What is a Bad Breaker? Symptoms, Causes, Testing, Repairing

What is a Bad Breaker?

A bad breaker is a device in an electrical system that is not able to provide the functions as promised by its manufacturer or it is not working properly. That means when you purchase a new breaker and it not functioning as per the manufacturer's promises then it will be called a bad breaker. And when your breaker stops working properly after use for some days or months then also it will call a bad breaker. When your Circuit breaker is not functioning properly just after purchasing a new one then there may be a manufacturing fault. So you should contact your seller or manufacturer. But when the circuit breaker stops working properly after using some days or months then the breaker is damaged due to any electrical fault or wrong handling. In this case, you should contact a maintenance or repair electrician.

What is the meaning of Bad Breaker? Bad breaker means it is a faulty or defective device, it is not operating correctly or reliably, and it fails to perform its intended function of protecting the electrical system from overload faults, short circuit faults, or any other fault for which the breaker is designed, and  It experiences malfunctions, glitches, or operational issues that restrict its proper functioning.

Bad Breaker Symptoms

Here are some common symptoms of bad breaker that a common man also can identify that the breaker is going bad or damaged or faulty.
  1. Shuts Off Power: The breaker trips or shuts off power frequently more often than normal even with regular loads and healthy electrical conditions.
  2. Overheating: A bad circuit breaker can produce excessive heat. When you feel excessively hot while touché the breaker then your breaker may be got damaged so immediately call the professional for help.
  3. Burning Smell: The presence of a strong unusual burning smell near the breaker panel indicate a bad circuit breaker.
  4. Physical Damage: The user can see visually some wires are melted, any parts of the breaker are broken or burned, etc.
  5. Problems in Reset: If you notice your circuit breaker will not remain reset for a while or need to frequently reset the breaker by flipping it off and then on again to restore power then it indicates the internal fault in the breaker so call an electrician to check its condition and any internal damage to the wiring.
  6. Buzzing or humming sounds: A bad breaker can produce unusual sounds, such as buzzing or humming, which may indicate internal issues.
  7. Flickering lights: The Lights connected to a breaker flickering or dim unexpectedly; especially when multiple devices are in use then it indicates that the breaker is faulty.
  8. Damaging Light Bulbs: You frequently need to replace light bulbs, as they burn out quickly when connect to the breaker.
  9. Sparking or Arcing: Visible sparks or arcing occur when plugging in or unplugging devices from outlets.
  10. Electric Shock: Experiencing mild electric shocks or tingling sensations when touching the breaker, switches, outlets, or appliances.
  11. Tripping When Adding Load: The breaker trips as soon as you plug in or turn on additional appliances or equipment.

What are the causes of a circuit breaker going bad?

The common and important causes of a circuit breaker going bad or damaged.
  1. Overload: One of the primary causes of a bad circuit breaker is overloading. When the user connects a higher electrical load than its capacity, the breaker can overheat and get damaged over time.
  2. Breaker Age: Circuit breakers, like any other electrical component, have a limited lifespan. With age, the internal components of the breaker can degrade, leading to reduced performance or failure that causes the circuit breaker to stop working properly as before.
  3. Faulty Wiring: Poor or faulty wiring connections can cause unwanted current flow, and excessive heat buildup, leading to damage or failure of the circuit breaker. Loose connections, improper installation, or damaged wiring can contribute to breaker failure issues.
  4. Electrical Surges: Large electrical surges, such as those caused by lightning strikes or power grid fluctuations can damage the circuit breaker. Surges can exceed the breaker's capability to protect the electrical system, leading to failure.
  5. Physical Damage: Physical damage to the circuit breaker, such as impacts or exposure to water or other corrosive substances, operating mistakes, and burning parts can impair its functionality and compromise its ability to trip when necessary.
  6. Manufacturing Defects: In some cases, circuit breakers may have manufacturing defects or improper design flaws that can lead to premature failure or inadequate performance.
  7. Lack of Maintenance: Neglecting regular maintenance and inspections such as regular cleaning, tripping test every month, checking the loose connections, and small burning of any electrical system, including the circuit breakers can allow underlying issues to go unnoticed and worsen over time.
  8. Environmental Factors: In some harsh environmental conditions, such as extreme temperatures, humidity, or exposure to dust and contaminants, can impact the performance and longevity of circuit breakers.

Testing and Repairing of Bad Breaker

It is strictly instructed that immediately contact an electrician or professional when you feel any bad symptoms with your circuit breaker. 

