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How to Repair a GFI Outlet Circuit


By Dave Rongey - Summary:

Troubleshoot and Repair GFI Outlet Circuit Wiring: I have a problem with the GFCI circuits in my home, Example of How to Test a GFI Circuit.


Steps for Testing a GFCI Outlet Circuit

Electrical Question: I have a problem with the GFCI circuits in my home.

  • The end of the GFCI line is in the garage and before that the bathroom which joins the garage. I cannot get power to either.
  • The line coming out of my panel leads to a GFCI outlet, about one foot away.
  • There’s power coming out of the “load” line.
  • Here’s the problem, sometimes I do get power to both outlets in the bath and garage, then, when I plug in a device (lead light) in the garage the light goes on initially then dims and goes out. Then I got no power to the bath or the garage.
  • Power is still on coming out of the GFCI outlet next to the panel box.
  • Fearing there might be a wiring problem, maybe to a switch, I’ve turned all switches in the house on and that doesn’t connect.

Thank you for your advice.
Jerry

This electrical wiring question came from: Jerry, in NY, New York.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical wiring question Jerry.

Troubleshoot and Repair GFCI Outlet Circuit Wiring

electrical troubleshooting GFCI outlet

  • Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced.
  • Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools a Voltage Tester or Plug-In Circuit Analyzer.
  • Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience, ability to work with tools, the extent of the electrical repairs, the number of outlets that are affected and access to each location.
  • Precaution: Identify the GFCI outlet circuit, turn it OFF and Tag it with a Note before working with the wiring.

How to Test a GFI Circuit

When the GFI circuit seems to be partially working or not working at all here are some things to double check to get the GFCI working again.

  1. Check for Loose Wires
    Make sure there are no loose wires within the circuit, especially the white neutral wire.
  2. Incoming Power Source: The LINE
    Make sure the incoming power source to the GFCI outlet are attached to the LINE side as indicated on the back of the receptacle.
  3. Outgoing Power Source: The Load
    Make sure the outgoing circuit wiring is connected to the LOAD side of the GFCI Outlet.
  4. LINE and LOAD Wiring
    Both the black and white wires must be connected separately into the appropriate terminals of the LINE and the LOAD side of the GFCI Outlet or GFI Receptacle.
  5. A Bad GFI
    If the wiring connections are correct and the circuit voltage is normal then the GFCI outlet may be faulty and should be replaced.
  6. Checking the Circuit Polarity
    The integrity of the GFI circuit wiring may be tested for voltage by temporarily removing the GFCI outlet and splicing the wires through and then testing the voltage and polarity at each receptacle outlet of the same circuit. If the voltage readings and polarity test is normal then the GFCI is faulty or the connections to the GFCI were incorrect.
  7. Plug-In Circuit Analyzer
    A plug in circuit analyzer will be helpful to determine the correct wiring of the circuit and help detect circuit faults.

Important Note about Ground Fault Circuit Interruption:
Both GFI and GFCI are basically the same and both provide protection against ground faults by interrupting the electrical circuit by sensing voltage that passes to a ground source.

More about Wiring a GFCI

  • How to Wire GFCI Outlets
  • GFCI and GFI Wiring Diagrams

  • The features and benefits of GFCI outlets and receptacles will give you a clear understanding of the importance why these safety devices are required by code to help protect you and your family against accidental electrical shock hazards.
    GFCI Wiring
    GFCI Wiring
    This list of articles will help you learn about the features and benefits provided by GFI and GFCI Receptacles and how they are wired.
  • Electrical Outlet Wiring
    outlet-wiring
  • Wiring Electrical Outlets for the Home

  • Home electrical wiring includes 110 volt outlets and 220 volt outlets and receptacles which are common place in every home. See how wiring electrical outlets for the home are done.
  • Basic House Wiring Circuits
    home-electrical-circuits
  • House Wiring Circuits and Circuit Breakers

  • This article looks at common 120 volt and 240 volt house wiring circuits and the circuit breakers that are installed identifying the types and amperage sizes used in most homes.
  • Using Testers to Identify the Cause of why Electrical Power has been Lost
    digital-tester
  • Testers Help Determine Conditions that Lead to Electrical Power Loss

  • Troubleshooting to Find Out Why Your Home Lost Power
    Lost power
  • How to Identify Lost Power

  • Licensed Electrician Reveals the Secrets of Successful Electrical Troubleshooting Methods used to solve the majority of the home electrical problems and wiring failures encountered.
    Types of Electrical Testers



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120 Volt and 240 Volt Outlet Circuits
Wiring 3-Wire and 4-Wire Electric Range
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Troubleshooting and Repair Electrical Wiring
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Electrical Codes for Home Electrical Wiring
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6 Responses to “How to Repair a GFI Outlet Circuit”
  1. Tom Williams says:

    I was trimming my hedges when I inadvertently cut the extension cord with the hedge trimmer. This shorted out the outlet where the extension cord was plugged in. However the outlet is a GFCI type. I disconnected the three wires attached to the receptacle and tested the hot and neutral with my tester but there was no voltage. The other outside receptacles have no power either. Does this mean I have to replace the circuit breaker connected to the three GFCI outlets?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Tom,
      From what you have described here is the process that I would take: Make sure the damaged hedge trimmer cord is unplugged. Reconnect any wiring and reinstall any receptacles and cover plates that have been opened. Then go to the electrical panel and look for the circuit breaker for the outside receptacles, switch the breaker all the way into the Off position, and then back into the On position. This will reset the circuit breaker and should restore power to the outdoor receptacle circuit. Double check and test the GFCI receptacle to make sure it is functioning correctly.
      I hope this helps,
      Dave

  2. Ed Drager says:

    I have a new home and the two GFI on the exterior of the home has always worked. One of the GFI’s has the test buttons on it and the other one does not. I have tried replacing the test receptacle and it will not work either. I have a load to the test receptacle and I can not trip either test buttons. I even replaced the other receptacle and that did not work. I am thinking that I might have gotten a bad GFI to replace the old one.

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Ed,
      Try replacing the GFI just in case you have a defective one. If that does not help then I suspect there is a problem within the circuit wiring which will need to be tracked down. Start by turning off the circuit power and inspecting all of the other outlet boxes, remove the outlets or devices, and look for anything that may cause moisture or a path between circuit components and the ground system. With situations like this I have even found that insects that nest into these areas which in some cases is enough to cause nuisance tripping of the GFI.
      Dave

  3. Stan says:

    Just purchased a home and it was inspected with all outlets working. Sometime during the past few weeks all 5 exterior outlets have stopped working. I have checked every outlet and switch in the house. The only ones not working are these 5. I None of these outlets are breakered and I cannot figure out which circuit breaker on the main panel feeds them. Any idea of what to do next?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Stan,
      I would search for a GFCI outlet that has tripped OFF. Begin looking on the porches, laundry room or the garage and I’ll bet you will find a GFCI outlet. If you locate a GFI outlet that is not tripped then make sure to press the TEST button to manually test it, and if it does not trip then the GFI outlet is at fault and needs to be replaced, and this will most likely solve the problem with the other outlets that are not working.
      Dave


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