The Circuit Detective's Diagnostic Tree
Resetting a Breaker. Is It Really Retripping?
If you have reached this page without beginning at the Start of the diagnostic tree, you may do better to start there.
If you are trying to reset the breaker correctly, then either it has a mechanical problem or else it is retripping for a short. Most breakers will not reset simply by being pushed back to "on" or even by being "flipped back and forth" necessarily. The correct, effective procedure is to very firmly push the handle to full "off" (don't be shy!), so that it perhaps even clicks in place, and then firmly click it to "on" (but don't be holding it on much, in case it wants to retrip for a short). If doing this restored your power, learn Why the breaker had tripped. If it does not restore power, then how will you know if the breaker is truly retripping for a short (that is, doing its job) or is itself unable to hold the "on" position because it is defective?
One indication of a short going on would be if you heard a definite hum or buzz or saw a flash of light there when trying to reset. Another good way is to take the panel's cover off, remove the wire from that breaker, and see if it resets and stays on now (and even test for hotness at its terminal). If it doesn't (or doesn't show hotness) then replace the breaker, and if possible put the new one in a different location in the panel. But if the original does stay on when deprived of its wire, then it has indeed been responding to a short. (You might as well put the wire back into the turned-off breaker again). In this case, you are ready to go after the Short Circuit. However, if the breaker has a special colored test-button next to its handle, first see Arc-fault breaker.© 2005-2012 Larry Dimock