Outlet Not Working, Breaker Not Tripped | Advice

  • Many homeowners experience the frustration of an outlet not working, but the breaker not being tripped.
  • In this blog post, we’ll walk you through a few things you can check to diagnose the issue and get your outlet back up and running.

If you’ve ever gone to plug something in only to find that the outlet isn’t working, you know how frustrating it can be. Fortunately, there are a few things you can check before calling an electrician.


Note: This information applies to standard-voltage household electricity, not high-voltage receptacles. Never attempt a project that is beyond your skill level. Knowing when to call a professional may help prevent electrical fires, injuries, and fatalities.

Tools needed:

  • Plug-in Circuit Tester – get one from Amazon.
  • Flathead Screwdriver
  • Phillips Screwdriver

See this related post: Light Switch Is Not Working | Advice To Fix

Outlet Not Working, Breaker Not Tripped

An outlet, or receptacle as it is correctly termed, that is not working will be caused by either a fuse or breaker, an issue in the wiring, or an issue with the receptacle itself.

What to look for and how to diagnose the issue. Work your way down this list:

1. Check The Fuse or Breaker Panel

Even though you think the breaker is not tripped, go to the breaker panel and locate the correct circuit controlling the outlet in question.

Turn the breaker for this circuit off and then back on.

Why: You want to establish that there is power feeding the wiring to the receptacle.

2. Check The Outlet

Plug-In Tester

One way to test an outlet that’s not working is to use a plug-in tester. You simply plug it into the receptacle. If the tester doesn’t light up, the outlet is not receiving power.

You can find a plug-in outlet/receptacle tester at most hardware stores and many have indicators that report various issues.

GFCI Outlet?

The next step is to check for a tripped GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet. GFCI outlets are designed to shut off power when they detect a ground fault, so if one of your outlets isn’t working, it may be because the GFCI outlet has been tripped.

To reset a GFCI outlet, simply press the “reset” button located on the face of the receptacle itself.

GFCI Receptacle

3. Check The Outlet Wiring

One of the most common reasons why a receptacle might not be working is because there is a loose wire somewhere along the line. To check for this, you’ll first need to turn off the power to that specific circuit at your breaker box.

Once the power is off:

  1. Remove the faceplate of the receptacle with your flathead screwdriver.
  2. Unscrew the receptacle from the box, it is secured with two screws.
  3. Carefully pull the receptacle from the box bringing with it the electrical wires.

If any of the wires are loose or not connected properly, that could be causing the issue. To fix it, simply twist the wire around the screw and then tighten the screw.

Tip: Use fine sandpaper to lightly sand and clean the ends of the exposed wiring.

Inspect all the wires connected to the receptacle and tighten them as needed. Replace the faceplate and test the outlet.

4. Check Nearby Outlets

If this has not resolved the issue, test nearby receptacles for power and check for loose wiring on any that are not working. Follow the same procedure as above, and make sure the circuit has been turned off at the service panel.

Why: Several receptacles are connected to a single circuit and a fault on one outlet can extend to the others.

Tip: Start your testing with the receptacle closest to the breaker panel.

Why would outlets and a ceiling fan suddenly stop working?

Note: I once had a ceiling fan stop working and I discovered a couple of outlets also were not working. It turns out a connection on one of the receptacles had come loose causing the whole problem. All I had to do was reconnect the wire and everything started working again.

5. Replace The Outlet

Though it is not common, over time, outlets can become worn down and stop working properly. If this is the case, you’ll need to replace the outlet entirely.

While the power is still off to the circuit, inspect the receptacle for brittle parts that have broken, scorch marks on the back or sides, or loose plugs.

Note: Replace with an identical receptacle of the same amperage and slot configuration.

To do this:

  1. You’ll first need to turn off the power to that specific circuit at your breaker box.
  2. Once the power is off, remove the faceplate and receptacle and disconnect the wires from the old outlet.
  3. Then, connect them to the new outlet (in the same configuration) and replace the faceplate.
  4. Finally, turn on the power at your breaker box and test out your new outlet.

Still No Joy?

After following all these steps and your outlet is still not working, the issue is likely more serious and you should call a licensed electrician at this point. For example, you may have a break or partial break in the wiring in your attic that will need to be repaired or replaced.

An experienced electrician will be able to pinpoint and diagnose your specific issue rather quickly and is money well spent for peace of mind.

Receptacle Problems and Repairs

The circuit breaker repeatedly trips

The receptacle buzzes or is warm

Outlet Not Working FAQs

Can an outlet fail without tripping the breaker?

Yes, an outlet (receptacle) can fail without tripping the circuit breaker. The most likely cause is a loose wire connection. Outlets have internal components that can also fail, causing the receptacle to stop working.

How do I know if my outlets are grounded?

Most homes built after 1950 will have three-pronged grounding outlets. You can test for a ground connection with a circuit tester. The third prong is the ground wire. If the outlet is not grounded, you’ll need to have an electrician install a grounding rod and wire.

Multiple outlets are not working breaker is not tripped.

Multiple outlets not working may be due to a wiring issue. Check for a loose connection on the outlet closest to the service panel.

Why is my top outlet working but the bottom one is not?

This may be a faulty receptacle, or it has been installed correctly this way to allow an appliance such as a lamp to be plugged in and controlled by a light switch.

Outlet Not Working, Breaker Not Tripped – Summary

Outlets provide power to our devices and appliances so that we can stay connected and productive. However, sometimes outlets stop working for no apparent reason. Before you start tearing apart your walls looking for a loose wire, there are a few things you can check.

If your outlet stops working and you’ve checked that the breaker hasn’t been tripped, there are a few things you can try before calling in an electrician. The easiest is to use a plug-in tester, next check for loose wires by removing the faceplate and inspecting them. If all of the wires seem to be secure, try replacing the outlet entirely by following the steps above. With any luck, one of these solutions will solve your problem quickly and easily.

J.S. Diyhouseskills

I’m J.S., I created and am the content manager at DIYHouseSkills.com. I do the research and write the articles that appear on this website. I’ve learned many household skills during my life and think it’s important to at least know the basics so that you can save yourself time and money… READ FULL BIO >

Other DIY Maintenance Articles

  • Fixing Your Keurig: Troubleshooting Tips and Common Causes of Malfunctions
    If your Keurig has suddenly stopped working, we’ll walk you through the common causes of Keurig malfunctions and provide troubleshooting tips to help you fix the issue. From simple solutions like cleaning the machine to more complex problems like a faulty water pump, we’ve got you covered. And if all else fails, we’ll also discuss when it’s time to seek professional help for your … Read more
  • Igloo Ice Maker Troubleshooting: A Comprehensive Guide
    A Comprehensive Guide to Diagnosing and Fixing Common Malfunctions If your Igloo ice maker has stopped working, this article provides a guide to help you troubleshoot and fix the problem. From understanding the common causes of malfunctions to step-by-step DIY fixes, we’ve got you covered. Learn when it’s time to call in a professional for expert help with your Igloo ice maker. THIS POST … Read more
  • Understanding Shower Height Standards: Factors, Ideal Heights, and Adjustments
    Are you wondering what the standard shower height is? Look no further! In this article, we’ll explore the various factors that affect shower height standards and discuss the ideal shower height for different users. Additionally, we’ll provide tips on how to adjust your shower height to meet the standard. Whether you’re remodeling your bathroom or simply curious about shower height standards, this article has … Read more
  • DIY Guide: Can You Install a Garbage Disposal Yourself?
    Tips for Safe and Effective Installation and Maintenance Learn how to install a garbage disposal on your own with this comprehensive guide. Before diving in, consider important factors such as plumbing and electrical requirements. Follow our step-by-step instructions to ensure a successful installation and keep your new appliance running smoothly with our maintenance and safety tips. Save money and gain confidence by installing a … Read more
  • How to Fix a GE Ice Maker Not Working: Troubleshooting Guide
    If you’re experiencing issues with your GE ice maker not working, don’t panic. This article provides a comprehensive guide to help you troubleshoot and fix the problem. From understanding the issue at hand to common causes and troubleshooting steps, we’ve got you covered. Plus, we’ll also discuss when it’s time to seek professional help for your GE ice maker. Keep reading to get your … Read more