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Electrical Wiring in the Home/Again, about the tripped circuit breaker

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QUESTION: This is Andres Ruvalcaba again. I have sent you an original question and two follow-up questions after, but I today I did not see an option for another follow-question. I hope you can still reread the questions that I have sent you.
Any way, I removed the kitchen face plate of the kitchen receptacle that I never use and I did not see something burned, and, about the light about the kitchen sink, I do not know how to remove the base of the two spiral lights glass cover (the base seems to be strongly adhered to the ceiling and I do not see why}.
Today, a worker from the electricity company PG&E came. He used his tester and first said it was the breaker, then I think his tester found power and he said "wait a minute, it is not the breaker." He gave me the name and telephone number of an inexpensive electrician and again said that it could be a bad breaker. I asked him if that electrician would know how to find the problem if it was in the wiring and he did not answer directly my question but said that that electrician can come if I call him.
I wonder if different electricians would do different approaches, but my trouble is that at this time I can not afford to call any electrician.
Can I fill a 5-gallon bucket with water and have it ready in the kitchen and, reset the unconnected breaker that tripped and with the bare end of one of the two wires that were connected, lightly touch the breaker screw, and whether the breaker trips or not go immediately to the kitchen and use the water in the bucket if I see any fire in the kitchen or in the bathroom receptacle that is in the same 15 Amp circuit?
If the breaker tripped I guess I can do nothing else but wait for the time that I have money to call an electrician. If the breaker did not trip, then maybe I could touch the breaker screw for two seconds and whether the breaker trips or not I go immediately to the kitchen again and see if now a fire is forming and use the bucket of water if necessary. And again, if the breaker tripped I have to wait until I have money for calling an electrician.
Please tell me what you think or if you have a better idea.
Sincerely again, Andres Ruvalcaba.

ANSWER: If you just try the breaker one more time, it's not likely to catch fire.  It's constantly resetting it without fixing the problem that causes problems. So, you can check it again. I assume that it was not overloaded.  Be sure to unplug everything before trying it again.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Unfortunately I am having my problem because I overloaded the circuit. let me see if I can do a copy and paste of all my questions so you see again the big picture.

:
QUESTION: My house was probably built in the 1940's or 1950's. It has a Zinsco electrical panel with the breakers placed vertically. It has a double 30 amp coupled together, a 20 amp ad two 15 amp circuit breakers at the left and right sides.
I turned off the supply of gas to the stove because my sister was always saying she was smelling gas and I put a potable double burner electrical stove to do the cooking. I also was using an electric heater to warm the bathroom before taking a shower.
So, on Wednesday the tenth I was not having power for the heater and the portable stove. I checked the electrical panel circuit breakers and the left 15 amp circuit breaker was tripped. I move it down and up but it does not reset to the height of the other breakers but it stays about a quarter of an inch below.
I do not have power in the four kitchen receptacles, in the bathroom receptacle and in the light above the kitchen sink.
Can you please tell me where can I buy a 15 amp zinsco circuit breaker and how to do the replacement?
Sincerely. Andres Ruvalcaba.

ANSWER: First, disconnect the wire to the breaker, and see if you can reset it.  If you can, you have a problem with the wiring.  It should not be turned on again until it is fixed because it could be a fire hazard.

From what I have read about Zinsco, they are dangerous and the panel should be replaced. You can Google Zinsco and both find out why they are dangerous, and where to get replacements. I see Lowe's is one place.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I forgot to mention to you that I do not see a Main disconnect above the circuit breakers. The meter is almost just in top of the breakers. And, also that there is only one black wire connected to the right side 15 amp breaker, but there are two black wires connected to the tripped left side 15 amp breaker, one of them slightly thinner than the other. I think an unlicensed electrician connected the second black wire to the tripped left breaker about six years ago.
Can I stand on a piece of wood and carefully disconnect the two black wires from the tripped 15 amp circuit breaker and see if I can reset the breaker?
And, if I can reset it and the wiring needs to be fixed, does that mean that the walls and/or ceiling need to be opened?
Sincerely again, Andres Ruvalcaba.

ANSWER: The wire coming out of the breaker SHOULD be safe. But anything else metal in the box may have electricity. If there is power, you may still get a shock, no matter what you are standing on.  Be careful, and touch only the plastic part of the screwdriver, and not the metal part. If you are not sure, then don't touch anything.  Usually, only electricians should work in the panel. It's not going to be easy to replace a breaker if you can't shut off the power.

