, the third breaker has four outlets, and the fourth breaker has three outlets. All the breakers are new and 20AMP. I had no problem with running the first three, but the forth one keeps tripping, even when I've got only one outlet on it. Any suggestions?
Breakers are cheaply made in China. It is not unusual for one to be bad. Luckily they are cheap enough to try a new one.
I asked an electrician to fix the circuit breaker in my house because it was tripping. So he connected 4mm wire between the neutral and the earth. All was well for 2 days, then it kept tripping whenever you pull out the wire. What could be the problem? Could it be a floating neutral?
By Justine from SA
Some where on that circuit there is a bad neutral. You should not have to add the wire to it? Did you nail in something to wall and then it happened (*maybe nicked the neutral)?
Neutral wire could have broken.
Wire nut could have come loose in junction box.
Is the line overloaded? running too much stuff.
The circuit breakers in all my four bedrooms are tripped and cannot be switched on, but the bathrooms are OK. I don't think the breakers are bad or the circuits are shorted because they are individual, and cannot all be bad at the same time.
By Peter C. from Katy, TX
This just happened to us. We had to call an electrician. Some time ago my Dear Hubby changed out a light switch and because he is colorblind got the wires mixed up when he hooked it back up. Any way our circuit breaker went to ground and we needed an electrician to fix it.
I recently purchased a house, and it is clear that the previous owner had not always done things correctly. My present concern is that there seems to be 14 gauge wire running off a 20 AMP breaker. I believe this is a code violation, and more importantly a fire risk. I would rather not open up the walls to replace the wire. Assuming the circuit would be OK on a 15, can I just have the breaker replaced? Is that an adequate solution?
Yes, that is a code violation and a fire risk.
And it invalidates the insurance.
To fix the problem,
1) get a breaker from the same brand and series but with a 15 Amp rating
2) turn the 20 Amp breaker off and pull it out.
3) swap the wire, that goes to it, over to the 15 Amp breaker
4) Make sure the 15 Amp breaker is turned OFF
5) insert the 15 Amp breaker
6) make sure the 15 Amp breaker is inserted fully and looks level with the other breakers
7) turn the 15 Amp breaker on and test the appliances or outlets that are fed from it.
If you forget point 4), there will be scary sounding arcing and sparking that could startle you into falling off your ladder or chair.
Would changing a 15 amp circuit breaker to a 20 or 30 make it stronger?
By Geremy C.
I am no electrician, by any means, but I do know that the purpose for the breaker is to trip the breaker if you overload the circuit. To circumvent this, could cause an electrical fire. If the circuit is supposed to have only a 15 amp breaker, it would be extremely dangerous to replace it with anything higher than a 15 amp.
Harlean from Arkansas
I think I have an overloaded 15 amp breaker. The outlets work, but then they flicker on and off, as well as some lights. Can I replace the 15 amp breaker with a higher amp breaker to offset this?
I am dog sitting for my parents for two weeks and I went to turn on the living room light at night to grab a few things before bed. It did not turn on so I tried the fan connected to it and that didn't work neither. So I went to the main bathroom (there are three bathrooms in total) and even that light and fan didn't turn on. There is also a washer and dryer in there, not in use, that said PF for power failure, but when I was in a bedroom upstairs trying to put my two year old to bed earlier everything in that one room is working fine so I didn't suspect a power failure. So I booked it all the way down stairs to the basement checking all the other lights and they were all working to the power box and all the fuses are working, so I don't understand. So I took a little walk outside the house to see if I can find another fuse box and I don't see anything. Btw I used to live here since I was 13 and everything worked fine. I have contacted my parents about this, but their trip is to early to come back, but I have told them about this. But maybe you can help me somehow.
Sometimes fuses will read as being live even though not supplying full voltage to a circuit; circuit breakers have been known to have failed to 'flip' even though there is a fault in the circuit that has caused a power cut.
The sooner a professional licensed electrician is in there, the better. Until then, shut off the power to the fuses/circuit breakers that feed that circuit. Yes, it will be inconvenient but not near as inconvenient as a fire!
I have just updated my bathroom and I have put six spot lights in, an electric fan, and an electric mirror. When I installed the lights and mirror I also put a dimmer switch on and they seemed to work OK, but three of the transformers to the spot light broke. I don't know if that has anything to do with dimmer switch.
Then my electric fan arrived and I made the mistake of getting a timer fan. This I found out needs a permanent live that I don't have due to me taking power from the spot light circuit. I think I've found I solution to that problem; I hope.
