Bad Circuit Breaker: How to Tell if it’s Bad, Causes, Testing & Replacing

Bad Circuit Breaker: How to Tell, Causes, Testing & Replacing

Do you ever experience power outages or flickering lights in your home? If so, you might have a defective circuit breaker. A circuit breaker is a main part of your electrical system that safeguards your home from electrical overload and short circuits. However, like any other device, it can malfunction and fail to do its job correctly.

In this blog post, we’ll dive into everything you need to know – from how to tell if a circuit breaker is bad, how to test if a breaker is bad, and what causes a circuit breaker to go bad. Let’s begin learning symptoms of a defective circuit breaker and ensure the proper functioning of your electrical system.

Why It is Important to Know If Your Circuit Breaker is Bad?

A defective breaker can compromise the safety of your electrical system and pose a serious risk to your home and family. Therefore, promptly identifying and replacing faulty or damaged ones is crucial.

  • Safety first: If faulty, it can be a significant fire hazard, as it may fail to trip and prevent overheating. Early detection can help prevent potential hazards and keep your home and family safe.
  • Keep your appliances and electronics safe: If you’re dealing with the problem, it can damage your appliances and electronics, leading to costly repairs and replacements.
  • Energy savings: If it malfunctions, it may cause wasted energy, resulting in higher utility bills.
  • Peace of mind: By staying informed about your electrical system and knowing how to detect and address issues, you can have peace of mind that your home is safe and your electrical system is running efficiently.

Don’t let the issues bring you down – take action to ensure the safety of your home, appliances, and wallet.

How to Tell if a Breaker is Bad?

How to tell if a breaker is bad
  1. Tripping Breaker: A poor breaker may trip often or fail to reset, causing the circuit to lose power unexpectedly.
  2. Burning Smell: If you notice a burning smell coming from the breaker panel, it could indicate a faulty breaker or other electrical problem that requires prompt attention from a professional.
  3. Panel Installation: If the breaker was improperly installed during panel installation, it could cause it to fail, leading to potential safety hazards and electrical problems.
  4. Buzzing Sound: If you hear a buzzing sound coming from the breaker or panel, it could indicate an overloaded circuit or a poor breaker that needs to be replaced.
  5. Hot to the Touch: A breaker that feels hot to the touch may be a sign of an issue that requires prompt attention from a professional electrician.
  6. Age: Breakers can wear out over time, so if it’s old, they may need to be replaced to ensure your electrical system’s safe and reliable operation.
  7. Poor Performance: If the breaker doesn’t trip when it should or doesn’t provide enough power, it may be a sign that it needs to be replaced.
  8. Physical Damage: Visible damage, such as a crack or missing piece, can indicate needing replacement.
  9. Rewiring Services: If you have rewired your home or upgraded your electrical system, it is important to have a professional electrician check your breakers to ensure they are working correctly and are properly installed.
  10. Corrosion: Corrosion on the breaker or in the panel can cause damage, leading to a faulty breaker that fails to provide adequate power or tripping frequently.

What causes a circuit breaker to go bad?

What causes a circuit breaker to go bad
  1. Overloading: Overloading a circuit with too much electrical current can cause it to trip frequently, leading to wear and tear on the circuit breaker.
  2. Age: Circuit breakers can become worn out and less effective over time, leading to malfunctions and breakage.
  3. Physical damage: Physical damage, such as corrosion or rust, can cause a circuit breaker to go bad.
  4. Electrical surges: Electrical surges can cause a sudden increase in electrical current, causing the circuit breaker to trip and potentially go bad.

How to Test if a Breaker is Bad?

How to test if a breaker is bad
  1. Turn off all appliances and lights connected.
  2. Locate your electrical panel and open the door.
  3. Locate the circuit breaker that is responsible for the circuit you think is faulty.
  4. Check if the circuit breaker is in the “on” position. If it’s in the “off” position, try turning it back on.
  5. If it trips immediately after being turned on or won’t reset, it could be a sign of a problem.
  6. Check for any signs of visible damage, such as burn marks, rust, or corrosion.
  7. Use a digital multimeter to test the voltage. Set the multimeter to “AC Voltage” and touch the probes to the circuit breaker’s terminals. If the voltage reading is zero, it could indicate an issue.
  8. If you are still uncertain of what you did, it’s best to call a licensed electrician to diagnose and repair the issue.

