What To Do When Your GFCI Won’t Reset

What To Do When Your GFCI Won’t Reset

Understanding GFCI Reset Issues

Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) trip when there’s a ground fault, overload, or surge in electricity, cutting power in a fraction of a second. A GFCI prevents burns, electrical shocks, and electrocution around outlets and appliances near water sources or moisture. California building codes require GFCI outlets in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms. An outlet’s reset button can quickly restore power, but if the issue that caused it to trip isn’t resolved or the outlet itself is faulty, you may find the GFCI won’t reset.

This may occur for several reasons:

  • Moisture or dust are still present
  • The circuit breaker has tripped
  • An electrical connection has gone bad

The experienced electricians at Electrical Express in Southern California provide a comprehensive range of electrical services, with upfront pricing and fast, reliable service. Feel free to call us with questions about your GFCI outlets. 

Troubleshooting Steps

If pressing the reset button doesn’t get your GFCI working again, or if the GFCI test button won’t push in, you can try the following steps:

1. Use the test and reset buttons 

A typical GFCI outlet has a black test button and a red reset button. Pressing the test button lets you verify the outlet can cut power if necessary. If it trips, you can unplug appliances on the circuit and press the reset button. If it clicks, appliances should work when you plug them back in. But if the outlet continues to trip, it may be overloaded, so plug in one appliance at a time until the outlet trips again. This process of elimination can help figure out what is overloading the circuit.

2. Check the circuit breaker box

Locate the main electrical panel and open the metal door. The breaker handles should all be aligned. If one isn’t aligned with the rest, it has probably tripped. Move it to the “on” position. But if the tripped breaker won’t hold, press it firmly in the “off” position; once it clicks, push it back to the “on” position. If it turns back off, there could be a wiring problem, a ground fault, or a faulty appliance. In this case, contact the pros at  Express Electrical Services for assistance. 

3. Use a circuit tester

The latest GFCI outlets have a built-in self-testing feature. It contains LED indicators that shine green to show when the outlet is working correctly and red when it needs to be replaced. However, an older GFCI outlet must be tested manually. This can be done with a circuit breaker finder, which can measure and display the strength of the electrical current received by the outlet. It can help determine if just one or multiple outlets are affected.

4. Look at whether any moisture is present

The average annual relative humidity in California is around 52.4%, which can cause moisture to build up under certain conditions. All traces of moisture must be removed before resetting the GFCI. If this was the cause, the outlet should reset when it is dry; press the reset button, listen for the click, and plug something in to verify that power has been restored to that location.

5. Ensure there isn’t a generator plugged in

While the right backup generator may offer a relatively low-cost way to supply your home with much-needed power during an outage (or when you need to shut the power off due to a faulty GFCI switch), never plug your backup generator into your wall outlet or electrical panel. The transfer switch may prevent your regular utility-supplied electricity from causing “backfeeding,” which may lead to an overload that destroys appliances and causes fires and other electrical grid issues. 

Addressing Specific GFCI Reset Button Issues

When a GFCI won’t reset, assessing the symptoms can help determine the source of the problem and arrive at a quicker solution. Here are a few examples to help you get started:

  • The reset button doesn’t pop out: You may not have pushed it in enough, the current may not reach the outlet, or it may be defective
  • The reset button won’t stay in: The GFCI may be miswired, not receiving enough current, or the line and load may be reversed. There may also be a ground fault downstream of the outlet
  • Devices work, but the reset button is out: The line and load may be reversed or the GFCI is defective
  • Nothing works, but the button is in: This can mean a possible defect in the GFCI or it may be miswired; voltage levels may be low
  • The reset pops when you turn on a device: There could be a wiring error or a downstream ground fault

Several factors can complicate matters. If a GFCI is protecting several downstream outlets, no matter where they are, a trip can be caused by anyone, making the source less obvious. Ground fault circuit interrupters can also interfere with one another. For example, if you have one in the bathroom, it can cause another in the garage to trip.

There are also different brands and designs. Some can have offset push buttons and may be more difficult to reset. Tamper-resistant designs can create challenges as well.

When to Call a Local Electrician

If your GFCI continues to trip, you may need to adjust the load, repair a wiring connection, or install a new outlet. Experienced professionals like our team at Express Electrical should do all repairs. Addressing the issue may seem simple, but you could risk serious damage and injury by DIYing an electrical problem.

A qualified electrician can also talk to you about upgrading your electrical panel to better handle new appliances and more electronic devices at once. 

Frequently Asked Questions About GFCI Reset Issues

Why won’t my GFCI reset button stay in when pushed?

There’s likely an underlying issue, like a ground fault located downstream from the outlet. This could be due to insulation breakdown, especially in damp, wet, or dusty conditions. 

What could be causing my GFCI outlet to trip repeatedly?

Tripping may be due to an overloaded circuit, an electrical fault, or a faulty outlet. A live wire may have come into contact with the ground wire, or moisture may have entered the receptacle box.  

Is it safe to continue using the outlet if the GFCI reset button won’t stay in?

If your GFCI won’t reset, it could indicate a dangerous electrical problem. Contact an electrician to come check it out before continuing use.

How can I troubleshoot a GFCI outlet that won’t reset?

If your GFCI reset button won’t stay in when pushed, you shouldn’t attempt to fix the issue yourself. Experienced electricians take the proper precautions to check the issue for you safely. 

Are there specific conditions or appliances that might be causing the GFCI to trip?

The most common reasons for a GFCI to trip are a faulty appliance, an overloaded circuit, a moist environment, a faulty outlet, or a ground fault. 

Should I attempt to fix the GFCI outlet myself, or is it better to call a professional electrician?

It’s better to call a professional. GFCI outlets are more complex than your average electrical outlet and can be dangerous if not set up correctly. 

What are the potential risks of ignoring a GFCI outlet that won’t reset?

If your GFCI test button won’t push in or reset, the underlying issues could put you at risk of electrical shock or starting an electrical fire. Southern Californians can call Express Electrical any time, day or night, and we’ll be there to address your issue right away. 

Contact Express Electrical Services

A GFCI outlet is more complicated to install and repair than a standard outlet, and at Express Electrical Services, our electricians are familiar with proper GFCI outlet placement, wiring, and operation. 

If your home doesn’t have a GFCI outlet or a component is defective, we can help improve safety and ensure your property is up to code. For service in Los Angeles and other parts of Southern California, contact us at (855) 324-5796 or request an appointment online today.