GFCI tripping

Did a condo, yesterday. Small one, only one bedroom.

All the GFCI protected receptacles in the kitchen and bathroom tripped, every time, I used my tester (the little one with just the 3 lights and the GFCI button). No problems with the regular receptacles.

Tester worked just fine with the GFCIs I have at home.

Took out one receptacle and it was back stabbed.

Possible causes?


Can you clarify a bit. It seems you are saying the tester worked to test the GFIs? Or are you saying they tripped without pressing the button on the plug in tester?
I am not sure what the question is?

The GFI in the pic is NOT backstabbed, it is back wired. ALL new GFI receptacles have back wire wiring these days.

Sorry for not making myself clear.

Just the mere act of inserting the tested in the receptacle tripped them. I tried this multiple times on all the GFCIs and they were all the same. Some receptacles were load side regular receptacles but they still tripped.

No test button pushed. Theyt just tripped right away.

Is the physical connection on the back wire as good as using the screw?

Improper installation?

Bad GFCIs?

I’m sorry, but to me this points to a bad tester. I know you said it works at home though.

Did the built in test buttons work?

To further clarify.

I tested the tester in several GFCIs in my own house after. It operated as specified.

At this inspection, I never even got a chance to use the test button. The tester triped the GFCIs, every one including regular load side receptacles, as soon as the tested was plugged in.

Doesn’t anyone have an answer to this? What would cause these GFCIs to trip?

It’s broken Will, you need to move to the next outlet or you will be at the inspection all week.:slight_smile:

Yeah. Guess so.

Just curious as to cause.

I got from the question, did you use the ‘test’ button on the GFCI, the one already installed, and what happened?

Back to your OP, sometimes GFCI’s fail over time, and they are designed to fail ‘safer’ meaning, soon it takes nothing to trip them, and then they will totally fail being unable to reset.

Three things come to mind:

  1. Does plugging in a normal appliance trip the GFCI?

  2. Do you have more than one Circuit analyzer? One without the GFCI trip button?

  3. Do you want to spend more time testing it with a GFCI tester, which you can dial in the amount of Ground fault?


I don’t know why it tripped either, but to clarify the “back-stab” question, on that type of gfci the wire goes behind plates that tighten down with the side screws. I’d like to know why your 3-bulb trips the gfci too.

My 3-bulb GFCI tester has done this a couple of times as well. It has never caused every GFCI outlet in the home to trip just by plugging it in. It has only done it on one outlet in a couple of different homes. It worked properly on the other GFCI outlets in the homes. I attributed it to a problem with those outlets, not with my tester.

I have had it happen a couple of times if the GFCI is in an akward position, probably because one prong didn’t connect right, but never on all the receptacles.

I never even had a chance to push the trip button. The GFCIs tripped right away.

Tnanks, guys. I thought that there was a reason. Probably just cheap GFCIs.

Your tester is just close to the trip point of the GFCI. Those trip at a lower fault current than the ones you have. The standard is 4-6 Milliamps. If your tester is ~4ma some will trip, some won’t. My Ecos is the same way.

I don’t get this. If the tester trips the device, unplug it and push the reset button. Then try the test button.

I have one theory. All down stream receptacles have a minute amount of “leakage”. How many receptacles are down stream of the GFI devices? 3? 4? 6? 10?
A rule of thumb is 5 or 6 downstream is a safe bet. More than that and you can run into nuisance tripping.
I am with Greg that by plugging in your tester you are going over that threshold into nuisance tripping.

So how did you finally write it up, Will?

  1. There was only one regular receptacle downstream of the two GFCIs in the kitchen. This was a one bedroom condo in a 59 unit apartment condo conversion building.

  2. "GFCI protected receptacles in bathroom and over counter in kitchen tripped upon insertion the a simple tester unit. This is most likely cause by defective GFCI receptacles, use of defective GFCI receptacles or improper installation. It should be noted that there are various signs of less-than-professional electrical work in the subject unit, including improperly secured receptacles, broken receptacles and sloppy wiring in the distribution panel.

Recommend evaluation by an independent licensed and insured electrical contractor and obtaining written documentation of the evaluation (on letterhead, with license number and insurance certification) before the close of escrow."

Hope this helps. :mrgreen:


If your “traffic light” tester was left in the truck and was able to draw damp, it may have enough leakage between conductors to nuisance trip some of the more sensitive models of GFCI’s. At one point in time, AMP made this style of tester that was totally potted to avoid that issue. I have found, over time, that some GFCI’s are just more sensitive and prone to nuisance trip. The ‘Eagle’ brand, in particular. At one point in time, Slater made a GFCI tester that you could “dial in” the amount of test leakage and see exactly at what point the GFCI trips. It also had a feed-though feature to plug in a suspected leaky appliance (such as your tester) to read the leakage current. If I remember, I’ll try to post a picture of that meter one day.

Maybe it would be a good idea to carry a small electrical appliance with you like an electric drill or a mixer just as a additional way to check this problem.