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Rick
Rick, Master Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 453
Experience:  10 yrs as a electrician. Have my own company.
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I have a breaker that keeps on tripping. I have replaced the

Resolved Question:

I have a breaker that keeps on tripping. I have replaced the Breaker and the new one trips as soon as i flip in on. All celing lights are turned off, and nothing is plugged into the outlets.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  Rick replied 1 year ago.

Sparky :

Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX I'm here to answer any of your electrical questions.

Sparky :

What does the breaker control?

Sparky :

What rooms? Also does it control anything outside?

Customer:

it controls the family room outlets and over head lights, kitchen over head light Not outlets. Does control outside porch light. All lights are turned off and breaker still tripps

Sparky :

To determine where the fault is you will have to take wires apart at different locations, are you ok with doing this?

Customer:

are you talking disassembling the outlets and light fixtures? I have a volt meter. Yes i can disasemble outlets and lights

Sparky :

Great. Has anything been changed recently, anything added, receptacles, switches, light fixtures, any art work hung on a wall where a wire may have been compromised?

Customer:

no there has not been anything changed reciently.

Customer:

can a bad light fixture kick the breaker even though the switch is off?

Sparky :

First thing I want you to do is go to the first switch, or outlet that the breaker controls. So the first thing, closest to the panel that is not working. Do not take anything apart yet, let me know how many wires you have, what colors, if it's a switch, or receptacle.

Sparky :

No to your question of the light fixture.

Customer:

ok it is a switch

Sparky :

How many wires, what colors? Also how old is the home?

Customer:

the house was build in the 80's. there are red, black white and a copper wire. This light switch is duel. one controls the light and the other switch controls the Fan. The light is a fan/light combo.

Customer:

that is red, black, white and copper wire (I assume the gound)

Sparky :

are those the wires that are attached to the switch? Are there more wires in the actual box? Maybe a few black wires bundled together with a wire nut?

Customer:

yes there are black wires bundled with a nut

Sparky :

Great. Take only those apart. Separate them from one another and try turning on the breaker. This will tell us if the problem is before, or after this location.

Customer:

ok

Sparky :

thank you

Customer:

you want me to untwist the wires?

Sparky :

yes. They need to be separated from one another.

Customer:

done the breaker did not trip

Sparky :

Ok. you want to turn the breaker back off. Put those wires back together. Then go to the 1/2 way point of that circuit with the problem, do the same thing I had you do before. This will help us isolate the problem, and tell us in which direction we need to go. Further from the breaker, or closer, depending on what happens when we try the breaker again.

Customer:

ok I understand.

Sparky :

Great.

Customer:

so will the breaker trip when the wires are seperated? now the outlets do not have a wire bundle. so do I do them? or just switches

Customer:

should I get a reading from my Volt meter when i touch the contacts to the black wires? when they are seperated? I tried to get a reading from the volt meter.

Sparky :

I'm not understanding you. Are you at the first location that I had you take apart? You should have turned off the breaker and put those back together. If you are speaking of he new location the 1/2 way point, then the breaker will trip, if the problem is before that location. If to that point there is no problem then the breaker will turn on. As far as the volt meter goes normally only one black wire will be hot, and you would need to test from the ground or neutral wire (bare, or white wire) to the hot.

Customer:

I went to the next outlet along the wall first just because I had already taken off the face plate. now the outlets do not have a bundle of black wires. I will go to the 1/2 point.

Sparky :

ok

Sparky :

When there is no bundle of wires, that is ok. If it is a receptacle and you have 2 black wires going to it, you will be removing 1 of the black wires from the receptacle and trying the breaker. If there is only 1 black and 1 white wire, we will move to another location.

Customer:

ok the next switch has 3 black (going into the switch) 3 white (bundled) then ground. This switch is going to an addition to the house.

Customer:

do I unbundle the white? or remove one black wire?

Sparky :

How many screws are on the switch? are 2 of the black wires on 1 screw?

Customer:

two screws, one black wire is connected to one of the screws. the other two wires are put in two holes in the back. it looks like that is where they go for the switch to work. There is a a place to insert a small screwdriver to release the wire.

Customer:

the screws are on the side.

Sparky :

What does the switch control? and can it be switched from 2 locations? I'm trying to determine if this is a 3 way switch.

