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Thread: New GFCI, test button OK but GFCI tester doesn't trip it

  1. #1

    Default New GFCI, test button OK but GFCI tester doesn't trip it

    Hi. My first post here and apologies if I don't have electric language straight--I'm pretty much self taught and limited to replacing switches and receptacles or adding another outlet on an existing circuit.

    So I finally got around to a "roundtoit" of adding a GCCI and additional receptacle to a basement circuit that has 4 things plugged into it. I replaced the single receptacle (2 3-prong outlets) with a GFCI and kept the original receptacle so I'd have 4 places to plug things in. This is in an unfinished basement where the conduit is exposed and the receptacle was installed in a 4" square box with a metal cover the outlet was screwed into. I replaced that cover with a metal one that had 2 cutouts, a big rectangular one for the GFCI and a normal one for a receptacle with 2 3-prong female connectors. I had to remove "wings" from GFCI then both receptacles bolt into the metal cover through the normal holes at end.

    ALSO, this conduit and the 2 wires extend out to the garage and the three outlets and light fixture in the garage are on the same circuit.

    So what I tried to do was (1) wire in the new GFCI and (2) use the load side to protect the 2nd receptacle in the same box AND the stuff downstream in the garage. All seemed fine when I tested by pushing the "test" button on the GFCI. BUT, I recently bought a GFCI tester that has 3 lights to indicate if wired correctly and a test button to trip the GFCI. This does NOT trip the GFCI when plugged in directly, nor when plugged into the second receptacle in the same box nor in the garage. So something is wrong. (sigh, so much for my "simple" Sat night project

    I thought I was very careful to wire from the circuit breaker to GFCI, then use the load side of GFCI to wire second receptacle and then run wires to garage from that receptacle. There were only 2 wires running to the original receptacle and then on through conduit to the garage (there is another circuit that went to that box and then out a different conduit, it was not wired into the receptacle I replaced in any way). These 2 wires, black and white, were not cut but rather about an inch was bared and wrapped around the screw on each side of receptacle, then continue out to garage. The receptacle was then wrapped with electrical tape.

    When I rewired I cut the continuous wire but I didn't wire to the screws as both GFCI and other receptacle had the option of sticking stripped wire into holes in back of receptacle and that seemed easier since the two receptacles were so close (sorry I don't know the terms for this but the bare wire sticks in and on the GFCI I then tightened the screws to hold wires in, on the other receptacle they are held automatically and you have to push in on a clip with a screwdriver to release them).

    The only other thing I did (that I remember is when I first wired this I _only_ wired to the one square box in basement and left the wires out to the garage disconnected. This let me confirm that I was correct that the garage outlets ran from this wire as the garage was dead when I flipped the circuit back on. At that point I tested the two receptacles with a circuit tester (two wires with little light, LED I think) but did NOT try the self test button or the GFCI tester (or at least I don't remember for sure if I did either).

    Sorry to be so long winded but trying to include all details that might help someone figure out what I did wrong. Other than triple checking that I got the line and load side correct I'm at a loss--so I tried Google on internet and ended up here.

    BTW, I did check that power was off to GFCI and downstream when the GFCI trips with self test button (my understanding is if I got line/load goofed up the outlets might stay live when test trips GFCI).

    So, any suggestions of what I did wrong or what I should do next? I did check the GFCI tester in a couple other GFCI outlets in the house and it tripped the GFCIs just as it is supposed to do. So what did I do wrong that it doesn't trip the GFCI on my new installation?

    BTW2, the circuit breaker is 20 amps, the GFCI 15 amps at receptacle with 20 amp downstream protection. Brand is Leviton, part of a 3 pack I bought at Lowes, Menards or Home Depot recently. Everything is in .5" metal conduit with 12 gauge solid wire (I'm in the City of Chicago

    TIA for any help/ideas.

    jim bash

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2002


    Never had a prob like mentioning. You do not mention if you grounded(greenor bare)GFI? Although, since they are used for people protection when no ground available, I would suspect it should still be tripping even if you didn't ground it to metal box. Again never have tryed and not sure if this has bearing on operation, as stated earlier it shouldn't. Sure you have both white & blk to line side of GFI and anything downstream conn to load side. Also white where it shows WHITE and Blk where shows BLK?? Since this comes directly(circuit) from breaker panel. Try without anything else conn just line side WHT & BLK see if trips. If not I'D supect bad GFI see no other explanation. Do you have 120V from blk wire to metal box when testing. Poss polarity reversed causing a problem. Again never have run into nor tryed to create to see GFI'S reation??? GL

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2002


    This is just a wild guess.

    Perhaps even though you have conduit you have lost your equipment grounding somewhere in the pipe run. The self-test button does not rely on an equipment ground to create enough of an imbalance to trip the gfi component, perhaps the plug in tester does rely on egc by putting a small load between hot and egc.

  4. #4


    YOu speak of a second circuit in one of the boxes. If you intermixed the white wires of both circuits under one wire nut then this will mess up the ability of the GFI to work properly.

    I would disconnect what you identified as the black and white hot wires and test with a voltage tester while these wires are separated not touching anything. This will confirm if you have line and load reversed. If that black and white wire tests 120 volt on a volt meter while disconnected from teh GFI then you have the hot incoming wires identified correctly.

    A GFI will work without the Equipment grounding conductor but as previously said the tester will not work properly and trip the GFI if that metal conduit is not a completed path from the panel to that GFI receptacle box. Also be aware that all receptacles if recessed must have a green grounding jumper from teh metal box to the receptacles or GFI receptacles to have a completed path of the equipment grounding. If a steel box is surface mounted then the mounting yoke of that receptacle if tight to the box meets the grounding connection requriements.

    Good Luck


  5. #5

    Question Some similar difficulties w/ GFCI

    Quote Originally Posted by Wgoodrich View Post
    You speak of a second circuit in one of the boxes. If you intermixed the white wires of both circuits under one wire nut then this will mess up the ability of the GFI to work properly.

    I am running into a similar situation with my installation. My question deals specifically with your quote above. I have installed a GFCI and from the load side connected the switches for the heat/vent/light unit as well as running a leg to a light switch at another door that has a regular grounded plug next to it. This second leg was approached by using one of the two sets of load outs (the other set went to the unit mentioned above) at the GFCI to go what had originally been the light leg above the sink. Where this same leg came up through the sill plate, I left the white to go on through to the light and cut the black wire (before doing this I checked for the presence of electricity at this junction with the GFCI tripped. It tested positive for current. I turned off the breaker and continued with the process.). At this junction I attached a line from the white up to the new standard plug, a black to the cut black wire on the supply side, a red to the cut black wire on the lamp side, and tied the ground onto the uncut ground wire continuing on to the light. From this junction the black was run to the brass side of the standard plug and to the supply side of a the light switch. Red was run to the load side of the switch, white went to the silver side of the standard plug, and the ground was connected to everything that didn't move.

    After completion, I am able to turn off all components (i.e., all plugs, lights, and vent/heat unit) by tripping the GFCI test button. I am able to use a GFCI circuit tester to trip the circuit at the original GFCI plug, but it will not trip the GFCI from the standard plug at the new box. Is this the result of running the white wire as a leg off of the white going to the lamp? What would I need to do to get this wired appropriately so the standard plug will trip the GFCI?

  6. #6

    Default Found problem

    OK, solved this myself. Seems the line coming through the sill plate was not as originally expected. That was not the line going directly to the sink light, but turns out to be the line to the original GFCI. That would explain why it was still hot when the GFCI was tripped. I've answered one of my own questions.

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