What To Do When Your GFCI Won’t Reset

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. For outlets and appliances near water sources or moisture, a GFCI prevents burns, electrical shocks, and electrocution. The use of GFCI outlets is often required by building codes. 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, including:

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

If pressing the reset button doesn’t get your GFCI working again, try the following steps:

Use the Test and/or 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.

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.

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.

Look Whether Any Moisture Is Present

All traces of moisture must be removed before resetting the GFCI. If you have a hairdryer plugged into the outlet, remove the plug and insert it into a different outlet. Aim the dryer at the affected GFCI and turn it on. Continue until all the moisture is removed. 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.

Assess the Symptoms

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 be reaching 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. The source of the problem may not be immediately 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.

If your GFCI still continues to trip, you may need to adjust the load, repair a wiring connection, or install a new outlet. Any repairs should be performed by an experienced professional. Addressing the issue if your GFCI won’t reset may seem simple, but you could risk serious damage and injury by DIYing an electrical problem.

Contact Express Electrical Services

A GFCI outlet is more complicated to install and repair than a standard outlet. Our electricians are familiar with proper GFCI outlet placement, wiring, and operation. If your home doesn’t have one or a component is defective, we can help improve safety and ensure your property is up to code. Learn more about why your GFCI won’t reset, request service online, or call 323-727-7799 to request an appointment today.