But the thing that is really puzzling me is I changed my light switch back to a normal switch instead of the dimmer, but when the spot lights are on my mirror loses power then when I turn them off it regains power. The mirror has its own permanent live with a switch, but this does come off the spotlight circuit as well.
When I had the dimmer switch they both worked together until I turned lights up to full, then the mirror would lose power. This seems to tell me that for some reason my breaker isn't giving enough power out to run all. Is this possible or is the another way around it?
By T&T Grandma09/09/2013
First, are you an electrician. If not, get the advice of one. A dimmer switch, as they used to be, is different, depending on the use. They don't all work for every kind of appliance/light/light bulb. Make sure you have enough circuit breaker power for your bathroom.
You did not say if you have a GFI installed. That is a law for bathrooms, etc places where water is.
And please, check even if online for professional help. This Old House, The Handyman, are both good sites.
My home has partial power, I checked my circuit breakers, everything looks normal (I guess). How can I tell if my circuit breaker is broken or damaged? My basement has power and appliances work down there, but upstairs, my kitchen appliances and lights are out, and in 3 bedrooms, but I have power in 3 other rooms. WTHeck, I want to fix it myself, what do I do and how do I start?
By Pudding from Southfield, MI
Start by flipping the breakers on and off once or twice. Sometimes breakers trip, but don't look like they are tripped. If that doesn't fix the problem, call an electrician. You should not attempt anything electrical if you have no idea what you are doing.
I have an electrical outlet that runs all my outside and garage outlets, about 9 outlets all together. It has a trip fuse on it and it keeps tripping.
I have unplugged everything from all the outlets and it keeps tripping. I have replaced the outlet, still tripping. The fuse box does not trip; it is working.
I had a outside pool pump plugged into the backyard outlet and the pump kept shutting down and starting when it was supposed to remain on. I replaced the pump. Would it be possible for that outlet to be damaged because maybe the pump overheated?
By Snake from Hope Mills, NC
By T&T Grandma06/09/2010
Time to get an electrician out before you have a fire your someone gets hurt. Sounds like faulty wiring.
Any time your trip action happens, it is for a reason like over load Don't just restart it with the same things again.
I had to change the outlet in the bedroom because it almost burned. I put in the new outlet then went to turn on the main circuit breaker. It was so hard it to move that it broke off. Now everything is working except for my refrigerator and an outlet near it. Any suggestions?
You can replace the circuit breaker. The main breakers are very hard to push and you apparently have an old one and the plastic was brittle. You need to know what kind of breaker box it is and take it with you and if it isn't too old the hardware co may have one or an electrician can tell you where to go. He just might help you because the job is really minor. The major problem is the short in the broken breaker.
If a #12 wire is connected to a 15 amp breaker, can I assume that it is safe to replace the 15 amp breaker with a 20 amp breaker?
By Douglas from Sacramento
Changing just 5 amps causes more resistance, can double temperature of wire. wires may over heat and cause FIRE! Please get knowledgeable help. Not a DIY Project.
We purchased a new stove/oven a year ago, replacing one that was 20 years old. About a month ago, the circuit breaker started tripping whenever my wife was using the oven and more than one burner on the stovetop. We had an appliance repairman out to check the stove. He said the stove was drawing 49 amps with multiple burners on, and the 220V circuit breaker was a 50 amp breaker, that it had probably been weakened from the more powerful stove. He advised replacing it with a 60 amp 220V circuit breaker. Can I do that?
By William K.
I have 20 spotlights fitted downstairs in my lounge, kitchen, and hall. It was done a month ago. The lights just went out and the breaker trip switch won't switch back on. Any advice? Thanks.
I recently moved into my condo and I noticed that when they painted the walls the painters went over the outlets so some were filled with paint. I decided to change out the outlets so I went to a hardware store, purchased some standard outlets and watched a bunch of YouTube tutorials.
My first outlet had the ground wire and instead of having 2 black and 2 white wires there was one of each and they were solid, not cut just a solid wire. I went back to the hardware store and they said to just connect it the same way on the new outlet. I went home and did that.
All the outlets run through the same wires. It concerned me though that only one outlet had a ground wire, is that OK? Also I bought the light indicator to let me know everything was connected OK and got the code that it was. Now, 2 days later, with only a lamp connected and on, the circuit breaker went off. I tried turning it back into the on position, but it keeps going off. It won't stay in the on position; what should I do? I am hoping it's only the circuit breaker.
By Carlos from Chicago