Can a breaker partially fail?


I had a double 40-Amp breaker running a Range, and a Dryer.
The dryer stopped heating (but kept tumbling), we replaced it, and the new dryer said "Voltage problem" I checked the plug/line, and I'm only getting 110 (white+black), the red only gives me a tiny ~2-5V jump on the meter.
The range plug has 110, and 220 working just fine.
My question is: is there a break in the circuit, or has the breaker just gone bad? (I'd like an educated thought before shutting down the whole house to pull the breaker box open.) -------------------------------------
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On Jan 4, 1:17 pm, killjoyntt_at_gmail_dot snipped-for-privacy@foo.com (Killjoy) wrote:

Certainly sounds like a wiring issue. Also sounds like your dryer issue might not have been a problem with the dryer at all. (I bet the drum motor and timer are 120V but the heating element is 240V)
First of all it seems odd for the range and dryer to be on the same circuit. Generally a range has a 50A circuit all to itself, and then the dryer a 30A circuit. Not so?
After that, I would not be looking in the breaker box itself but in the box for the dryer recep and also the range recep. I'd be looking for a loose/corroded connection in one of those places, and or a faulty dryer recep or cord (or did you get a new cord when you got the new dryer?) If the range plug is getting proper voltage on both hot wires that pretty much says that the breaker is good and that the wire connections at the panel are torqued down well enough to at least make contact.
You sure you don't have a 30A 240V breaker somewhere in the panel?
nate
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Killjoy had written this in response to http://www.thestuccocompany.com/maintenance/Re-Can-a-breaker-partially-fail-416702-.htm : Yeah, I'm sure it wasn't the dryer, but it was old and we replaced it before checking the circuit (first the auto-dry went, then the heat went about a week later, just assumed the dryer had crapped out). After checking the receptacle, I removed it and checked the wires, something in the circuit is bad for sure.
It's a single breaker, double-wide, looks like 2x40 amp breakers side by side, but the handles are attached and flip as one. I throw it, and the dryer, and range turn off.
If it's only got 2 terminals on it, and the range circuit is working fine, I guess the dryer wire must be wrecked somehow.
There's no chance a double-breaker would have 4 terminals is there (2 for each circuit? like 2 breakers with their handles literally glued together?)
(I realize most of my questions could be answered by opening the box itself, but there's too many people using computers in the house today, also it's winter in Canada, and I really don't want to cut off power to the furnace blower if my time in the box is going to be unknown)
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On Jan 4, 1:44 pm, killjoyntt_at_gmail_dot snipped-for-privacy@foo.com (Killjoy) wrote:

It sounds a lot like both the dryer and the range are sharing the one double breaker. I've never seen one that has more than two connections on it. I'd take the breaker box cover off and see if both circuits originate at the box. If there is only one set of wires then either the dryer outlet or the range outlet probably have the wiring that carries on to the other device. If the first stop is the range then you could have a loose wire in the range outlet.
Your set up is not normally found in the states. I don't know about canada code. But here each device would have to have it's own double breaker. If I ran into that setup around here I would assume some home owner added the dryer or range to the already existing circuit at some point later after the house was originally wired. If you end up having to rewire I would suggest you move the dryer to it's own 30amp double pole circuit.
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And to add to the above, if the existing dryer recep/cord is 3-wire, I would pull the new wire with 10/3WG (or larger, if necessary for whatever reason) and use a 4-wire (grounding) recep. You'll need to replace your cord, and also remove the bonding jumper inside the dryer to do this. The benefit of doing it this way is that now the ground for the case of the dryer will no longer be sharing the same conductor with the neutral.
doubling up on the breaker terminals is rarely done, and in general breakers aren't listed to have more than one wire under the screw terminals once you get above 20A. (and many are not rated for more than one wire at all.) It is possible that the wires are spliced in the breaker box, but I suspect more than likely one recep is fed from the other, otherwise why not just have two different breakers in the panel (that way you can do a load of laundry while cooking dinner.) Only reason I could see to splice them together in the panel would be if the panel has no more spaces to add breakers.
I don't know whether having the dryer and range share a circuit is OK by current code, but I somehow suspect that it is not.
nate
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(Killjoy)

Then you add a sub-panel to be code compliant.

