Determining if a GFCI Outlet Is Bad

According to the National Electrical Code, it is a standard requirement for every house to have a Ground Fault Current Interrupting (GFCI) outlet whether in your bathrooms, kitchens, outdoors or anywhere else where water is usually present. This GFCI outlet that contains breaker inside it would trips whenever it detects a sudden surge of current for instance whenever it is caused by holding an ungrounded appliance while standing in water. The GFCI normally comes with two red and black buttons in front of it where the black button is for testing the outlet while the red button is used for resetting the outlet whenever there are any trips.

What you need to do:

  1. Screwdriver

GFCI Outlet


  1. Firstly, you must check the breaker that controls the circuit where the GFCI outlet is installed. If you notice that the red button is out, just push the wire back inside and try to reset the outlet if it is tripped and then push the reset button that you can see on the GFCI.
  2. Make sure that you unplug all your appliances that are plugged into outlets downstream of the GFCI. Even if the outlets may not even be on the GFCIs, you must always remember that even a faulty appliance or a ground fault connecting to an appliance plugged into one of the outlet will definitely prevent the GFCI to reset accordingly.
  3. After that, you need to switch off the breaker connected to the circuit and unscrew its cover plate from the GFCI using a screwdriver. Then, you need to unscrew the GFCI from your electrical box. Make sure that you check the wire connections whether it is correctly wired.
  4. Try to verify the live circuit connected to the terminals which is marked as ‘Line’ (the upper pair) and also the cable going to the other outlets is connected to your ‘Load’ terminals (the bottom pair).
  5. If you notice that the red button is already all the way in but still there is no power to the GFCI or even the outlets connecting to it, try to push the black button to test it and by doing this the red button should be able to pop up. If it still does not pop up, that means the GFCI is faulty.
  6. Some of the new models of the GFCOs are designed without color-coded buttons and also have the same color as the body outlet thus giving you a tough time to know whether the reset button is for out or in purposes.
  7. For this kind of problem, you need to push a little bit harder all the way in and you should also use a bright light to read the lettering on the buttons. For GFCI that trips continually, you must not assume that it is defective; it is recommended that you check other possibilities such as any ground fault in the circuit that it is protecting.

Image Credit:

Flickr CC

Additional Reading:

Black & Decker The Complete Photo Guide to Home Repair: with 350 Projects and 2000 Photos (Black & Decker Complete Photo Guide)

Wiring Simplified: Based on the 2008 National Electrical Code