What kind of tools you need for a test?

Kind of tools you need for a test
  1. Digital multimeter: A digital multimeter is used to measure voltage, current, and resistance in an electrical system.
  2. Screwdriver: You will need a screwdriver to remove the cover of the electrical panel to access.
  3. Safety goggles: Safety goggles protect your eyes from any sparks or debris that may occur while working on the electrical panel.
  4. Non-contact voltage tester: A non-contact voltage tester can help you identify live wires and ensure that you’re working safely.

What Could You Do if the Breaker Goes Bad?

  1. Identify the problem: Before you can fix it, you need to determine if it is indeed the source of the problem. Check if the breaker is tripped; if so, try resetting it. If the breaker trips again immediately or won’t reset at all, there is likely an issue with the breaker.
  2. Turn off the power: Before attempting to replace, turn off the power to the affected area. This will prevent any potential electrical hazards while you work.
  3. Replace the breaker: Once you have identified the problem and shut off the power, get a new one of the same size and type as the previous one. Then, refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines on an electrical circuit installation.
  4. Call an electrician: If you feel uneasy about handling electrical systems or need house rewiring services. In that case, it is advisable to seek help from a licensed electrician to evaluate and fix the system. Electrical tasks can be risky, and it’s safer to be cautious rather than take unnecessary risks.

How to Replace a Broken Circuit Breaker?

Replacing a broken circuit breaker is essential for the safe operation of an electrical system. Safety protocols should be followed, and professional help should be consulted if unsure about the replacement process.

How to replace a broken circuit breaker
  • Step 1: To replace the breaker, start by switching it off. You can do this by pushing the switch. For added safety, turn off the main circuit switch too. This will completely shut off the electricity in your home. Before you start, ensure that everyone at home knows your plan.
  • Step 2: To remove the breaker, use needle-nose pliers to pull the exposed wires from the terminal. Take care to ensure that the wires do not touch any other breakers. Release the clips by pulling them up on the side of the breaker, then remove them. If you haven’t turned off the main power, do not touch the metal bars in the box.
  • Step 3: First, turn off the old breaker and replace it with the new one. Slide the clips of the new breaker into place and push it in, starting with the side with the terminals. Hold the wires with needle-nose pliers and tighten the terminal screw. Ensure that the screw is tight but not overtightened, or it may strip. Reconnect the panel to the breaker box and reset your breaker. That’s all! Your new breaker should be working correctly. Great job!

It is better to entrust the replacement of it to professionals because electrical work can be dangerous, and licensed electricians have the knowledge and expertise to safely and correctly replace it, ensuring that your electrical system is functioning properly and minimizing the risk of electrical hazards. Additionally, if there are underlying issues causing it to fail, an electrician can identify and address them, preventing future problems.


Can a circuit breaker go bad?

Yes, it can go bad over time due to wear and tear, overheating, or electrical surges. A poor circuit breaker can cause electrical problems in your home and should be replaced immediately.

Can a bad breaker cause low voltage?

Yes, it can cause low voltage in the affected circuit by not allowing the proper amount of electricity to flow through, resulting in decreased voltage levels.

Can a bad breaker cause power surges?

Yes, it can cause power surges by failing to trip when it should, allowing too much electricity to flow through and causing a spike in voltage.

Can a bad capacitor trip a circuit breaker?

Yes, a bad capacitor can trip a circuit breaker by causing an electrical imbalance, resulting in excessive current flow that can trip the breaker.

Can a bad outlet cause a breaker to trip?

Yes, a poor outlet can cause a trip by creating a short circuit or overloading the circuit, which can cause it to trip as a safety measure.

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