How to Test a Circuit Breaker

Circuit Breaker Tester: Clamping Ammeter

Circuit breakers that trip every time they’re reset may be overloaded. In order to diagnose a circuit breaker overload you can test the circuit breaker by using a clamping ammeter. You can use this circuit breaker tester to check overloads and shorts that are in progress. They determine whether the electric current is running through the circuit. The clamping ammeter must be clamped to a single wire -not the cable- to accurately test the breaker.

If the clamp ammeter test is positive for an overload or short in the circuit then you can proceed to solve your problem. Testing the circuit breaker can save you time and headache by pinpointing the problem to find a valid solution.

Circuit Breaker Tester: Electromagnetic Circuit Finder (Current Tracer)

Circuit breakers may trip and disconnect all electricity, but sometimes that is not the case. An electromagnetic circuit finder will test to see if the circuit breaker has a live connection. It will determine which individual breaker controls a live circuit.

On occasion the circuit breaker tester is not completely accurate. The more expensive versions that electricians use are typically more reliable. However, the less expensive model will generally serve the purpose as well. When using the electromagnetic circuit finder you will plug the transmitter into the receptacle and the electric current reading will show up on the receiver.

These circuit breaker testers and other devices can be helpful for circuit breaker troubleshooting and short circuit problems. If you are not sure how to repair the problem then you should always seek the help and advice of a certified professional.

Circuit Breaker Tester: Electrostatic Wand

Circuit breaker testing can be helpful if you are trying to determine the flow of electricity in the circuit breaker panel. A circuit breaker should be tested even if you have turned it off; it is important to make sure the wires are dead and there is no current flowing in them.

An electrostatic wand or volt stick can indicate if a wire is hot without being in direct contact with it. A light indicator will come on if it detects signs of electrical current. This type of circuit breaker testing is inexpensive, but may not be as reliable as other types of circuit breaker testing tools. The electrostatic wand should not be used close to the ground, because it may pick up a signal from ground wires or other electrical wiring that is not associated with the circuit breaker being tested.

Using a volt stick can be helpful if you are just trying to detect “hot” on the circuit and you get a clear reading. You can purchase the electrostatic wand and other circuit breaker testing supplies at electric supply stores.

Circuit Breaker Tester: Multimeter

The multimeter circuit breaker tester combines the characteristics of a voltmeter and the ohmmeter in one. This multipurpose circuit breaker testing device has multiple functions. Like the voltmeter it measures the level of voltage in the circuit and also measures the continuity and resistance level (ohmmeter). Obtaining information about both electrical readings can help pinpoint circuit breaker problems quickly and accurately for repair.

A multimeter may be purchased at most electrical supply companies and replacement circuit breakers can be found by visiting

Circuit Breaker Tester: Voltmeter

Circuit breaker testing can get complicated when using small inexpensive testers. A voltmeter is a popular circuit breaker testing tool used by homeowners. This circuit breaker tester measures the voltage running through the electrical circuit. You use a voltmeter by touching one prong to each of the parts of a circuit between which you need to measure voltage. For example, you would touch one prong to the neutral wire and the other to the hot wire to measure the voltage in a circuit.

One limitation to the voltmeter is that it does not guarantee that the load will run through the circuit. Just because there is voltage present does not mean the load is running through the circuit breaker correctly. If the voltmeter gives you a good reading, but the problem still occurs, you may want to try a different type of circuit breaker testing method or consult a professional for further assistance.

You can find circuit breakers and equipment by visiting

How to Check a Circuit Breaker

Circuit breaker problems may be difficult to diagnose. There are several ways you can check the circuit breakers in your home. Start by looking in the circuit breaker panel to check for a flipped breaker switch. Then inspect the area in order to find signs of burning or circuit breaker damage. If you smell burning or can feel heat then you should shut off the main as a precaution. Any type of water damage such as flooding, extreme humidity or other conditions can cause damage to circuit breakers in your breaker box. Circuit breakers that have been submerged in water or exposed to it for long periods of time should definitely be replaced. The water can damage or break down a circuit breaker and cause it to malfunction or shut down.

