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Replacing a Circuit Breaker


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I appreciate all the information on this subforum, so I have another question.

Just yesterday, all of my power going to my garage (detached) suddenly stopped working and it was suddenly black. So I think, okay, go to the basement and flip the 15 AMP for the garage and then go back to the garage.

The problem is that on the panel, I can move the switch back, but it then either flips back in 3 seconds or it is simply loose and not acting like it should, where it would be a solid flip.

I am wondering what I am looking at and if replacing the breaker is as simple as it looks?

I appreciate all responses,

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Hopefully one of the electricians will answer, but until then...

A qualified yes, not all that hard to change out a breaker. Just remember that when the cover is off the panel, everything is hot and you're looking at some serious amps, whatever the rating is on the main breaker. I would suggest you kill the main breaker and work by lantern or flashlight. BUT remember that everything above the main is still hot.

Forgive me for asking the question, but are you turning the breaker all the way off, then back on?

You may also consider whether you really do have a bad breaker (I've never had one go bad, but I've heard of it happening) or is there a problem on the circuit that is causing the breaker to trip every time you reset it. Could be most anything: loose wire, bad switch or receptacle, etc.

Enough of me playing electrician. Hopefully one of the sparkys will come along with some input.

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Hopefully one of the electricians will answer, but until then...

A qualified yes, not all that hard to change out a breaker. Just remember that when the cover is off the panel, everything is hot and you're looking at some serious amps, whatever the rating is on the main breaker. I would suggest you kill the main breaker and work by lantern or flashlight. BUT remember that everything above the main is still hot.

Forgive me for asking the question, but are you turning the breaker all the way off, then back on?

You may also consider whether you really do have a bad breaker (I've never had one go bad, but I've heard of it happening) or is there a problem on the circuit that is causing the breaker to trip every time you reset it. Could be most anything: loose wire, bad switch or receptacle, etc.

Enough of me playing electrician. Hopefully one of the sparkys will come along with some input.

This and adding, take the old breaker to the store so your getting the correct one for your panel.

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Before I would just assume a bad breaker I would start by trusting that it is in fact doing its job. If one starts with this assumption then one must also assume there is a short circuit somewhere that is causing the breaker to trip.

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I agree Bob and cavalierowner covered that.

I was being lazy, guess I could elaborate a little more.

Flip the Main then reset the 15 amp breaker. If it still feels goofy then walla! smile

We can go further depending on what you find. In the garage, you should have a panel.

Flip the Main off. That could be 40 50 60 100 or whatever amp, it doesn't matter because the 15 amp in the house is protecting the wire from the house panel to garage. Might as well unplug everything in the garage and turn off all the lights. Go inside the house and reset the breaker. Hopefully it doesn't trip.

Go back to the garage and turn all the breakers off in the panel. Now turn the Main on. Go look in the house to see of the breaker tripped. It shouldn't. Now go back in the garage and turn one breaker on. Back in the house checking the breaker. Repeat till the breaker trips and let us know what you find.

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Here is my professional opinion based on the info given.

Take the wire off the breaker and see if it acts normal or not. If it acts normal, then the problem lies downstream from the panel. If it still acts bad, the breaker is at fault. breakers usually don't go bad but maybe this one did.

I would say that there is a fault (short) in the system somewhere. With your detached garage you didn't mention how it was fed. Is it in conduit, direct bury, overhead, UF cable, XHHW, THHN or what?

You mention that after you turn it back on, it sometimes takes about 3 seconds before it trips again. That to me indicated that the fault is a high resistance, like maybe a rodent chewing thru the insulation of the wires underground and the recent rains completing the path.

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Quote:
You mention that after you turn it back on, it sometimes takes about 3 seconds before it trips again. That to me indicated that the fault is a high resistance, like maybe a rodent chewing thru the insulation of the wires underground and the recent rains completing the path.

A little off topic but not a lot but does lend support to what you wrote, mnfishingguy. Christmas 2012 we left for the weekend. We came back to no water in the house. I found the circuit breaker feeding our well pump was tripped. I reset it, closed the panel door, and was about three steps away when I heard it trip again. I walked out to our well and opened the well cap to find the casing full of smoke. Yup, I let the smoke out of the pump motor. Hate it when that happens.

