Circuit Breaker Won't Switch On or Off

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

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Dear Frazzled

Sounds like the circuit breaker has died. They are available at hardware and building supply stores.

To change a circuit breaker, turn off the main breaker on top. Then, with the largest flat screwdriver, that just fits into the slot on the screw, that attaches the wire to the breaker, loosen that screw, but don't remove it. Just loosen it and pull the wire out, but not too far away.

Then use the flat screwdriver to tilt the dead breaker back, away from the center. Then it's easy to pull it out.

With the dead breaker in hand, go to the hardware store and buy a replacement 15 (fifteen) Amp breaker. Do NOT get one with a higher rating!

Then shove that new breaker into the slot in the panel, and after making 100% sure that the main breaker is off, attach the old wire to it. Then, with the largest flat screwdriver, that just fits into the slot on the screw, tighten that screw until you hear it squeak.

Turn the main breaker on and turn the new breaker on, and everything will be fine.

You may be curious about why I harp on using a big screw driver. There are two reasons for that:

1) it is less likely to slip off and cause an injury or damage expensive parts 2) a small screwdriver will mess up the screw

before you have tightened it enough.

Have FUN!


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Dear Webby has it right.However,if you don't feel comfortable from the directions go to a electrical supply store and ask then to show you how or go over to your local trade school and talk with the electrical teacher and have him show you how to change the breaker.BE SURE TO TURN OFF THE MAIN SWITCH BEFORE DOING ANY WORK ON THE PANEL>

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Call your electrician!! It is easier and a whole lot safer, speaking from experience!!

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First make sure you are letting the breaker cool down- it might take a few minutes- then try- if that did fix the problem cal a qualified electian

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I had this happen to me, only it was the main breaker, so I called the electric compnay. I paid $50 to see a guy stand on a step ladder and push it really hard. I was embarrassed and then mad because that costed me $50!!

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1 - Can I turn the main switch back on after the faulty circuit has been removed (so the family can still watch TV while I run to the hardware store)?

2 - If I have a circuit breaker, that is the same model as many of the others, but has lost most of its tension by comparison (it still holds its place in the on and off position, but it takes the slightest nudge to move it), does that infer it is going bad and needs to be replaced?

3 - I had a short blow out an overhead light fixture badly enough to melt the plastic and make the wires brittle. This did not blow the this a problem, or are fixtures too small a draw to flip the circuit?

Thanks all!

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I was advised by someone who knows that if a breaker goes bad, and one elects to replace it himself, that a breaker of the same make and model is the best bet. Evidently there are differences. My own problem was something that I did not want to handle and I called a licensed electrician to handle. Good luck!

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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

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It sounds like the breaker switch is bad... or worse case there is metal touching a wire. Or polarization has occurred. The latter needs an electrican. Good luck

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In This Article
Electrician Working on Circuit Breakers
Troubleshooting Circuit Breaker Problems
Home and Garden Repair Home ElectricalFebruary 16, 2006
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