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Install & Replace

Is there a way to test for bad circuit breakers before they go bad?

Ive been asked a couple times to replace faulty circuit breakers on residential panels, they seem to be the cheaper or the lower cost kind of setups.  The question is can circuit breakers be checked at all to see if they are fine, kind of worn out, really worn out and failing?  Or is there no test, they just go out when they go out?

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Posted 2010-12-04T05:00:28+0000  by iBradleyAllen iBradleyAllen

Hey iBradleyAllen,


Welcome to the community! I am a Home Depot associate that has worked for a number of years in the electrical department and I have good news for you! You can check your circuit breakers that are in the panel box now by using a specific tool (or tools) for finding out which breakers are creating issues. Circuit breakers can be difficult to test using inexpensive equipment such as a volt tick meter (those small pencil-like tools). Clampmeters and multiset tools work really great, but unless you are doing electrical work all the time, it may be something that just collects dust in your tool bag after this job. However, if you need to run a more specific diagnostic on any wiring, circuits, or electrical AC in general more often then a good multimeter is always handy. Always remember when working with electricity to turn your power off before running any tests on your wiring.


The best thing I would use in your situation is a circuit breaker tester, they are the best thing to find faulty circuit breakers, here's a picture enclosed of one looks like....



Out on the market, there are circuit breaker finders and testers, so make sure you see that the packaging says tester, because the products look very similar in shape and size. Circuit breaker testers are easier to use that volt meters or other high-range testers as well, so it's something I would definitely look for.


Other than the tool, the only surefire ways to see if any circuit breakers are bad are by visibly inspecting them. Again, make sure your power is disconnected before checking them. Look for things such as rust, burn marks on the bus bar where the breakers are contacting the breaker, as well as the contacts on the breaker itself. If you find anything like that on the terminals or  a faulty switch, there is no way to really fix a breaker once its bad. A good majority of time the circuits go out they just go out, as you said earlier.


Hope this helps you out, and hope to hear from you again!



Posted 2010-12-04T15:59:18+0000  by Joseph_HD_ATL

Actually, the picture above is a test unit used to find a circuit breaker for an outlet (I have this test unit).  They also have a small tester that can be plugged in that has a button that is used to trip a circuit breaker, but I believe it may be only for ground fault circuit testing.  It looks similar to this (only red and with a black button on top): 


I know they have the correct tester in the stores, but I am not seeing it on their web page at the moment.

Posted 2010-12-18T17:49:45+0000  by GrueMaster

Thanks. I'm pretty sure its the circuit breakers ( I don't have a tester ) plus I'm ten miles from town. We did not have trouble until we plugged the two little heaters into the back bedrooms - then it seemed to have burned out the wires to the cooktop. The black wires are burned into.


Posted 2013-12-08T16:21:58+0000  by ChisumTrail
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