Customer:

This controls a single light in a sun room that was added on to the original house.

Sparky :

switched from 1 or 2 locations?

Customer:

only one location

Sparky :

ok take one of the black wires from the side that has 2 black wires. on it. Top or bottom whichever it may be.

Customer:

ok

Customer:

ok it tripped

Sparky :

So the problem is before that point. Go ahead and put that wire back on and work towards your breaker.

Customer:

ok

Customer:

ok i have gone along the room and went again half way between the light in the sun room (that Switch tripped) then I worked my way back to the sun room. there is a outlet below the switch and when I removed a black wire it tripped.

Customer:

the half way point did not trip the breaker.

Sparky :

It's really hard for me to visualize what you have. But if you have gotten to a point where the breaker is not tripping then the problem is after.

Customer:

yes i am following. 1st light switch (on Circut)did not trip. halfway along the circut (light in Sun Room) tripped. Next outlet towards the breakerbox did not trip. Outlet below the sunroom tripped.

Sparky :

So are those 2 locations next to one another? Is there any devices in between them, even on the opposite side of the wall?

Customer:

yes they close to each other. the light switch is above the outlet. there are no devices between them.

Sparky :

Just so I understand. The receptacle under the switch works when you turn on the breaker. But the switch trips the breaker? If this is the same switch that we were talking about earlier, take all of the black wires off of it. Make sure you mark down which wire goes where. Then try the breaker again.

Customer:

The receptacle under the switch also trips the breaker. The light also trips the breaker.

Sparky :

Could you possibly draw me a diagram so I can have a visual. Sometimes it is hard to tell which direction you need to go because one electrician would wire things one way and another electrician would wire it another way.

Customer:

sure you bet. give me a minute

Sparky :

ok

Customer:

ok I took pictures of the room and made notes on them. but I cant attach them on here

Customer:

I am not sure how to draw on here or to send you the pictures

Sparky :

Did you save it a a jpeg file and click on the paperclip icon?

Sparky :

you can go to tinypic.com and upload the picture there as well and give me the url to go to.

Customer:

ok let me work on that. I have disconnected the switch and outlet and bound all the wires togeather. It still trip the breaker.

Sparky :

What do you mean bound all the wires together? Which wires?

Customer:

the white to white and the black to black

Sparky :

ok got it. I thought you meant that you put all of them together.

Customer:

http://tinypic.com/r/nw0hn6/5 this is a PIc of the sun room light switch and the outlet. Now does that mean that the problem is further in the circut. If I put them all togeather it shouldnt have trip the breaker am I right.

Sparky :

ok the way you have it in the picture right now, does it trip the breaker?

Customer:

yes

Sparky :

When you take the wires apart on the bottom outlet where the receptacle is, does it trip the breaker?

Customer:

both the light switch and the outlet

Customer:

no

Customer:

I have removed the receptical and seperated the wires and it did not trip the breaker. When I had all the wires togeather White with White and black with black it did trip the breaker.

Sparky :

ok take them apart, and this is where we will be needing your tester. Take them apart, turn on the breaker, test from your ground wire to each of the black wires and identify which wire is your hot. Put a piece of tape or something on it so you don't get it mixed up with the other ones because we are going to do some swapping around at this point.

Customer:

ok will do

Sparky :

thank you

Customer:

no thank you, XXXXX XXXXX need the black wires seperated?

Sparky :

correct

Customer:

ok I am not getting any voltage reading. I put the test into another receptical to make sure is was working and it is.working

Customer:

I am going off the ground (bare copper Wire) and black. the breaker is on and not tripped

Sparky :

Try from the neutrals to each of the blacks.

Sparky :

Make sure you have a good connection with each of your probes

Customer:

nutral is white?

Sparky :

correct

Sparky :

Be very careful when working with energized circuits. Make sure to never have any contact with the copper.

Sparky :

Also look around for a tiny, cut on the insulation of the wire any burn marks on the boxes, if they are metal. I can't tell from the picture.

Customer:

ok I was attempting to see if there was voltage in any of the other outlets and I put the probe into the outlets and it sparked and popped the breaker. now I the breakers keeps on popping

Sparky :

Did you see where the spark came from? There may be a cut in the insulation of the wire.

Customer:

it came from the side where I was not probing. I will double check again.

