How to Check for a Bad Circuit Breaker

If one of the outlets in your home is constantly tripping the circuit breaker you might have a bad circuit breaker. Knowing how to check for a bad circuit breaker lets you know whether or not you need to immediately call a professional electrician or whether the breaker itself simply needs to be changed.

You can do this project if you have a screw driver and a voltage tester. The voltage tester looks like a yellow box with a digital screen. It has two leads that look like little poles. One is red and one is black.

You’ll need to remove the screws from your breaker box while holding the panel of the breaker box firmly in place. You don’t want to simply let the panel drop because you could trip several circuit breakers or damage the wires in your breaker box.

Note that you’re not turning off the power for this project, so if you’re uncomfortable you simply need to stop. This is something of an advanced project that can easily be left to an electrician.

If you are comfortable so far, look at the circuit breakers. There are two types. You may have a single pole breaker or you may have a double pole breaker. You can do this with either.

You also need to look and see what kind of a breaker box you have. It’ll either be 120 volts or 250 bolts. That information will be on the main breaker which is on a larger switch above all of the smaller breakers for your house.

On a single pole breaker you’re only going to have one terminal per breaker. Simply place the red lead on the terminal. Then place the black lead on the neutral bar beside the terminals.

You can find the neutral bar easily. This is going to be a white, silver, or gold bar of screws that runs alongside the circuit breakers.

If the breaker is good you should see the meter give a voltage reading. It should be around 120 volts or 250 volts depending on the type of breaker box that you have.

If the breaker is bad there won’t be a reading at all.

You can do the same thing for a double pole breaker. There will be two terminals for those breakers. You would simply put one lead on each terminal and observe the voltage reading.

If you’re not getting a reading then you may want to call an electrician then and there. Or you may want to tune in to Thursday’s post, where we’ll teach you how to replace a bad circuit breaker.

Just remember, however, that we do offer 24/7 emergency service. If you’re in Raleigh, Durham, Carrboro or anywhere else in the Triangle area you can always give us a call. We offer free estimates and courteous service so you don’t have to be stressed about electrical problems in your home.

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