Can Circuit Breakers Go Bad? How to Check and What to Do

“Can circuit breakers go bad?”

This is usually the question a homeowner asks when they’re at their wit’s end.

Generally, it’s because they keep losing power to one area of their home.

While a circuit breaker is meant to keep your house safe from the dangers of too much electricity, sometimes they go bad and cause nothing but problems.

Can Circuit Breakers Go Bad?

The simple answer is that, yes, circuit breakers go bad, so your suspicions may be well-founded.

Just like any other essential device in your home (e.g. your water heater, HVAC system, etc.), circuit breakers can quit working properly.

That said, don’t begin replacing your circuit breaker just yet.

Many people misdiagnose the problem and end up spending good money without reason.

Before you do that, let’s go through the steps to check and make sure your circuit breaker really has gone bad.

3 Steps for Checking If a Circuit Breaker Has Gone Bad

If your circuit breaker is sending off sparks, you should call a licensed electrician to look it over.

In the meantime, remove any flammable materials from the area (these should never be near circuit breakers, just in case).

Otherwise, if your breaker is constantly tripping, follow these three simple steps to see if yours has gone bad.

1.  Identify the Circuit That Is Causing the Problem

The first thing you need to do is find the circuit that the tripping breaker is trying to protect. This is really easy to do. Just look at the label next to the breaker in question and then find the circuit it corresponds to by checking the sheet on the panel’s door.

2. Unplug All Devices Plugged into That Circuit

Next, you need to make sure that an overloaded circuit isn’t to blame.

A lot of people think circuit breakers go bad because they keep tripping without ever trying to reset it first. However, you only want to do this after you unplug all the devices using that breaker first.

Step 3: Reset the Circuit Breaker

With all those devices unplugged, you can now flip the breaker. When you do so, you should hear that audible “click.”

Now, if the switch goes back and forth without ever clearly picking “on” or “off,” then your circuit breaker has gone bad.

That said, you might notice that the circuit breaker doesn’t immediately trip. The circuit is probably overloaded, which means more electricity is flowing through it than it can handle.

Move some of your devices to a different circuit and the problem should be solved.

What to Do When Circuit Breakers Go Bad

If the circuit breaker trips right away, the issue is either a bad breaker or a short circuit. In that case, your circuit breaker has gone bad and you’ll want to call a licensed electrician to address the problem.

Unless you know how to replace the circuit breaker or, in some situations, rewire it, this isn’t the type of repair job you’ll want to try on your own. It can be dangerous but could also cause damage to your home.

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