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Thread: gfci won't reset, dead line wires, lights on breaker still work

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    Default gfci won't reset, dead line wires, lights on breaker still work

    I was using a hair dryer when my gfci tripped. It wouldn't reset, so I replaced the gfci, but the new one also doesn't work and won't reset. I have unhooked everything and tested the line wires coming into the receptacle and they appear to be dead. The odd thing is that the breaker seems to be fine as the lights connected to this breaker still work.

    It is a gfci breaker, but as I said, lights on this breaker continue to work, so I don't think it's the breaker (but perhaps I don't understand gfci breakers). There are no other gfci outlets on this breaker either.

    I've seen some suggestions that it might be a burnt up bad connection and I'll start poking around. Anything else?

  2. #2
    Electrical Contractor jbfan74's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noclue View Post

    I've seen some suggestions that it might be a burnt up bad connection and I'll start poking around. Anything else?
    That or a loose connection either one.
    Yes I am A Pirate-Jimmy Buffett

  3. #3
    DIY Senior Member TedL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noclue View Post
    I was using a hair dryer when my gfci tripped. It wouldn't reset, so I replaced the gfci, but the new one also doesn't work and won't reset. I have unhooked everything and tested the line wires coming into the receptacle and they appear to be dead. The odd thing is that the breaker seems to be fine as the lights connected to this breaker still work.

    It is a gfci breaker, but as I said, lights on this breaker continue to work, so I don't think it's the breaker (but perhaps I don't understand gfci breakers). There are no other gfci outlets on this breaker either.

    I've seen some suggestions that it might be a burnt up bad connection and I'll start poking around. Anything else?
    You have to do a better job of describing what your setup is. Is it really a GFI breaker (mounted in the service panel or a sub panel) or a GFI receptacle, mounted in a box in the room?

    Are there wires connected to the "load" terminals on the GFI receptacle (which I think you mean to say)? If so, the problem is most likely downstream of the receptacle, in another bath, garage or outdoor receptacle.

  4. #4

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    I believe the breaker itself is a gfi breaker. It is different than the other breakers in the box and has a test button. The breaker trips when the test button is pressed. Lights and other non-gfi outlets connected to this breaker are working.

    As for the GFCI receptacle itself, I tested the "line" coming into the receptacle in the bathroom and it is dead. And yes, there are wires connected to the "load" terminals, which are pigtailed to two load lines. I have found these areas downstream that are connected. Obviously they don't work, but I wouldn't expect them to since the "line" upstream is dead.

    It seems to me that if there is no power at the "line", then the problem is upstream of the gfci receptacle rather than downstream. I spent all day checking every other receptacle, light switch, etc. attached to this breaker and can't find the line upstream that is connected to this gfci receptacle. I'm beginning to think that perhaps this breaker was mislabeled or the gfi outlets in the upstairs bathrooms (where the problem is) are on the breaker with the kitchen downstairs where all the other gfci receptacles are located.

    I'm sure my ignorance about this stuff is showing, but I really like to figure things out and make sense of them. Thanks for any help!

  5. #5
    DIY Senior Member thassler's Avatar
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    If the house was wired to code, there are two ways the bathroom plugs may be wired:
    - All the receptacles for all the bathrooms in the house are on the same dedicated circuit. The first receptacle is usually a GFCI that will protect all the rest. NO other receptacles/lights may be on the bathroom circuit - only the receptacles for each bathroom. That also should be a 20amp circuit using 12ga wire.
    - The other method is to run a dedicated circuit to each bathroom. If that method was used, then the lights and receptacles can be on the same circuit. Nothing else outside the bathroom can be on that dedicated circuit. This also should be a 20amp circuit using 12ga wire.

    ** Not a pro, only a DIY

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    DIY Senior Member TedL's Avatar
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    Thassler's description is of current code. Earlier versions required a lot less GFIs, and allowed for ridiculous spaghetti wiring. My former home, 1981 vintage, had one GFI receptacle in the first floor half bath, which also fed the second floor bath, garage and backyard outlets.

    What is age of house? Have you done any wiring?

    A GFI receptacle on a circuit with a GFI breaker doesn't sound like pro work. You may have a hidden junction box, where wires were spliced and then covered by drywall. You're expriencing why they're prohibited.

    But consider that the j-box may be in an accesible, but not exposed location. Cable pulled up into the attic and spliced in a box, then back into the wall to the next box. Or into the basement.

    I just reread your post. Are you saying that you can't identify any receptacles or other utilization points that are controlled by the GFI breaker? None that are off when it's off, and have power when it's on? Put another way, have you for certain identified the circuit breaker that supplies your problem receptacle? And anything upstream of the problem receptacle?

  7. #7

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    Could be a cut off line...one time I found an "extra" ROMEX® in a box, I had to remove the box anyways because the bx was burned up. When I went into the attic I found a taped up ROMEX®. It was live.
    Last edited by Terry; 12-07-2011 at 10:10 AM.
    rgsgww

  8. #8

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    The house is only 6 years old, so should be up to current code. Personally, I have not done any additional wiring, other than moving one outlet and I didn't add any wires, just moved it over a few feet. The only additional wiring done after the house purchase was the addition of an A/C unit. The A/C guy did move some breakers around, but he relabeled them.

    The gfci receptacle with the dead line wire is in the upstairs guest bathroom. There are two load wires running from it that connect to the master bathroom outlets and the downstairs powder room outlet.

    I was assuming that the GFI breaker labeled 'master bed/bath' was the one controlling these outlets since the lights in the master bath and guest bath (rooms with dead outlets) are controlled by this breaker. I think this was probably a wrong assumption. So, in response to TedL, I can't be certain which breaker controls the GFCI receptacle since the line is dead.

    There is not a dedicated breaker for just the bathroom outlets (or at least not labeled as such). However, there are dedicated breakers for the two gfci receptacles in the kitchen, so maybe it is being run off of one of these. In theory this all passed inspection, but we have found other fairly screwy things in our home so I would not be surprised if it was done in a less than professional manner.

    I think the next task will be to check all the gfci receptacles in the kitchen and see if perhaps they ran the line to the bathrooms off here. Our house has vaulted ceilings, so no attic. And so far, I cannot find any junction box in the basement where the wires are spliced. I'll keep looking to see if I can find the receptacle or jbox that's supposed to be feeding power to this outlet!! (unless the box is hidden somewhere in the walls, in which case, I'm screwed!)

  9. #9

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    Did you look to see if one of the other breakers is tripped, or gone bad?

    My first step ould be use a volt meter and check the line out of each breaker.

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