Symptoms of a bad circuit breaker

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Circuit breakers are responsible for automatically interrupting the flow of electricity in case of an electrical surge or shortage. These mechanical boxes determine electrical currents entering a building and help prevent fires and electrocution. However, like many devices, circuit breaks can go bad over time. It is important to learn the symptoms of a bad circuit breaker to keep your home and your family safe from electrical dangers.

Weather Damage

A circuit breaker may be damaged due to extreme weather, such as high humidity levels or extreme temperatures. To look for these signs of damage, carefully examine the circuit breaker casing for water condensation or rust. Open the circuit breaker and examine its contents. If you notice mould or mildew growth along the interior portions of the breaker switches, this is a clear symptom of weather damage.


Circuit breakers are continually exposed to high levels of electricity, and if any part of the breaker malfunctions the breaker may begin to overheat and burn. To check for these symptoms, review the entire circuit breaker casing and area. Look for a black residue along the edges of the breaker, where it meets the wall, or on the interior of the breaker near handles. If you notice black residue, immediately turn off the circuit breaker and contact a licensed electrician.


Corrosion occurs when electricity produces excessive heat due to failing internal parts. This is one of the main symptoms of a bad circuit breaker, and if noticed, must be handled immediately to prevent electrical fires or damage to other electrical systems in the home or business. To check for corrosion, look closely at the handles and the end of the circuit breaker. Corrosion typically looks like a powdery substance, and depending on the severity of the issue you may find small amounts of corrosion or large accumulation around the base of handles and where the electricity enters the breaker.

Circuit Breaker Handles

One of the most obvious signs of a bad circuit breaker is found in the handles, or switches, of the breaker itself. To activate electricity to different portions of a building, these handles must be switched to the "on" position; however, if you notice that the handles do not stay in the position you placed it in, the breaker is malfunctioning. If the circuit breaker handle does not lock into either the "on" or "off" position, immediately contact an electrician to replace the circuit breaker.

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