The GFI Outlet Won't Reset

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Things You'll Need

  • Circuit tester

  • Replacement GFI outlet (optional)

National residential electrical codes mandate that a GFI, or ground fault interrupter, outlet be installed in any area where an appliance using the power source can be exposed to shorting by moisture or may pose a risk of electrical shock. The GFI protection comes from an internal breaker that trips to terminate electrical current to the outlet if the circuit is overloaded or shorted. When the outlet's breaker has tripped, it must be reset to restore electrical current to the outlet. A GFI breaker that will not reset indicates a deeper response to the circuit fault or a failed outlet. Troubleshooting the exact cause is a basic procedure that will determine the cause and indicate the solution necessary.

Step 1

Press the center "Test" button, then push in the "Reset" button, if applicable. If the outlet breaker will not reset, proceed to Step 2.

Step 2

Dry the GFI outlet with a standard hair dryer if the outlet has tripped due to exposure to water or moisture. When the outlet is completely dry, press the reset button.

Step 3

Check the main breaker or fuse for the circuit that the GFI outlet is connected to. The primary circuit breaker at the main electrical panel will sometimes trip when the GFI outlet is shorted or overloaded. If the breaker has tripped, switch it back to the "on" position and press the reset button on the GFI outlet.

Step 4

Hold the test button in on the GFI outlet and test the outlet using a circuit tester. If the current is present, it will show on the tester immediately. Do not hold the tester button in longer than necessary or you risk overheating the outlet. Press the reset button again if proper current to the outlet is present. If no current is present and the primary breaker is operating properly, the outlet is faulty and should be replaced.


Paul Massey

Paul Massey has been writing since 2009, drawing on a 35-year career in the construction industry. His experience includes 15 years as a general building contractor specializing in architectural design, custom homes, commercial development and historic renovations.