5 Tips for troubleshooting a GFCI outlet

5 Tips for Troubleshooting a GFCI Outlet

Almost 400 people get electrocuted in their homes each year – about half of which are fatal. Ground fault circuit interrupters help mitigate potential harm by stopping electrical flow when it senses a deviation in current.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets play a crucial role in enhancing electrical safety within our homes and workplaces. These outlets are designed to protect us from electrical shocks and potential hazards caused by ground faults or short circuits.

However, like any electrical component, GFCI outlets can encounter problems over time. Troubleshooting these issues is essential to ensure the continued safety of your electrical system.

In this article, we’ll explore five tips for troubleshooting a GFCI outlet.

5 Tips for Troubleshooting a GFCI Outlet

1. Understanding GFCI Outlets

Before delving into troubleshooting, it’s important to have a basic understanding of how GFCI outlets work.

A GFCI outlet monitors the flow of electrical current between the hot and neutral wires. If there’s an imbalance of more than a few milliamps, indicating a leakage of current to ground, the GFCI outlet trips, cutting off the power supply.

This rapid response helps prevent electrical shocks and fires.

2. Check for Tripped GFCI Outlet

One of the most common issues with GFCI outlets is tripping. If a GFCI outlet has tripped, it means it has detected a ground fault and has shut off the power supply. Before proceeding with further troubleshooting steps, check if the GFCI outlet has tripped.

This can be identified by the presence of a “Test” and “Reset” button on the outlet. The “Reset” button should be pressed to restore power. If it doesn’t stay reset, there might still be an issue causing the GFCI to trip.

3. Test Other Outlets on the Circuit

One of the best ways to test an electrical outlet is by using a digital multimeter. GFCI outlets are often connected in a series, so if one outlet trips, it can affect the others downstream. If you have multiple GFCI outlets on the same circuit, check if any of the others have tripped as well.

Even regular outlets downstream from a tripped GFCI outlet can lose power. Press the “Test” button on all GFCI outlets and then reset them to ensure they’re working correctly.

4. Identify and Address Possible Causes

Several factors can cause a GFCI outlet to trip or malfunction:

Ground Fault: If water or moisture comes into contact with the outlet, it can create a ground fault. Ensure the GFCI outlet is properly installed in areas where water is present, such as bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoor areas. Check for leaks or dampness that might be causing the ground fault.

Faulty Wiring: Incorrect or damaged wiring can lead to false trips or GFCI malfunction. Inspect the wiring connections to ensure they’re secure and properly connected. If you’re not experienced with electrical work, it’s recommended to seek the assistance of a qualified electrician.

Overloading: Overloading the circuit by connecting too many appliances can also cause the GFCI outlet to trip. Make sure you’re not exceeding the recommended load for the circuit.

Defective Appliances: Faulty appliances with damaged cords or internal wiring can cause GFCI trips. Disconnect all devices from the outlet and attempt to reset it. Gradually reconnect the devices to identify the one causing the trip.

5. Replace a Faulty GFCI Outlet

If you’ve gone through the above steps and the GFCI outlet still doesn’t work or keeps tripping, it might be time to replace it. Over time, GFCI outlets can wear out or become less sensitive to ground faults. To replace a GFCI outlet:

1. Turn off the power to the outlet at the circuit breaker.
2. Remove the outlet cover plate and unscrew the outlet from the junction box.
3. Carefully disconnect the wires from the old outlet, making note of their positions.
4. Connect the wires to the corresponding terminals on the new GFCI outlet.
5. Secure the new outlet back into the junction box, screw on the cover plate, and restore power at the circuit breaker.

Remember, electrical work can be dangerous if not done correctly. If you’re not confident in your abilities, it’s safer to hire a licensed electrician to replace the outlet for you.


GFCI outlets are integral to maintaining electrical safety in our homes and workplaces. Troubleshooting issues with these outlets is a crucial task that ensures the proper functioning of our electrical systems and protects us from potential hazards.

By understanding the basics of GFCI operation, checking for tripped outlets, testing other outlets on the circuit, identifying and addressing possible causes, and replacing faulty outlets when necessary, you can maintain a safe and reliable electrical environment.

If you encounter complex or recurring problems, it’s always best to consult a professional electrician to ensure the safety of both you and your property.