Circuit breakers can fail for multiple reasons. Most of the time it’s due to an overloaded circuit, a circuit breaker that wasn’t reset properly, or a short circuit. And when it comes down to it, circuit breakers are there to protect you from electrical faults and fires, so it’s important to know how to tell if the circuit breaker is bad.
Is My Circuit Breaker Bad?
If you think your circuit breaker has a problem, then it could be time to contact an electrician. But before you do, here are some steps you can take to determine if your circuit breaker is bad.
Identify the Circuit That the Breaker Is Protecting
When you first notice a problem with your circuit breaker, determine which circuit the breaker is protecting. To do this, head over to your electrical panel and look for one of these:
- A label next to the breaker that’s tripping
- A diagram on the circuit panel’s door
The label or diagram should clearly list which circuit the breaker is protecting. If there are no labels or diagram on the electrical panel, consider labeling the circuit breakers yourself.
Unplug Electrical Devices from the Circuit
Once you’ve identified the circuit that’s controlled by the tripped circuit breaker, make sure the breaker is in the OFF position, and unplug all devices in the circuit. This eliminates any chance of an electrical surge or other electrical problems occurring as you complete step 3.
Reset the Circuit Breaker
Once all the appliances are unplugged, you can reset the breaker by switching it back to the ON position. If you don’t hear and feel a definite click when you flip the breaker switch, the circuit breaker may have a fault.
After resetting the circuit breaker, if it doesn’t trip again immediately, then the original cause of the issue was likely an overloaded circuit. Move some plugs over to a different circuit, and then reset the circuit breaker again.
If the circuit breaker trips again immediately, then the problem is either a short circuit or a bad breaker.