circuit snafu

Greetings,
I have a circuit breaker problem that i hope someone can help me with. In the last 4 or 5 months when we have run the dishwasher we have noticed a foul odor that we thought was coming from the dishwasher. A few times the circuit breaker would kick off so we thought maybe the timer on the dishwasher was sticking and causing an overheating which was causing the smell and the breaker to pop. Well the other day my wife noticed the smell was coming from the breaker box. I checked the breakers and the one that goes to the dishwasher was loose. I bought another breaker at the hardware store(20 amp, single pole) and when I took the old one out, the casing was burned away where it plugs into the circuit panel and breaker smelled of the odor we had been smelling. So I replaced it then had to leave a short while later. My wife came home about 20 minutes later and she smelled the same odor again. The dishwasher was not running. I'm starting to think there is a major problem and I can't figure out what. We haven't added anything to the circuit. As it is now, the kitchen refrigerator and a few 3 other plugs are on this circuit. I have the microwave plugged into one plug and the dishwasher is plugged into one. The refrigerator was the only thing running and it's only 2 or 3 years old. I doubt there is a problem with it but that remains to be seen. The only electrical work done in the last eight months has been an electrician redoing some wiring in my heater closet in my garage and it's a different circuit. This is not the first problem I have had with breakers either. In the last 3 years I have replaced 2 other breakers (another 20amp and the 100amp main.) They seem to wear out the same way: the casing where the breaker plugs in being kind of singed or melted. Is this normal? The home is 24 years old and I've been told that breakers wear out but I thought the wearing out had to do with the switch tripping and or not resetting. Anyway, my wife had the breaker off when I came home so I reset it and have been waiting all evening to set if it starts smelling again. I haven't smelled anything. I don't want to leave the breaker off because the refrigerator is on it but I'm worried about going to bed tonight. The smoke alarms all work so... Any good advice out there about what might be causing this? I don't mind paying an electrician but I don't want to call one out if it's something simple. I'm also wondering if there was still a little crud or something on the contact of the bus bar that might have caused the stink when I plugged it in because I'm not smelling it and it's been 4 hours or so.
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The microwave, refrigerator, and dishwasher should all have pretty much their own circuits. But that should just be causing your breakers to open, not burn.
How does the breaker bus look? Any burn marks on it, or just the breaker? Aluminum wiring?
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I read somewhere about the Federal Pacific problem. The panel brand is "Bryant" as are the breakers. The replacement breakers have been "Cutler-Hammer." The wiring is aluminum. I'm going to take some or all of the breakers out tomorrow and look the bus over. I guess I should get the box replaced and all of the breakers. Thanks for all of your input folks. I appreciate the expertise. Dicky

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Jeez, you should have mentioned that stuff in your original post - esp the aluminum bit.
: > : > : > The microwave, refrigerator, and dishwasher should all have pretty much : > their own circuits. But that should just be causing your breakers to : > open, not burn. : > : > How does the breaker bus look? Any burn marks on it, or just the breaker? : > Aluminum wiring? : > : :
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cleaning the wire and putting antioxidant on it. Did you do that? Is the breaker rated for AL?
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wrote:

Missed this part of the original post, didja?
"the casing was burned away where it [the breaker] plugs into the circuit panel ... I have replaced 2 other breakers ... they seem to wear out the same way: the casing where the breaker plugs in being kind of singed or melted. "
How is cleaning the wire and applying antioxidant to it going to affect in *any* way the connection between the breaker and the bus bar, where the problem is?
I wonder if perhaps the breakers are not the right type for the panel, or if they were never seated properly when installed.
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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Please tell me this is not a FPE, Federal Pacific Electric panel. If you have a FPE panel call a electrician and start planning on changing it out to something works and is still UL listed. FPE lost their UL listing and is out of business. There is a company that makes replacement breakers, but your still stuck with the same funky way of connection.
Loose connections anywhere under a load is a recipe for disaster. Circuit breakers do not "wear out" under normal circumstances, at least in my experence. Singed or melted bussing is a really bad sign. My homes panel is ~28 years old and is almost as good as the day it was intalled, a GE panel. Are you replacing with an exact brand? GE for GE, SQD for SQD etc. I know some manufactures make "universal replacements" I do not recommend them nor do I use them. I also will not use "thin breakers" on kitchen or appliance circuits. Just my way of doing things. The places where the bussing is singed/melted is not a good place to install breakers. Move the breaker to another space in the panel and purchase a blank cover for the space not used.
Check the panel and see if you can move the breakers around inside to get away from the damaged places.
You might want to measure the load on the circuit that your having trouble with. During no load and with the dishwasher running. I suggest that you use the "no heat" setting for until you get this corrected.
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If the circuit breaker doesn't make good contact with the panel buss, the breaker will burn like you describe. If the buss metal has become annealed, it will no longer conduct properly and the panel must be replaced

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