Below these are some procedures a normal user can follow to test and repair their circuit breaker.
  1. Visual Inspection: A user can inspect the circuit breaker visually for any signs of physical damage, such as burns, discoloration, or loose connections. Check for any obvious issues that may indicate a faulty breaker.
  2. Use Test Button: Most of the manufacturer gives an option to any normal user to check or test the functionality of the circuit breaker by giving a test button. In most of the RCCB, RCCD, or other circuit breakers you will get a test button. You can test your circuit breaker if you going bad by pressing the switch. Read the user manual of your circuit breaker and learn the functionality of the test button, how to use and when to use it. According to the instruction given by the manufacturer test your circuit breaker regularly. For further any issue you should contact the professional.
  3. Reset the Breaker: If the breaker is in the "OFF" position, reset it to the "ON" position. Sometimes a breaker may trip without apparent reason, and resetting it can resolve the issue.

Here are the procedures for electrical professionals for testing and repairing a bad circuit breaker.
  1. Safety Measures: Before testing the circuit breaker, ensure you take the necessary safety precautions. Turn off all connected electrical devices and wear protective gear, such as safety glasses and insulated gloves. Make sure you are standing on a dry surface.
  2. Continuity Test: Use a multimeter and set it to the continuity mode or resistance setting to test the circuit breaker. With the breaker in the "ON" position, touch one multimeter probe to the line terminal of the breaker and the other probe to the load terminal. If there is continuity or low resistance (near zero ohms), it indicates the breaker is functioning properly. But if the breaker is in the "OFF" position and there is continuity or low resistance (near zero ohms), it indicates the breaker is not functioning properly.
  3. Trip Test: For more advanced testing, you can perform a trip test. This involves intentionally overloading the circuit by temporarily connecting additional electrical devices. If the circuit breaker trips and cuts off power, it indicates the breaker is working correctly. And if the circuit breaker does not trip or cut off the power supply, it indicates that the breaker is not working correctly.
  4. Voltage Measurement: Using a voltmeter, you can measure the voltage across the line and load terminals of the circuit breaker to check for proper voltage supply. Ensure the breaker is in the "ON" position during this test. If the input and output voltages are the same then the breaker working properly. But if you see there is a big difference between input and output voltage then the breaker is going bad.
  5. Insulation Resistance Test: A professional electrician can perform an insulation resistance test using a specialized megger to measure the insulation resistance of the circuit breaker. This test helps identify any insulation breakdown or leakage issues. An insulation test is must require when the user complains that they experiencing mild electric shocks or tingling sensations when touching the breaker.
  6. Current Monitoring: By using a clamp meter or current probe, you can measure the current flowing through the circuit and compare it to the breaker's rated current. Excessive current could indicate a faulty or bad breaker. In this case, you have to decrease the electrical load connected to the breaker.
  7. Thermal Test: Infrared thermal imaging cameras can be used to detect abnormal heat patterns or hotspots on the circuit breaker. Elevated temperatures may suggest internal issues, loose connection, unwanted current flows, or overloading.
  8. Voltage Drop Test: By measuring the voltage drop across the breaker terminals while a load is connected, you can determine if the breaker is causing a significant voltage drop, which may indicate a faulty condition. If the breaker does not drop any voltage or drops a very low voltage then it will be considered as a good breaker.
  9. Phase Imbalance Check: With a power analyzer, you can assess the balance of current and voltage across the phases of a breaker to identify any significant imbalances that could indicate a problem. For large three-phase circuit breakers which are connected to multiple loads, we must check the phase imbalance.
  10. Tripping Time Measurement: A professional can measure the actual tripping time of the circuit breaker using specialized testing equipment. This test ensures the breaker trips within an appropriate time to protect the electrical system. A bad breaker has a much or very less tripping time than its rated tripping time.
Here are some procedures for repairing a bad breaker.
  1. Cleaning and Maintenance: The electrician should clean the circuit breaker and its all components to remove any dirt, dust, or debris that could interfere with the test button's operation. They may also tighten loose connections and ensure proper contact.
  2. Component Replacement: If the test button remains non-functional, it may require replacement. The electrician will obtain a suitable replacement part, following the manufacturer's guidelines and specifications.
  3. Breaker Replacement: If all tests indicate a faulty breaker or if the breaker continues to exhibit issues, and all the repairing tricks fail it may be necessary to replace the bad breaker with a new one to ensure safe and reliable operation.

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What is a Bad Breaker? Symptoms, Causes, Testing, Repairing What is a Bad Breaker? Symptoms, Causes, Testing, Repairing Reviewed by Author on June 14, 2023 Rating: 5
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