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A GFCI “ground fault circuit interrupter” is mandatory in areas of the house where the risk of electric shock is higher. They operate when there are electrical current leaks, trip immediately, and cut off the supply but sometimes a GFCI outlet just won’t reset.
We don’t know how important sockets are until one of them is damaged. When one doesn’t work but the others are still working, it could be a dead socket.
How can you tell if a GFCI outlet is bad?
There are two types of GFCIs, manual and self-test GFCIs. The former are the ones that most homeowners own because they are the oldest and most common, and the latter is only recent. However, both can be checked manually.
You will see two buttons on the face of the socket, and the test button is the top one. If the buttons are color-coded, the test button is the black one. The red button is the reset button.
How to fix a GFCI outlet that won’t reset?
Use a three-pin tester. This inexpensive device will tell you if there is a wiring problem that is causing the outlet to malfunction or if the outlet is defective. The procedure for testing the outlet consists of three simple steps:
Step 1: Press the test button
- If the power is on and the GFCI outlet is correct, you will hear a small click.
- The test button will remain pressed and the power to the outlet will be turned off.
- If the button does not stay pressed, it may be because there is no power to the outlet or the outlet is faulty or improperly wired.
Step 2: Check for power
Connect a voltage tester to the outlet and check the indicators:
- Lights remain off, check the circuit breaker and reset it if it has tripped.
- If the circuit breaker is tripped, check the circuits and reset them.
- If It is power, there may be a possible problem with the wiring which will be indicated by lights coming on and if nothing comes on then the outlet is faulty. In this case, the best option is to call an electrician.
Step 3: Press the reset button
The test button has clicked and remained pressed, cutting off power to the socket, you should reinstate power by pressing the reset button.
You will hear a click when you press it, and it should stay pressed. If it doesn’t, this is another possible indication that there is no power flowing through the circuit.
If you check all of this and still nothing is happening, you should replace the GFCI.
Why would a GFCI outlet stop working?
A dead socket is not only annoying but also a fire hazard. That’s why it’s recommended that you seek the help of a professional to fix a dead outlet, especially if you live in an older home that hasn’t been rewired in years.
Once the outlet’s circuit breaker trips, it must be reset to restore power. If the GFCI outlet does not reset, it could indicate a number of things, such as:
- No power to the GFCI
- A fault in the GFCI outlet
- There is a ground fault occurring at a normal outlet that is not working, or somewhere downstream of the GFI or GFCI.
If you have already restored the electrical system, and reset the GFCI and it still does not respond, you may have one of the following problems:
1. Check that the other GFCI outlet won’t reset
Before you decide to check the circuit breakers, check to see if the other outlets in the house are working. Use a voltage tester to check if there is power to the nearby outlet.
Unplug appliances from dead outlets. This step will help eliminate the possibility that the cause of the problem is an overload or shortage in one of the outlets.
Identify the location of dead outlets with colored or named tape to make them easy to locate once the power has been disconnected.
2. Check for an open circuit or blown fuse
Now go to the circuit breakers. You will find it in the electrical panel, where the house wiring is located. Open it up and look at the fuses, if it is tripped reset it and if the fuse is blown, you need to replace it.
3. Check the GFCIs
Look for GFCI outlets in the bathroom, garage, kitchen, basements, etc. Find all GFCIs in your home, then test and reset them. If the GFCI does not reset, it could be because there is no power to the GFCI, or the GFCI may have malfunctioned.
If, however, the GFCI trips every time you reset it, there may be a dangerous current leak somewhere in the circuit. In that case, you need the help of an electrician.
Evaluate the problem by these symptoms, if the reset button:
- Does not activate when you press the “test” button, it could be that not enough current is reaching the breaker or you have a faulty GFCI.
- Jumps when you turn something on, a ground fault downstream could be the reason or the GFCI could have been wired incorrectly.
- Is off, but plugged-in devices are working, there could be a reversed line and load. In rare cases, the breaker could be faulty.
4. Look for loose or bad connections
Grasp the wires and gently wiggle them to identify loose wires. If you find a loose wire, remove the connector. Cut all wires from the connector and strip them to expose ½ inch to ¾ inch of new copper wire to make new connections.
If there are no loose connections in the connector box, look in the other sockets in the vicinity. Start with the ones that you marked earlier with tape and check for
- Terminal screws
- Shoring connections
- Wires in connectors
Note: Turn off the main circuit breaker when checking for loose connections or a short circuit could occur and result in a fire.
5. Reinstall the connector
Gather the wires together making sure their ends are aligned, then screw them clockwise into a new wire connector.
Turn on the main circuit breaker and check to see if the problem has been solved.
If your still GFCI outlet won’t reset to fix the dead socket problem, it’s time to call an electrician. It is a common problem for GFCI outlets to break. However, as an integral part of your home’s safety, you should fix the problem immediately when you detect a broken GFCI outlet.