How-To Tell If A Breaker Is Bad

Signs of a Faulty Breaker: How to Determine If Your Circuit Breaker Needs Replacement

How to Tell if a Breaker is Bad – Circuit Breaker

Circuit breakers are essential for protecting your home’s electrical system from overloads and short circuits. However, like any other component, they can wear out or malfunction over time. Knowing how to identify a bad breaker is crucial for maintaining a safe electrical system. Here’s a guide to help you determine if your breaker needs to be replaced.

Signs of a Bad Breaker

  1. Frequent Tripping:
  • What It Indicates: While occasional tripping is normal and indicates the breaker is doing its job, frequent tripping can signal that the breaker is failing or that there’s an underlying electrical issue.
  • What to Do: First, rule out other causes such as overloaded circuits or short circuits. If the breaker continues to trip without a clear reason, it may be time to replace it.
  1. Breaker Won’t Stay Reset:
  • What It Indicates: If you reset the breaker and it immediately trips again, this could mean the breaker is faulty.
  • What to Do: Ensure that there are no obvious causes for the trip, such as a short circuit or overloaded circuit. If everything checks out and the breaker still won’t stay reset, consider replacing it.
  1. Physical Damage:
  • What It Indicates: Burn marks, a burning smell, or visible damage to the breaker can indicate it has overheated or suffered damage.
  • What to Do: Turn off the main power and inspect the breaker. If you notice any physical damage, replace the breaker immediately.
  1. Hot to the Touch:
  • What It Indicates: Breakers should not be hot to the touch. Excessive heat can indicate internal problems or that the breaker is overloaded.
  • What to Do: Turn off the power and allow the breaker to cool down. If it becomes hot again after resetting, replace the breaker.
  1. Age and Wear:
  • What It Indicates: Breakers can wear out over time due to repeated use.
  • What to Do: If your breakers are old and you’re experiencing issues, consider replacing them as part of regular maintenance.

Testing a Circuit Breaker

  1. Visual Inspection:
  • Turn off the main power and remove the panel cover.
  • Inspect the breaker for any signs of damage, such as burn marks or a burned smell.
  1. Using a Multimeter:
  • Set your multimeter to the continuity or ohm setting.
  • Remove the wire connected to the breaker.
  • Place one probe on the terminal screw and the other on the breaker’s frame or a ground screw.
  • If there is no continuity or the resistance is high, the breaker is likely bad and needs to be replaced.
  1. Professional Help:
  • If you’re unsure about testing the breaker yourself, or if you’ve completed these tests and still have doubts, consult a licensed electrician to ensure your electrical system is safe and functional.

When to Call a Professional

While some homeowners may feel comfortable inspecting and testing their breakers, it’s always a good idea to consult a professional if you’re unsure. A licensed electrician can provide a thorough inspection and safely replace faulty breakers, ensuring your home’s electrical system operates correctly and safely.


Recognizing the signs of a bad circuit breaker is crucial for maintaining electrical safety in your home. Frequent tripping, the inability to stay reset, physical damage, excessive heat, and age are all indicators that a breaker might be failing. By conducting visual inspections and using a multimeter, you can determine whether a breaker needs to be replaced. However, when in doubt, always seek professional assistance to ensure the safety and reliability of your electrical system.

For more tips and professional electrical services, visit our JJ and S Electric Blog. Our team is always ready to help you with any electrical issues you may encounter.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *