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How To Replace a Circuit Breaker

Replacing circuit breakers is not difficult as long as you follow all electrical safety rules

Replacing circuit breakers is not difficult as long as you follow all electrical safety rules

The lights went out in one or more areas of your home or none of the outlets in one particular room work. What happened? Should you call an electrician? Certainly an electrician could find and fix the problem but there are some things you can do as well, especially if you are inclined to do it yourself. The first thing to do is check the circuit breakers in your electrical panel. You may find that the circuit breaker that you suspect is having problems will not reset. You flip the switch to the off position and then back on but it pops back to the middle position and you still have no electricity. Almost certainly the circuit breaker has failed. Another indicator of a bad circuit breaker is if it looks burned or brown/black near the terminal. It may even be cracked or broken.

Removing a circuit breaker

  1. Take note of what type and style of electrical panel you have. If it is, for example, a 200 amp square D panel, you will need to purchase a square D circuit breaker.
  2. Turn off the main power at the electrical panel main switches. Those are usually the large heavy switches at the top of your panel.
  3. Remove the four screws that hold the electrical panel cover in place.
  4. Remove the cover and set it aside.
  5. Using a multi-meter, verify that there is no power to the circuit breaker that you want to change.
  6. If the circuit breaker is a single pole type, pop the breaker free of the electrical panel center bus bar. You can usually do this by prying gently with a flat bladed screwdriver against the back end of the breaker.
  7. Now, pull the breaker free of the mount bar near the wire connection.
  8. Unscrew the terminal screw on the old breaker and remove the wire, usually a black one.

Installing the new circuit breaker

  1. Install the wire on the new breaker. Be sure to tighten the terminal screw securely.
  2. Hook the front of the circuit breaker over the mount bar.
  3. Pivot the breaker down and press it firmly into place over the center buss bar.
  4. Make sure the circuit breaker is off.
  5. Replace the panel cover.
  6. Turn on the main electrical panel power.
  7. Make sure all the appliances on that particular circuit are off.
  8. Flip the new circuit breaker to the on position.
  9. Check to make sure that all the outlets and/or lights work.


Different electrical panel manufacturers use different styles of circuit breakers. Make certain that you have the correct circuit breaker for your electrical panel. Circuit breakers in different manufacturer’s electrical panels may mount differently. Inspect your carefully before you start work to verify that the circuit breaker is the push in type.

Verify that the new circuit breaker is the proper amp rating for the circuit. It is best to replace the old circuit breaker with the same amp rating new one.

Handle the new circuit breaker carefully. Dropping it or forcing it into position can break it.

If you do not have the proper test equipment to work on the electrical panel or you are uncertain about how to proceed, it is best to call in a professional electrician.

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