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Circuit Breaker Won’t Reset

My circuit breaker won’t reset.  What is the problem?  What can I check for?  This is one of the most common issues that can happen within the home’s electrical system.

There can be several reasons that a circuit breaker won’t reset.  First we must look at the function of the circuit breaker.  A circuit breaker is designed to limit the current on a circuit to the rated level (measured in amperage) for which it, and the circuit is designed to operate at.  A breaker is also designed to trip on a sudden and extremely high flow of current (short circuit) condition.

Here are the most common reasons why a circuit breaker won’t reset:

1.  Are you taking the proper steps to attempt to reset the breaker?  You must push the breaker handle firmly and fully to the off position, and then back to on.
2.  An overloaded circuit.  If the circuit breaker trips, and won’t reset immediately, but after a cool down period it can be reset, then trips again after a few minutes, then the problem is likely an overloaded circuit.  Your circuit breaker won’t reset because you may have too many heavy loads plugged into receptacles or electrical outlets on that particular circuit. You may have too many lights on that circuit, or bulbs installed in fixtures that the wattage rating is too high.  You may have a faulty appliance plugged into the circuit that is causing the problem.  To troubleshoot the cause, start by unplugging everything, and shut off light fixtures, etc.  Then if the breaker stays reset, start plugging in and turning lights back on until a problem becomes evident.
3.  A short circuit.  If the circuit breaker won’t reset, and trips immediately, then you probably have a short circuit condition.  Take the same steps as above to attempt to isolate the cause.
4.  It is possible, but much less likely that the breaker itself is faulty.

It is important to remember that if the circuit breaker won’t reset, then it is likely a sure sign that you have a problem that needs attention.  If your circuit breaker won’t reset, find out what is causing the problem.  Never replace the breaker with one of a higher rating as a permanent or even a temporary fix.  This can cause a dangerous condition of over-heating the wires, and possibly a fire.

Once you’ve rectified the situation, you can try resetting the breaker.  Here’s a link to my article that talks more about how to reset a tripped breaker and how to reset it, and includes a video demonstrating the process.

I hope this information helps!  Thanks for taking the time to read this article.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel to share them below.

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  • Dhaval_navaneet

    Good Explanation..!!

  • Allamericas

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.  Problem solved from your number 1 suggestion.  Turn ALL the way OFF.  Who woulda thunk it could be that simple?  Your site made my day!  Thank you again. 🙂

  • Arnold

    Turn power all the way off was my problem too. Thanks!


The Basics of Household Wiring DVD

"If you're looking for a good reference to help you understand simple home wiring, I personally recommend 'The Basics of Household Wiring' DVD".

Terry Peterman, the Internet Electrician
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