How to Check for a Bad Circuit Breaker

How to Check for a Bad Circuit Breaker

A circuit breaker usually trips due to a short or overload. If this happens, check the main electrical panel; the tripped breaker will be in the middle position; to reset it, switch it off and back on. The power should be restored. But if the breaker won’t reset or trips soon after it’s switched on, it may not be working properly. We’ll now look at how to check for a bad circuit breaker and when to call an electrician.

How to Tell a Circuit Breaker Is Bad

If a breaker doesn’t reset, the reason may be:

  • The circuit is still overloaded
  • There is faulty wiring somewhere
  • The switch has a mechanical problem

A circuit breaker not resetting is generally a symptom of an underlying problem. To determine if the breaker is the source of the issue, check for these signs:

  • The Breaker Feels Hot: If the tripped breaker is hot, this is an immediate fire hazard. The electrical panel may also be damaged. Flip the main breaker off to cut electricity to your home and call an emergency electrician.
  • A Burning Smell Near the Breaker/Electrical Box: If something smells like it’s burning, assume it is. There may be a loose wire, melted insulation, something overheating, or a small fire inside the electrical panel.
  • The Breaker Is Damaged: A visual look at the affected breaker should help assess its condition. If the breaker or surface near it is scorched, rusted, or worn, have an electrician service your panel.
  • Buzzing or Humming Noises: Listen for any unusual noises. If you hear buzzing or humming from a breaker or wall outlet, it’s a sign the circuit is overloaded. There may be too many high-voltage appliances plugged in or faulty wiring.
  • Check the Breaker’s Label: Is the correct circuit breaker connected to the right circuit? If not, a lower-capacity breaker may be overloaded by higher-power appliances. If you can isolate the overloaded circuit, unplug devices/appliances, and reset the switch to see if it’s working properly. If it’s still not functioning correctly, call an electrician.
  • Move the Breaker’s Wire to Another Breaker (Not Recommended): Disconnecting the wire from one breaker and moving it to another can help determine if you have a bad circuit breaker. But this is extremely dangerous unless you have the proper training and experience. If not, don’t attempt to fix a circuit breaker yourself.

When to Check for a Bad Circuit Breaker

Don’t ignore signs of a faulty circuit breaker. They can precede an electrical failure or even a shock or home fire. Follow our tips for how to check for a bad circuit breaker, or call your local electrician, if you notice these signs:

  • Lights start to flicker or blink
  • Appliances perform less efficiently or stop working
  • A burning plastic odor in your home
  • Light bulbs burn out quickly
  • The breaker panel feels hot
  • A panel or other electrical component is scorched or damaged

It’s also a good idea to check older breakers. An older or aging breaker may fail to trip even if there’s an overload or short circuit, allowing the wiring to overheat until it ignites. To avoid this, keep up with electrical maintenance, periodically check for issues, and schedule regular inspections to determine when any updates are needed.

Call Express Electrical Services

We are available 24/7 to provide emergency electrical repairs in Southern California. Our licensed technicians can replace bad circuit breakers, faulty wiring, and damaged outlets and switches. They can also help if you need an electrical panel upgrade or a whole-house surge protector installed. If you need a pro for these and who knows how to check for a bad circuit breaker and replace it, call (323) 727-7799 today.