Once you have checked the circuit breaker panel and the area around it then you can proceed with circuit breaker testing to see if you can pinpoint a problem in the flow of electrical current or the voltage level. If you have exhausted your options and were unable to fix the circuit breaker then you should call for assistance.

Circuit breaker replacements and other electrical devices can be purchased at

How to Check a Circuit Breaker For Homeowners

Homeowners are usually in the dark when it comes to circuit breaker maintenance and electrical repairs. Here are some tips on how to check a circuit breaker in the home.

Always make sure your hands and the floor are dry; this will help you avoid electric shock.

Go to the circuit breaker box and see if one of the breakers is off. If a breaker is flipped, the switch will typically be off or partially off (somewhere between off and on). Try resetting it if it has tripped.

If you see bare wires or signs of burning and wear, do not attempt to fix the circuit breaker on your own. Consult an electrician immediately. If you smell burning or see sparks, you should turn off the main circuit breaker at the main power box outside your home and wait for professional assistance.

How to Tell if a Circuit Breaker is Bad

Circuit breakers that trip often are not necessarily bad. The problem may not be the circuit breaker at all; it could stem from faulty wiring, a short circuit or a power overload. There are certain characteristics that will help you determine how to tell if a circuit breaker is bad. Here are some suggestions for diagnosing a bad circuit breaker.

  • If there’s a problem with the bus bar in the breaker panel, power might not even be getting to the breaker itself.
  • Circuit breaker exposure to water, excessive heat or humidity. These kinds of things can make a circuit breaker malfunction or cause damage inside the breaker itself.
  • The circuit breaker handle flops back and forth instead of locking into place and there are no definite “on” and “off” positions.
  • You can see obvious signs of overheating or burning; there is black around the circuit breaker area and casing.
  • There is heavy corrosion on either end of the circuit breaker.

Replacing a bad circuit breaker should not be difficult for most DIYers with experience. However, if there are burns or other damages, the problem may be more complex than replacing a circuit breaker. An electrician or certified electrical professional should handle these types of problems. The electrician can inspect your circuits and do circuit breaker testing in order to properly diagnose the problem and fix it completely.

How to Test for a Faulty Circuit Breaker

Circuit breakers protect the electrical system in your home from overheating and overloading. A breaker that flips often may be faulty or the breaker could be functional and the problem could be coming from somewhere else. If your circuit breaker will not reset and the load terminal doesn’t put out voltage then you probably need to replace the circuit breaker.

If you suspect a circuit breaker is faulty then you can do a circuit breaker test to help you determine if it is not working or if the trouble is in the internal wiring.

One test is to use a reliable voltage tester or voltage meter to measure the electricity flowing through the circuit. If the voltage is low then the breaker is not allowing the current to flow through correctly.

Another way to test the circuit is to turn off and unplug all devices associated with the circuit then see if it will reset. Once it is reset, turn on each item individually and see if the circuit stays on.

It is important to turn off the circuit breaker and keep all electrical devices off while you reset the breaker because if there is a short in the breaker a surge of electrical current can flow all at once causing an arc that may start a fire or cause electrical burns and serious injury.

If the circuit stays set, you may want to look at individual appliances, cords or light fixtures that are connect to the circuit breaker in order to get to the source of the problem.

Testing a Circuit Breaker: Neon Tester

A testing device like the neon tester can check if a circuit breaker is live. This particular tool can test for hot wires, shock danger and more. To use the neon tester you simply touch the probes to a wire to determine whether or not the wire is live. The light on the tester will light up when electricity is present.

Testing circuit breakers on your own can help determine if you require circuit breaker maintenance. Homeowners can sometimes perform basic maintenance, but professionals should handle more complicated problems.