How to Tell If GFCI Breaker Is Bad

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There are many challenges that you have to face in your daily life when you are doing it all by yourself.

It is essential for you to find out if your GFCI breaker has gone bad or not. It is very important for the protection of your family and your loved ones.

There are several different ways from which you can find out if your GFCI breaker has gone bad or not. I’ve prepared a step-by-step guide for you, so it does not matter if you are a beginner or not.

This article is very beginner-friendly for all of my DIYers and beginners out there. Just read this article, and by the end of it, you will be the master of it.

Now, let’s get right into it. Shall we?

What is a GFCI?

GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. It is a special device that is used to prevent shocks if the electrical device comes in contact with water.

These are basically an outlet with a built-in breaker.

Typically, you can find these in the kitchen, bathrooms, near swimming pools, or anywhere where electricity is used near water.

GFCIs are useful in many conditions. For instance, you are using an appliance in your kitchen, and it comes in contact with water. It surges the flow of electricity.

Now, the GFCI will trip, resulting in switching the current off to minimize the risk of any possible accident.

It is very important to have GFCIs installed in your home or office to minimize the risk of any shock.

However, you should test them every month to see if they are still working or not. Here is how you can test if your GFCI circuit has gone bad or not:

Required tools

Now, as I said before that this is a very in-depth and beginner-friendly article, so I will list down all the tools that you require with a brief description, make sure that you have all of these tools before you start to make the procedure smooth and easy.

Voltage Tester

This is the main tool that you have to have before checking the GFCI circuit. The main purpose of this tool is to check the flow of electricity in an outlet. What I recommend is a non-contact voltage tester. The reason why I recommend a non-contact voltage tester is that you will never have to touch the wires with your hands. It is best to have it for safety reasons.

The (pen-shaped) equipment that you will use will instantly determine the current condition of your GFCI breaker. When it touches the live wires, it will instantly detect the condition. It will usually result in either light turned on or a beeping sound.

Now because we will be working with a GFCI, hence I will recommend you to opt for a 3-prong voltage tester. A three-pong tester will give you instant results. It will tell you if the electricity is flowing or not in no time. There could be two reasons why your GFCI might not be working. One is improper wiring, and the other might be the outlet itself. A 3-pong voltage tester will tell you which one is it and that too quickly.

Protective Footwear

The next thing that you will need is protective footwear to save yourself from the shock in case the GFCI breaker has gone bad. You can get a severe shock if you are not wearing proper protective footwear, as it will allow the current to flow through your body. The shock may have some severe and permanent issues. Most of the time, GFCIs are located in moist areas or areas with water puddles which increases the probability of shock.

The best choice for protective footwear is ANSI’s (American National Standards Institute) approved footwear. You can also opt for any other protective footwear that is currently available near you.

Protective Gloves

The main part of your body that will be in contact with the GFCI is your hands. In case your GFCI is bad, there can be a severe shock that will result in injuries like Arc Flash or Arc Blast. These common injuries can permanently damage your skin or even your bones.

Please do not ignore the possible injuries, even if your contact with the GFCI is minimal or only till the button breaker. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Always think of all possible situations and be prepared for the worst-case scenario. You must wear rubber insulating gloves for maximum protection from any possible shock. If you want to be extra secure, you can top your rubber glove with a leather glove.

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Tell If GFCI Breaker Is Bad

Here, I have prepared a step-by-step guide for you. Make sure to give this a thorough read to clear any confusion that you may have.

Step 1: Examine the power

Grab your voltage tester and see if there is a current occurring in the outlet that you are currently dealing with. If your tester lights up, then it means it has power flowing. Now reset it, and if the tester stays on, then it means that you have a bad outlet that should be fixed.

If there is faulty wiring on your GFCI outlet, then your tester will inform you too. If that is the case, then I will recommend that you call a professional electrician and let him take care of the rest.

Step 2: Button Efficiency Test

All you have to do in this step is merely push the test button and let it trip. The neutral wire of the breaker is connected to the neutral bus of the panel.

Now, you will know that the GFCI circuit is okay if the button moves which will result in the electricity shutting inside the outlet.

Step 3: Restore the power with the reset button

The restore button is like power restoration for your GFCI. If you cannot reset the breaker, it means that the power did not come back.

If all of your GFCIs indicate the same problem, there is a good chance that you can locate the problem in the main electrical panel.

Some Tips and Tricks

Typically, a breaker or outlet lasts for about 15 years, depending on how much it is used. You should check it every two months for any bad GFCI symptoms. Get it changed after every decade. If you are using your GFCI circuit carefully and taking every safety measure, then you can also get it changed after 25 to 30 years.

Overloading is also highly disturbing of GFCI outlets. If you overuse it, it can result in loose wiring because of constant out and pull movements. If you want to make the life of your GFCI longer, then use it carefully.

It will not only save your bucks, but also it will save a lot of your effort that will go into it if it goes bad. Not to mention the inconvenience it will cause when it is not working perfectly.

If your GFCI is in a moist or wet place like outdoors, make sure to protect it with a tight but light cover that will provide protection in extreme weather conditions.

If the GFCI gets in contact with water or something wet, it may give you a shock. Be careful and protect it with a light covering in extreme weather conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can GFCI circuit breakers go bad?

Yes, they absolutely can go bad. If you take good care of them and use them with care, they may last you for about a good 15 years.

How often do GFCI breakers go bad?

They last for very long. The life of GFCI breakers varies between 15 years to 25 years. If you use them carefully, they can also last for about 30 years. Make sure to read the heading mentioned above with the name ‘’Some Tips and Tricks’’. It will help you to make your GFCI circuit last long.

What causes a GFCI to go bad?

Some of the main causes are a bad outlet, contact with a wet object or moisture, or a ground fault. These are just a few common causes. There are many other causes that may cause a GFCI to go bad.


I have tried to cover all of the important information that you might need while checking if a GFCI circuit is gone bad. I hope this helped. If you still have any queries left, check out the FAQs portion, where I have tried to answer all of the common queries.

Lastly, I want to say good luck, and please take the safety measures before actually checking the GFCI circuit.

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