Usually, the problems in a circuit are in the junction boxes, so you would not need to tear open any walls.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Today I carefully removed the two black wires from the bottom of the tripped left 15 Amp circuit breaker hoping that with the removed wires I would not be able to reset it because my local hardware store has this circuit breaker at a very inexpensive price, but I did not have luck because with the removed black wires I could reset the breaker, and according to what you have told me, then the problem is in the wiring. I removed the front plate of the bathroom receptacle and the front plates of three kitchen receptacles, and I did not see anything burned. there is another kitchen outlet but I never use it and I could not check the inside of the light above the kitchen sink, but I do not think there is a problem there because that light uses only two spiral light bulbs of 18 watts each.
I do not know further checks, if any, I can do. The shortest possible path from the panel to the kitchen seems to be through 13 feet of the house wall where the panel is (at the backyard) and then through 17 feet of one of the washing machine room walls, which goes to about the middle of the inside kitchen wall. But, as I said, I do not know what else I can do.
Sincerely again, Andres Ruvalcaba.

Answer:
How come there are 2 wires? The short is probably just in one of them, so you might be able to get some things working.  Don't rule anything out.  A short can develop in any device, whether you use it or not.  It could also happen in the light.  It may take more than taking the plate off.  You may need to call an electrician to find the problem. Have you unplugged everything to make sure it is not a problem with something that is plugged in?  Unless you recently drove nails into the wall, the problem is not likely to be between the devices.
I hope this helps.  Feel free to ask any follow up questions if you need more information or I didn't give you the information you need.

So, as you can see, I overloaded the circuit of the tripped 15 Amp circuit breaker. I do not have anything plugged to the tripped 15 Amp circuit. Now let me try to do a copy and paste of the last question that I asked you yesterday.

QUESTION: This is Andres Ruvalcaba again. I have sent you an original question and two follow-up questions after, but I today I did not see an option for another follow-question. I hope you can still reread the questions that I have sent you.
Any way, I removed the kitchen face plate of the kitchen receptacle that I never use and I did not see something burned, and, about the light about the kitchen sink, I do not know how to remove the base of the two spiral lights glass cover (the base seems to be strongly adhered to the ceiling and I do not see why}.
Today, a worker from the electricity company PG&E came. He used his tester on the panel and first said it was the breaker, then I think his tester found power and he said "wait a minute, it is not the breaker." He gave me the name and telephone number of an inexpensive electrician and again said that it could be a bad breaker. I asked him if that electrician would know how to find the problem if it was in the wiring and he did not answer directly my question but said that that electrician can come if I call him.
I wonder if different electricians would do different approaches, but my trouble is that at this time I can not afford to call any electrician.
Can I fill a 5-gallon bucket with water and have it ready in the kitchen and, reset the unconnected breaker that tripped and with the bare end of one of the two wires that were connected, lightly touch the breaker screw, and whether the breaker trips or not go immediately to the kitchen and use the water in the bucket if I see any fire in the kitchen or in the bathroom receptacle that is in the same 15 Amp circuit?
If the breaker tripped I guess I can do nothing else but wait for the time that I have money to call an electrician. If the breaker did not trip, then maybe I could touch the breaker screw for two seconds and whether the breaker trips or not I go immediately to the kitchen again and see if now a fire is forming and use the bucket of water if necessary. And again, if the breaker tripped I have to wait until I have money for calling an electrician.
Please tell me what you think or if you have a better idea.
Sincerely again, Andres Ruvalcaba.

Your answer was:

ANSWER: If you just try the breaker one more time, it's not likely to catch fire.  It's constantly resetting it without fixing the problem that causes problems. So, you can check it again. I assume that it was not overloaded.  Be sure to unplug everything before trying it again.

I do not have anything plugged to the tripped breaker circuit, but
I do not know if, because I overloaded the tripped breaker circuit I can still do what you told me in your last answer.
What do you think a knowledgeable electrician would do for finding the problem?
I can buy a light continuity tester or a digital multimeter if there is a method for finding the problem.
Sincerely, Andres Ruvalcaba.





.

Answer
A visual inspection would help more than using tools.  Somewhere there is a black wire touching a white wire or a ground wire (or grounded metal box).  You can disconnect the wires at a certain point, and see if the breaker will reset. Make sure that the wire nuts are tight.
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