Downstream receptacles tripping but GFCI not tripping

I’ve been inspecting for years, but saw something new today. I was checking GFCI’s in the kitchen. There were three normal receptacles in a chain connected to one GFCI. As I used my tester on each of the downstream receptacles, the GFCI that they were tied to tripped just like they should have. When I got to the actual GFCI and pressed the GFCI test button on my tester, nothing happened. I then pushed the built-in button on the receptacle and it tripped as it should have. I’m obviously going to write it up, but just wanted to know if anyone has seen this before, and what the cause might be.

As a matter of clarification since it has been mentioned by most people who have responded so far - all of the receptacles in question are properly grounded. I proved it with my standard cheap tester as well as with my Suretest.

Thanks, Mike

no ground on GFCI receptacle

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The GFCI receptacle was ungrounded. You’re tester sends current to the EGC which didn’t exist so there was no complete circuit for the GFCI to sense an imbalance and trip.


Wait, your tester thingy couldn’t do something, but the receptacle installed in the wall which trips when the test button is pushed is somehow the culprit? I don’t think so… Better get a new tester. :roll_eyes:

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Probably pigtailed and the grounding conductor going to the GFCI is not connected.

what Robert said…

I know my tester will not trip an ungrounded receptacle. I’ve been doing this a while. This receptacle was grounded.

I verified it with my Suretest. My tester is not the problem. The wiring/receptacle is the problem.

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I obviously check for grounded receptacles when I plug in my tester. The receptacle was grounded.

Larry, I agree with you that a pigtailed ground wire that is connected to the downstream receptacles but not to the GFCI would cause this situation, but I verified with my Suretest that the GFCI was indeed grounded. That is why I am puzzled.

Bootleg ground…Maybe.


An ungrounded outlet will not trip using your tester.

How did you know the receptacles where downstream? Vd would have to be provided to allow you the voltage measurement to determine up and downstream circuit current.

As well. An ungrounded outlet will not trip using your tester.

What year was the home erected?
What type of cables?

Like this?

I knew they were downstream because the GFCI upstream tripped when my tester was plugged into the downstream receptacles and I pushed the GFCI test button. Not much question that they were downstream of the GFCI in question. The house is about 15 years old. Romex

I have been inspecting for almost 20 years and am very aware of how the tester works and that my tester will not trip an ungrounded receptacle. I thought I was clear in subsequent comments to my initial post that all receptacles in question are grounded. Not only did my cheap tester show they were grounded, but my Suretest also showed that they were grounded.This issue has nothing to do with lack of grounding.


What’s the question? Like what?

That is exactly what happened at a home I inspected 2 days ago. Built in 1998.
As you can see in the picture I posted, the receptacle has tripped…but still has power…
The tester would not trip it, but it tripped using the buttons.

As long as the button tripped the GFCI the GFCI is not defective. GFCIs are used all the time on older ungrounded systems.


Sorry, Mike. I got tripped up in one of the replies.

Why not use your Suretest and avoid the 3 bulb tester? That way you avoid stabbing the receptacle twice to get a posative/accurate reading.