Called a well driller to come out so we could pull up the pitless to replace the pump motor and see if we can determine why it burned up. Turned out that our well casing was beginning to deteriorate and the motor was full of rusty metal flakes. Ended up replacing the well.

Anyway, after getting things back together we discovered that I had live power on the grounded wire coming from my house service panel. After a little more testing we were able to determine that my wire must have been broken under ground somewhere between the house and the well 200' away. Rather than trying to find it, I just replaced the wire.

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I hope this helps...

When I am facing the panel, I look up the garage panel breaker placement. I know to always switch it back and that's that. Well, when I do it with this particular one and this particular time, it either will result in two outcomes 1) move left/right with no force as if it was about to fall off and obviously not intact or 2) I can flip it and get that force of the switch when you do a switch on a normal trip. However, within 3 seconds, it trips and goes back to off.

I was thinking that this might work:

No outlets have been touched in the garage, no one putzing around with the panel.

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I do not have a separate panel in the detached garage. Only light and power coming in that the garage motor is connected to.

Because the breaker is loose and/or switching but switching back in 3 seconds seems like a simple faulty breaker, no?

I agree Bob and cavalierowner covered that.

I was being lazy, guess I could elaborate a little more.

Flip the Main then reset the 15 amp breaker. If it still feels goofy then walla! smile

We can go further depending on what you find. In the garage, you should have a panel.

Flip the Main off. That could be 40 50 60 100 or whatever amp, it doesn't matter because the 15 amp in the house is protecting the wire from the house panel to garage. Might as well unplug everything in the garage and turn off all the lights. Go inside the house and reset the breaker. Hopefully it doesn't trip.

Go back to the garage and turn all the breakers off in the panel. Now turn the Main on. Go look in the house to see of the breaker tripped. It shouldn't. Now go back in the garage and turn one breaker on. Back in the house checking the breaker. Repeat till the breaker trips and let us know what you find.

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The good news is that circuit breakers are dirt cheap. Last I bought one a couple years ago, you could get them for around $5 unless you have a really old or odd-ball panel. So if you replace the breaker and it still doesn't work because of a problem elsewhere, you're not out a lot of money or time.

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If it were me I would unplug all the devices that are on the circuit, if it still trips then turn off the main breaker and take the cover off. Find a nearby breaker that is the same amperage rating and disconnect the wire coming off it and the "bad" breaker then connect the wire that was coming off the "bad" breaker to the good breaker and turn the main breaker back on. If the good breaker now acts the same way as the bad breaker was you have an issue somewhere in the circuit. If the breaker is now functioning normally you have a bad breaker. When you are done don't forget to return all wires to their previous locations.

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Buying a new breaker and seeing if it fixes the problem be a lot less trouble. If it doesn't fix it you are out a few bucks and have a spare.

This isn't some goofy gfi or arc suppressing breaker is it?

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No trouble at all! It would take me 30 seconds.

Loosen 2 screws, pull the wires out and place one wire back in and tighten the screw.

More trouble is pulling a breaker that may not even be bad, running to the hardware store, buying something he may not even need that once used is not returnable, going home and installing it to see if it fixes the problem. Waste of money,gas, and time!

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I do this for a living, do this.

1, Take the wire off the breaker.

2, Try to reset breaker. If breaker resets, breaker is NOT the problem. If breaker still behaves wrong, replace breaker.

It's that simple to isolate if a breaker is bad or not. Now if we are talking about an arc fault or ground fault breaker it gets a little more complicated.

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In fact, once the wire is off the breaker couldn't a guy put a meter from hot to neutral to see if there was any conduction that shouldn't be there? On the disconnected wire not the breaker.

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Thank you kindly for all the responses.

I talked our family friend over who is an electrician and he said the problem was not at the panel (he did replace the breaker, however. It is the old Federal Electric).

Garage power goes to houes. He took a look at a GFCI job that was done last fall and the job done was not "great" I was told. The work of a handyman he said (again, he is an electrician). So he redid it and tada...power to the garage.

The one unknown is why did it suddenly cut out last week and not any other time....hmmmm.

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