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GFCI Outlet Not Working: 5 Simple Steps to Fix

GFCI Outlet Not Working: 5 Simple Steps to Fix

Sometimes a GFCI outlet not working is a minor issue that you can resolve by pressing the reset button.

If that doesn’t work, however, the situation may appear hopeless.

Trust me:

You don’t have to reach for the phone and call your electrician just yet.

You can get the outlet to work again with the right tools and a little troubleshooting.

Before I show you how to repair a GFCI outlet, I’ll explain what a GFCI outlet is and some of the possible reasons why a GFCI outlet won’t reset.

Then, I’m going to show you how to use the same steps to fix a dead regular outlet.

Let’s get started!

What Is a GFCI Outlet?

fixing tripped ground fault interrupter outlet

A GFCI outlet is a fast-acting circuit breaker that’s designed to shut off or block power in the event of a ground fault in less than 1/40th of a second.

The purpose of these outlets is to protect us from electric shocks and burns.

As a result, GFCI outlets are typically installed in locations where there’s a high risk of electrical shocks, such as kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, basements, garages, and outdoor areas.

Reasons Gfci Outlet Isn’t Working

Here are some of the possible causes for a GFCI outlet to stop working.

Current Leakage

Current leakage, or ground fault, happens when a live wire comes into contact with an appliance’s grounded metal or suffers from an insulation failure.

When a GFCI detects the slightest current leakage, it immediately stops working.

Circuit Overload

When an outlet can’t handle the amount of amperage that flows through it, the outlet can get overloaded, causing it to trip.

When you plug in a faulty appliance, you are likely to experience circuit overload.

It may also occur if there are any loose, corroded wires or connections.

Moisture Accumulation

Moisture Accumulation

Whether the culprit is rain or high humidity, moisture build-up in a GFCI outlet’s receptacle box can damage it.

Most of the time, an outdoor GFCI outlet not working isn’t weatherproofed and locked, which makes it susceptible to tripping.

Faulty Wiring

A new GFCI outlet that isn’t working no matter what you do could be due to faulty structural wiring.

In addition, an outlet connected to the same circuit that isn’t part of the house’s original wiring can trip the GFCI outlet.

Faulty GFCI Outlet

If you address all of the issues and the GFCI still doesn’t work, the problem is most likely with the outlet itself.

While GFCI outlets can last for a long time, they can fail after only five years.

How to Fix GFCI Outlet

voltage meter test gfci outlet

In many cases, you can solve the problem that’s causing a non-working GFCI outlet on your own.

Here’s what you could do:

Step 1: Prepare the Necessary Tools

The truth is:

You won’t need more than a handful of necessary tools to fix a non-working GFCI outlet, and these tools are:

  • A headlamp flashlight or a lantern
  • A voltage detector
  • Masking tape

If the faulty GFCI outlet is located outside and has stopped working after a rain, you may need a hairdryer to dry the outlet first before you inspect it.

Step 2: Troubleshoot the GFCI Outlet

Step 2.1: Check Other Outlets

Before you examine the circuit breakers, check if any other outlets aren’t working, such as light switches and regular outlets using a voltage detector, which you can find out more about here.

As you check the outlets, mark the dead ones with a piece of masking tape.

This way, you can easily find them again once you’ve turned off the power.

You should also unplug all appliances from the dead outlets to eliminate any overload.

Step 2.2: Test and Reset All GFCI Outlets

test button on gfci

What distinguishes GFCI outlets from regular ones are the test and reset buttons (sometimes they are black and red, and other times both are white).

First, make sure that all appliances sharing the same circuit as the GFCI outlet are unplugged. Then, press the reset button.

If you hear a click, plug in the appliances. However, if the outlet trips once you reset it, it could be overloaded.

Check which appliance is causing the issue by plugging them one at a time until the outlet trips.

Step 2.3: Check the Circuit Breaker Box

Now it’s time to check the circuit breaker box or main electrical panel for any tripped circuit breakers.

Look for the circuit breaker that isn’t aligned with the rest and push the handle to reset it.

A GFCI outlet not working after install may be fixed by this simple step.

If the circuit breaker trips back immediately, there’s possibly a problem with the wiring or the circuit. In this case, you’ll need a professional to take a look.

Step 2.4: Call a Qualified Electrician

If all else fails, there’s a good chance the problem is more complicated than a simple DIY solution.

Structural wiring is a complicated system, and it’s not always easy to pinpoint the source of the problem, especially if the previous steps haven’t fixed the outlet.

At this point, you should have a qualified electrician inspect the situation.

Step 3: Prevent GFCI Outlets From Tripping

Now that you’ve troubleshot the GFCI outlet, here’s what you can do to prevent future GFCI outlet trips:

Replace Old GFCI Outlets

If you’ve had the same GFCI outlets for more than 10 years, chances are they don’t work as well as they did when you first got them.

That’s why the first step to prevent GFCI outlet tripping or malfunctioning is to replace old outlets.

You should also replace any outlets that are visibly damaged or cracked.

These faulty outlets raise the risk of electric shocks and other hazards.

Ensure All Electrical Appliances Are Working Properly

Connecting a faulty electrical appliance to a GFCI or any outlet will frequently cause the outlet to shut down.

If you suspect an appliance is faulty, you can test it with a multimeter (see video below for help on this part).

Have the Structural Wiring Checked 

Generally, you should have a professional check the structural wiring every three to five years.

This inspection can prevent GFCI outlets from tripping.

Not to mention, conducting an occasional structural wiring test can help you detect any electrical issues and avoid any potential house fire hazards.

Keep Children Away from the Test Button

Children are naturally inquisitive, and their small hands may be drawn to the GFCI’s red test button.

So, you may need to keep a close eye on small children near outlets.

Even adults may accidentally trip the outlet when plugging in chargers or their devices.

That’s why you should periodically check to ensure that no one has pressed the test button.

Can You Fix a Dead Regular Outlet the Same Way?

plugging in outlet to test

There are evident differences between regular outlets and GFCI outlets. Still, when it comes to malfunctioning, both outlets are similar.

Current leakage, circuit overload, loose wires, and any other problems that happen to GFCI outlets can impact regular outlets.

As a result, minus the test and reset step, you can use the same method to inspect and repair any regular outlet.

But remember this:

Avoid replacing outlets or wiring yourself.

While you can replace and wire up a GFCI outlet yourself (see the following video), if you have no experience at all in these kind of electrical repairs, I recommend you hire a qualified electrician for this job.

Electricians not only have their own special tools, but they can also complete the job quickly, effectively, and, most importantly, safely.


Can a GFCI Outlet Go Bad?

GFCI outlets can last up to 15 years if properly installed. However, in most cases, those outlets typically last up to 10 years before the sensitive circuitry wears out and stops working properly.

Sometimes, however, GFCI outlets can 

Keep in mind that the GFCI’s test button may not always tell you that it has stopped functioning.

That’s why, every three months, you should check the outlet with a GFCI circuit tester or have a qualified electrician inspect it.

Is There a Difference between a GFCI and a GFI Outlet?

The only difference between GFCI and GFI outlets is their names. GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interrupters, while GFI stands for ground fault interrupters.

Aside from that, while GFCI is more commonly used, the terms GFCI and GFI are interchangeable and refer to the same device.

In Summary

Believe it or not:

You have the ability to solve the mystery of a GFCI outlet not working yourself. You can simply follow the above-listed steps to effectively and easily troubleshoot the device.

Still, remember that it’s totally normal if you’re unsure of how to fix a GFCI outlet yourself. You can always call in a professional electrician to take care of this task for you.

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