This not approved wiring in Canada. Most Canadian wiring codes are stricter than US codes. The dryer and stove require separate breakers and cables from the breaker box. Also the breaker box should not require the power to be turned off at the main breaker to open the panel, except for accident prone people who cannot resist touching live terminals.
Also Canadian dryers (and stoves, except built-ins) come with their own cord and plug already installed, so this should not be a problem. It sounds like there is a box somewhere in the stove cable that taps the line for the dryer (not code) and there is a bad connection in it or a bad connection at the receptacle or the receptacle is bad.
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Sounds like my folk's house. For about 30 years the dryer and two ton window unit were both double-lugged to two single pole 30 amp breakers in the house panel in the garage. My Mother would have to make sure the a/c was off when she ran the dryer, though she finally found out that she could turn the thermostat all the way warm on the a/c so only the fan would run and the compressor wouldn't come on, when she used the dryer. In 1995 I replaced the outside main panel under the meter and ran a circuit to the dryer from there, and put in central air for them. The old main was a little SuareD box with two 50 amp single pole breakers- period. The old box was in such good shape I put a new 30 in it and used it at the a/c for a disconnect means. It is still there.The house was built in 1957-- I guess that old SquareD stuff back then was really built to last. Larry
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On Mon, 04 Jan 2010 18:44:55 +0000, killjoyntt_at_gmail_dot snipped-for-privacy@foo.com (Killjoy) wrote:

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N8N wrote: ...

Not only is it "odd", it would violate NEC so unless it's a homebrew job I'd guess it isn't so...

That certainly is first place to check (altho certainly will want to find the correct breaker and make sure that it's thrown and verified by the 110V also going away before opening it up). Then, if it isn't obvious what the problem is, once have things in a configuration that won't short, etc., can turn breaker back on and check for voltages on the two hots and see if is at the receptacle or the feed end. Work way back to the necessary point.
If this is unclear or makes OP nervous, the next step is call electrician.
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Sounds like it's not a breaker problem, but a wiring problem. As someone pointed out, no way both appliances should be on one 40 A 2-pole breaker.
I'll bet if you checked, you'll find the dryer going to only one of the double breakers, ergo only 110-120. And maybe not at the breaker box, but further down -- mebbe someone wire-nutted the wrong two wires together..
You should keep the range on the 40 A, and get a 30 A double breaker for the dryer.
And no, double breakers don't have 4 screws.
--
EA



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Killjoy had written this in response to http://www.thestuccocompany.com/maintenance/Re-Can-a-breaker-partially-fail-416708-.htm : Figured it out.
As I took the panel off the breaker box, and saw 2 large wires (different from either of the wires going to the Range or the Dryer) leaving the "80" amp breaker, my mom said something about a switch under the stairs.
Thanks Mom.
The 80 amp was run to a huge (as big as the breaker box) junction box under the stairs, with a wire running to the Range, and another running to a small 30 amp breaker box beside it with a VERY big toggle switch on it.
I opened that box, and inside I found sound wiring, and two fuses (one for black, one for red)
The fuse for the red had become very slightly loose, which explains why I was getting that TINY reading on the Volt-Meter.
Tightened the fuse, put everything back together, and the ship's back at 100%!
Thank you all for your help, I knew there had to be something more to the puzzle.
(Also, this is a 1940's house, so this entire circuit would have been added much later on.)
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http://www.thestuccocompany.com/maintenance/Re-Can-a-breaker-partially-fail-416708-.htm
Yeah, I was guessing a splicing problem, but I guess this is close enough!
Seems like they went through some electrical drama, in wiring these things up. Fuses??? wow.... But, I do have a bunch of *60 A fuses*, that came with my 1920 house. I believe these might have been the original fuses in the main disconnect, before they went to cartridges. Yeah, the 60 A fuses have the same edison base as 15-20 fuses, just a maroon-ish color. A little risky to keep around, in hindsight -- 60 A on 15 A circuit-type risk... Fortunately, everything has been changed to breakers.
--
EA


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On Mon, 4 Jan 2010 15:46:39 -0500, "Existential Angst"

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On Jan 4, 3:09 pm, killjoyntt_at_gmail_dot snipped-for-privacy@foo.com (Killjoy) wrote:

glad to hear you found it!
just for future reference, if it's a double pole breaker with each pole labeled 40A, it's not an 80A breaker, it's a double pole 40A breaker. (not criticizing, not everyone's an electrican - neither am I - but it does help to use the correct terminology.)
nate
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On Mon, 4 Jan 2010 14:04:39 -0500, "Existential Angst"

But they DO have 4 terminals. For the OP's information, most breakers "stab" onto a rail for the power side and have screws for the load side.
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range works, the breaker is fine. Typically you wouldn't connect more than one feeder to a breaker, so I would expect only two wires attached to the breaker. If you are certain that both appliances are on the same circuit, I would be looking for a junction box where the main feeder is spliced to the feeder going to the range and to the dryer. Although not typical, in the U.S. it is legal to tap a 50 amp or larger feeder and share it between two cooking appliances. This may be the same in Canada, and possibly a cooking appliance was replaced by an electric dryer.Some circuit breaker manufacturers do make "quad" breakers which consist of 4 poles, two inners make up one 240 volt circuit, and the two outers make up the other. These have handle ties to assure both legs of each circuit trip simultaneously.
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Killjoy wrote:

First thing first for logical trouble-shooting. Did the dryer ever worked normal some time in the past? Yes, or No?
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