Sparky :

please.

Customer:

ok i see where it came from there is a small burn on the bare wire. the box is plastic

Sparky :

ok if the burn is on the bare wire, there must be a cut on the wire closest to it in order for a arc to happen another live part had to come into contact with it.

Sparky :

We're getting close

Customer:

but it stays tripped,

Sparky :

is the burn mark way up close to where it comes out of the romex cable?

Customer:

no it is where it connects to the screw where it connects to the outlet

Customer:

just on the other side of the screw.

Sparky :

No other cuts in the other wires? All the blacks are separated and not touching anything else?

Sparky :

black wires at the switch not touching one another?

Customer:

yes on the outlet there are not bundle of wires. they go into the outlet and then they depart

Customer:

the black wires are touching at the switch all bundled togeather

Sparky :

Separate them.

Customer:

ok done

Sparky :

try the breaker again

Customer:

still triped

Sparky :

We need to go closer to the panel, next switch or plug.

Customer:

ok

Customer:

so undo a black wire?

Sparky :

Yes

Customer:

I am going counter clock wise to the next one. It did not trip the breaker

Sparky :

You said there was a remodel done. Do you know if any junction boxes were installed in the attic where they may have made connections?

Sparky :

That is, if you have an attic

Customer:

I am not aware of an attic.

Customer:

yes there is an attic

Customer:

you are talking junction boxes like the breaker box?

Sparky :

No, just a box, where a electrician would have spliced a couple of wires together. There may be a junction box in there that we are not aware of. But because you saw a spark at the receptacle this leads me to believe that the problem is where you saw the spark. Try to move the wires around into a different position then have someone else turn on the breaker while you watch and see if you see a spark.

Customer:

ok

Customer:

i have advanced to two more outlets and they did not trip the breaker. Now I am back to the outlet that is second in the circut after the light switch I I checked first.

Sparky :

Hold on a second. So the light switch and receptacle that sparked, are they working right now?

Customer:

the receptical is not working right now. it did not spark.

Customer:

the light switch and receptical in the picture have all the wires seperated.

Customer:

ok I have checked all outlets between the breaker box and the outlets and switch you have a pic of. When I take off a black wire it does not trip the breaker.

Sparky :

Did you reconnect the blacks at the receptacle prior to the receptacle in the picture?

Customer:

yes I have been disconnecting them hit the breaker then reconnect them. the black wires in the picture are all seperated. both the switch and the receptical]

Sparky :

Got it. ok so we are back to taking your tester finding which is your hot wire.

Customer:

except I cant get the breaker from not tripping

Sparky :

This is getting really confusing. I thought you were checking all the receptacle "ok I have checked all outlets between the breaker box and the outlets and switch you have a pic of. When I take off a black wire it does not trip the breaker." Which black wire were you talking about?

Customer:

yes when I remove a black wire from each of the receptacles it does not trip the breaker. I assume the black wire is the hot wire running into the recepetical.

Sparky :

So, then the breaker is on?

Customer:

no it is off right now. when I flip in on it automatically trips with out a pop or anything that I can tell.

Customer:

I think I am going to have to have someone come out, so what do I need to do (prepare the area for the electrician) I have all the plates off so they have access to the wiring. I really thank you for your time.

Sparky :

Not a problem. Sorry for any inconvenience. I hope I helped you some. Don't worry about preparing the area. The electrician will know what to do, and do what needs to be done.

Customer:

no you did help me out. I guess what I am looking for is a break in the insulation in the wiring?

Sparky :

If you would like to continue, just come back and let me know and we can continue. Just in a more organized manner. numbering the receptacles and switches would probably help a lot.

Customer:

ok well thanks again.

Sparky :

Yes a break in the insulation, or a ground wire touching a screw that one one of the back wires is on

Customer:

ok thanks again I will check everything again in the wiring and if I have questiions i will come back. I will take better pictures and get better organized.

Sparky :

Please rate my service. Thank you for your time

Customer:

you bet I will

Rick, Master Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 453
Experience: 10 yrs as a electrician. Have my own company.
Rick and other Electrical Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Rick replied 1 year ago.
Just wanted to say thank you for the excellent rating. It is greatly appreciated. If you have any more electrical questions, please let me know. Here is my profile page. Thanks again. The bonus is greatly appreciated.

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