How Come My GFCI Outlet Won’t Reset?

GFCI outlets make a safer home GFCI outlets help make the home a lot safer but when a GFCI outlet won’t reset, what can you do?

We use electrical outlets every day but when they don’t work it can be really inconvenient. When older outlets stop working, it could be a sign of potential danger, possibly even a fire hazard.

Always hire an electrician to repair faulty electrical outlets.

This is particularly true of GFCI outlets. These are generally placed near water sources like in your bathrooms, kitchen, garage, etc. If the outlet trips and the GFCI outlet won’t reset, don’t try to fix it yourself.

In this Premium Electric blog post we’ll give you a good overview of what GFCI outlets are, how they work, and why your GFCI outlet won’t reset as it should. More importantly, however, if your GFCI isn’t working, why this is a job for a certified electrician.

What is a GFCI Outlet?

A ground-fault circuit interrupter or GFCI outlet is the specialized electrical outlet most often placed in areas where water and electricity are in proximity.

The risk of being shocked is much higher when electrical outlets are near water sources such as your bathroom or kitchen, for example.

GFCI outlets are also often placed in outdoor areas like in your garage and on the outside of your house. They may also be used for outlets frequently used for large appliances that draw a lot of power since here too, the risk for a serious shock is more significant.

Given their usage in areas where the risk of shock is higher, they are designed to shut off the power. The GFCI won’t reset if there is a short in the line. This immediately eliminates the risk of being shocked if it shorts out while you are using the outlet.

How Does a GFCI Work?

A GFCI outlet works by using a breaker internally to automatically trip if the circuit is overloaded or if it shorts out. The power is immediately cut to the outlet itself.

In fact, this happens very quickly, in as little as 1/40 of a second. This immediate shut-off is designed to better protect your home and protect you from possible electrical shocks.

Once the GFCI outlet is tripped, you will need to reset the outlet to restore the electricity to that outlet. Sometimes, however, the GFCI won’t reset as it should. There could be a number of reasons for this.

GFCI Outlet Won’t Reset

If your outlet has tripped and you can’t get the GFCI to reset when you push the reset button, there could be several reasons:

  • The GFCI outlet is not being supplied with power.
  • The outlet might have failed altogether and require repair or replacement.
  • A regular outlet on the same line may be experiencing a ground fault.
  • An open or upstream tripped GFCI might be the cause of the reset problem.
  • The GFCI outlet may have been installed incorrectly.

How can you tell which of these issues is the root of your GFCI reset failure?

Symptoms & Solutions

When a GFCI outlet won’t reset, it can be quite tricky to determine if it is due to a fault in the outlet itself, or a fault in the circuit. That’s why you need to hire a certified electrician to find and resolve the problem.

That one outlet could just be defective, or it could be more extensive and potentially more dangerous. A good electrician will be able to diagnose and fix the problem for you. In short, when it comes to electricity, you never want to DIY.

Here are some of the symptoms to watch for when your GFCI outlet won’t reset:

  • GFCI Testing Tool when GFCI stops workingThe symptom: The reset button is in, but the plugged-in devices won’t work.
    Perhaps the GFCI outlet isn’t getting any electricity, or it wasn’t wired properly. It may also be defective.
  • The symptom: Plugging something in pops out the reset button.
    The GFCI might be incorrectly wired and should be checked by an electrician.
  • The symptom: The GFCI won’t reset after pressing the ‘test’ button.
    Was the reset button pushed in far enough to work? If not, try pushing it a little harder. If that doesn’t work, it could mean that you have a defective GFCI unit.
  • The symptom: The reset button is out but the outlet won’t work when you plug in a device. Call an electrician because this might indicate a reversed line load.
  • The symptom: The “reset” button won’t stay in.
    There is probably a ground fault problem further down the line from the GFCI that will require an electrician to remedy.

What Else Can You Do When GFCI Is Not Working?

Other steps you can take to try to figure out why your GFCI outlet won’t outlet reset include the following:

1.      Check the Room

Check where the faulty outlet is located to see if anything else has tripped or is not working. Are the lights still on? Are the other outlets still functioning? If you unplug all devices in the room does the reset button pop out?

If all else appears to be working properly, then the issue probably lies with just that specific outlet; but if other outlets in the room, or the lights, aren’t working either, the issue may lie in the circuit somewhere. In this case, proceed to #2.

2.      Check the Circuit Breaker

Look at the main circuit panel and check for any tripped switches. If any have tripped, try resetting the tripped breaker, then check if the original outlet is now working. If it is working but keeps tripping, it is likely that you have an overload problem, and it can’t handle all that is plugged into it.

Note: if the GFCI keeps tripping and needs to be continually reset, you may have a current leak somewhere. Again, when in doubt, or even when not, don’t trust yourself when it comes to electrical issues: always call an electrician! You can call us at 604-308-6195.

3.      Check for Bad Wiring or Bad Connections

Another reason a GFCI outlet won’t reset could be bad wiring or connections – either in the outlet itself or in nearby outlets. The three most common types of bad connections are loose wiring, loose terminal screws, or perhaps the stab-in connections are loose.

While you can certainly look for loose connections yourself – use a wire connector and tug each wire to test the connection – we don’t recommend doing anything yourself if you find one. Let the professionals sort it out for you. Stay safe and call an electrician.

See this article by the Electrical Industry for additional information about ground fault detection and protection.

About Premium Electric

If you still have questions about why your GFCI outlet won’t reset or if you require an electrician to replace a faulty GFCI outlet, our Abbotsford electricians are here to help.

Regardless of whether you have a residential electrical problem or a commercial electrical problem, our certified electricians are fully bonded and available 24/7. Premium Electric services the entire Fraser Valley and the Greater Vancouver area from Hope to North and West Vancouver.

Need help? Call us at 604-308-6195

Or, if you prefer, please contact us online or send us an email.

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