Usually, when you find a dead or malfunctioning outlet, your first instinct might be to get it replaced. However, when a GFCI outlet malfunctions, it is probably due to something very trivial and can be fixed easily.

The steps for GFCI outlet troubleshooting are pretty simple and it’s something you could do yourself.

The first step is to gather the necessary equipment. Next is to test for possible problems such as damaged connections. And when you have pinpointed the issue, you could get started on solving it.

In this article, I will talk about how you can troubleshoot a GFCI outlet if it ever starts to malfunction.

GFCI Outlet Not Working

Gathering Necessary Equipment for Troubleshooting

As with every task, the first and foremost step is to gather all the tools and items that would be necessary for it. When troubleshooting a GFCI outlet, you might need to get close and personal with the wiring.

For that, you need some tools as well as safety equipment. These are some of the things that you will need before working with anything electrical.

Tools and Equipment for Troubleshooting a GFCI Outlet:

  • Rubber Gloves and Boots: Electricity is very dangerous, and any accident could be life-threatening. Hence, it is always strictly advised to wear rubber gloves and boots to insulate yourself from any sort of conductivity.
  • Screwdrivers: The outlet is oftentimes secured to the wall with screws. In order to get access to the wiring, it is needed to remove the outlet from the wall first. For this you will need a screwdriver, matching the screws on your outlet.
  • Voltage Testers: Working with live wires can be extremely hazardous. To test whether a wire is live or not, you have to use voltage testers. You can use a non-contact voltage tester, multimeter, or screwdriver tester.
  • Flashlight: The wiring and joints can oftentimes be hard to see; it is necessary to keep a flashlight at hand for such situations.
  • Wire Strippers: You may need to rewire the connections in some cases. For such a task, wire strippers would come in handy.

Troubleshooting a GFCI Outlet

As it stands, GFCI outlet troubleshooting is pretty simple. You can use the face buttons to do so. Let’s take a look at the steps of troubleshooting a GFCI outlet.

But first, the indicator light, most commonly situated at the bottom right corner of the outlet plays an important role in the troubleshooting. What color should the light be on a GFCI outlet? I will discuss the indicator statuses below.

1. GFCI Indicator Light Statuses

The indicator light does not only indicate the presence of power but also provides necessary signals to the users about the state of the GFCI outlet.

  • No Light: If the indicator lights are not turned on, it means that your GFCI outlet is in a tripped state, and does not have any power in it.
  • Green: Is GFCI light supposed to be green? Yes, a GREEN indicator implies that your outlet is working properly and is operational. GREEN is the optimal indicator color.
  • Red: But, why is my GFCI red? Should GFCI red light be on? A red light indicates that the GFCI outlet requires attention and that a problem may exist. To reset the GFCI in this scenario, simply press the TEST and RESET buttons. If the outlet turns GREEN, your outlet is okay. But if not, it might still have some issues.
  • Both: GFCI RED and GREEN lights both on? This means there’s a wiring issue within the circuit causing the outlet to malfunction.

These statuses have to be kept in mind while troubleshooting a GFCI outlet.

RESET and Test Buttons of a GFCI
Fig 1- Test and Reset Buttons on a GFCI Outlet

2. Testing a GFCI Outlet Using the Face Buttons

All GFCIs have two face buttons, one labeled TEST and the other labeled RESET (Fig 1).

  • Press the TEST button.
  • You will hear a “CLICK” sound or a beep. And you RESET button will pop itself out.
  • The indicator light will turn off.
  • Press the RESET button that has now popped out.
  • If the button clicks itself down and the GREEN indicator light turns back on with a beep, your outlet is functioning properly and is operational.
  • However, if the RESET button does not stay down, and keeps popping back up, that means there is no electricity in your outlet. And you need to check the power supply/wiring.
  • Also, the indicator light will remain turned off too in such a case.

If your outlet does not show any indicator light or a RED light, it needs further troubleshooting.

3. Troubleshooting a Malfunctioning Outlet

If after testing your GFCI, you might find that it did not pass the test. So, why is my GFCI outlet not working? There could be a few reasons.

  • Tripped Breaker: Open the main circuit panel of your household. Inspect all the breakers if any of them has tripped or not. A tripped breaker might also cause an outlet to stop working.
  • Faulty Connection: If your circuit breakers are fine, and so is the outlet, you have to open up the outlet and recheck the wiring. A faulty connection could cause a GFCI outlet to malfunction. Be sure to turn off the power beforehand and wear safety gear. You can do it yourself. You just need to know how to wire a GFCI outlet with 3 wires. Do not hesitate to consult a professional if needed.
  • Dead Outlet: How do you know if a GFCI outlet is bad? There are three varieties of bad GFCIs. First, it won’t trip when you push the TEST button and the outlet will stay hot or dead. Secondly, the RESET button stays out and won’t reset. And the last one is that the button trips out but the outlet stays hot. A dead outlet must always be replaced.

These are some of the common causes that might stop your GFCI outlet from working properly.

Summary

In this article, I have covered the key steps of GFCI outlet troubleshooting as well as stated the necessary fixes for each case.

I hope this article will help you tackle any GFCI-related situations that you might face. However, do not hesitate to consult a professional if you are unsure of what to do.

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