When a circuit breaker trips regularly with little or no load, users suspect a bad breaker. While this may be possible, it is not always true.

An electrical panel can trip because of circuit overload, ground faults, over-currents, short circuits and other minor faults.

Before you consider replacing your breaker box, always consult a licensed electrician for troubleshooting.

In this article, I will show you how to replace a bad circuit breaker.

Signs of a bad circuit breaker

The following signs may mean that a circuit breaker has gone bad.

  • If it trips easily.
  • When it cannot reset
  • If it cannot trip when it suppose.
  • A circuit breaker that is always hot.
  • If it has a burnt smell.

While these signs may mean that your circuit breaker has broken down, only a professional electrician can confirm it by checking the voltage level using his multimeter.

How to change a circuit breaker that has gone bad

In 1999, the National Electrical Code ‘NEC’ instructed that all residential circuits must have arc-fault interrupter protection (AFCI). And as of today, most of the home circuits have it.

When a licensed electrician replaces your bad circuit breaker, the law requires him to install the AFCI circuit breaker.

So, as you replace the faulty circuit breaker, make sure you comply with the code.

Tools and materials needed to replace a bad breaker

  • Wire stripper
  • Screwdriver
  • Plier
  • Multimeter
  • Flashlight
  • Personal protective equipment
  • A new circuit breaker.

Here’s how to replace a bad circuit breaker

  • Switch off the main circuit breaker.
  • Test the wires with a multimeter or tester to make sure they are dead
  • Lose the panel cover
  • Disconnect the wires connected to the old circuit breaker
  • Carry out the old circuit breaker.
  • Mount the new breaker firmly, with the help of a level.
  • Reconnect the wires to the terminals
  • Replace the panel cover
  • Switch ON the control switch
  • Test run the circuit breaker to see if it is working fine.

Can I replace a circuit breaker without turning off power?

Yes, you can replace a bad circuit breaker without turning off the control switch, however, it is risky.

But for any reason that makes you embark on that, make sure you protect yourself. Wear your personal protective equipment, such as your boot, overall, and hand gloves. Also, never you work on wet environment because water is an excellent conductor of electricity.