Fix panel circuit breaker?

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I get no power to a kitchen stove, and I notice it's 50 amp circuit breaker flops loosely back and forth (in old westinghouse wpa panel). Does this mean the breaker needs replacing, or can it be coaxed to work somehow? Or could it be ok and it's not being fed power (but adjacent breakers work ok)? The stove hasn't drawn power except for it's clock for a dozen years, so maybe salt air corrosion took effect on contacts?
The next issue is fixing it... not easily turned off due to being a multi family unit panel. Building power will be turned off for a coming maintenance day, but without working elevators no electrician will want to climb the many stories to work on it. Can I fix it myself? I don't see any way to detach the metal frame from it.
thanks
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wrote:

The circuit breaker should reset if you move the handle *ALL* the way to the "off" position and then back to the "on" position. If it flops around that far, it's toast. Replace it.

That doesn't sound kosher.

The cover should just unscrew. Replacing breakers is easy (make sure to get the same brand and style as the panel). Really, it's so easy that if you have to ask these questions it may be a better idea to pay someone to do it. It *can* be dangerous.
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On May 14, 2:25 pm, " snipped-for-privacy@att.bizzzzzzzzzzzz"

@krw:
Looking at the pictures that the OP has taken and posted, he has no business touching anything in said panel... It appears that each panel is serving several units in some type of institutional housing type situation where the individual occupants aren't being billed by the utility company for separately metered service...
That means it isn't his panel to be working on and he shouldn't be touching it... The panel since it serves multiple units should be locked so that only authorized employees of the landlord or housing authority can access it since one tenant should not be able to access the means to shut off the power to another tenant's unit... Feuds start that way and the landlord is the one left holding the bag because the health department/building inspector holds the landlord responsible for any disruption to the required utilities for the unit to be habitable when they aren't the individual tenant's duty to pay for through an individually metered service for each unit...
~~ Evan
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On Sat, 14 May 2011 14:26:43 -0400, "Stormin Mormon"

There's no "main" in the panel?
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On May 14, 9:08 pm, "Stormin Mormon"

There usually isn't a *main* breaker in a sub-panel in a commercial application... Someone who is authorized to work inside panels in such buildings would have access to the switchgear room(s) where there would be a circuit breaker to protect each sub-panel in one of the switchgear cabinets which would serve as the disconnect switch for each sub-panel...
And yes, while it *is* possible to work on a panel live it requires enough experience, proper safety training and the correct double insulated tools... It is only justifiable to work on a panel live when there are actual life safety issues involved in shutting the power off for a few minutes to perform the work needed...
~~ Evan
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**Depending upon the buildings electrical setup, and equipment, it may or may not be an easy replacement. If the panel is in your apt, there will be a main circuit breaker where the electric meters are, that should kill power to your panel. Once the panel is dead, and verified dead, you can open the panel. It may have a 2 piece cover. It may have clips, clamps or screws to open it, but definitely something should be visible. Once it's opened, typical residential Westinghouse circuit breaker is a push on type and will come out if you pull on the buss end, the end opposite where the wire is attached. You may also have a bolt on type, which will have a metal tab screwed to the buss. If so, the screws will be visible
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I know how to kill power for our floor; there is just a concern how I will kill grannies in the neighboring units who are on life support machines or whatever. Nobody pays attentions to notices I may give beforehand... well that's a side issue about me wanting to do it when the whole building and thus elevator is shut down. I would have to be ready with the right tools and hardware.

Holy moley, I had seen a disengaged clamp on one side (thought it was to lock the door) but now I found little slots to unclamp the other 4 sides. This converts the 20 pound cover into a guillotine blade trying to shoot straight down and amputate the feet (same thing on the reclamp which it strongly resists doing).

This is a 35 year old big industrial size unit. It looks like breakers could only come out to the side where the wires attach. I can just barely see a little quarter inch hex nut hidden there; maybe getting a socket wrench on that will set it free? Even if unlocked, it looks almost impossible to get out due to the geometry, and maybe some other framework has to be removed (big job).
I guess the next step is to find some place selling possibly obsolete circuit breaker types and look at the screws. Maybe I will shoot wd40 into it first, because why would an unused circuit breaker fail. Maybe a leaf spring broke? Thanks... want to avoid another expensive service visit like the plumber who charged me 5X what was justified and stole some repair material from me.
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wrote:

Sounds like it's not *your* circuit breaker to fix at all. Talk to your landlord (or the condo association).

You can't lift "20 pounds"?

Maybe it's unused because it doesn't. Do *not* squirt WD-40, or anything else into the circuit breaker.
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On May 14, 10:05 am, " snipped-for-privacy@att.bizzzzzzzzzzzz"
There is nowhere to grasp - The front panel is absolutely flush and I only can hold a sweaty hand against the slippery surface (hot and humid there). While jostling with the uncooperative clamps, the panel can flex a bit and disengage the tiny tab that holds the weight. Not owning steel toed boots, I guess I should wear gloves or keep the swing door flopping open for a place to grasp.

Well, like I said it only ran a clock - I guess underused electrical stuff tends to corrode faster. Darn it about WD - maybe duct taping the switch in the on position?
To get a replacement breaker, how to I tell what the voltage is (240 only or 120/240)? and number of poles? I seem to remember only 2 fat wires going in. Also there is a 2 letter code for these replacement that I have to figure out. tks again.
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wrote:

Oh, good grief.

Don't be ridiculous. It's not "corroded". You can't set it. Tape isn't going to do *anything*.

How wide is it. Two positions or one? (It'll be two, it is a range, right?)

One switch or two? (It'll be two, it is a range, right?_)

So you've had the panel off?

Take the information off the panel and take that down to your local BORG. ...or do a web search.
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OK the problem is essentially solved; thanks all! I just don't get why such a thing fails from just sitting there for decades, only powering a clock. I just flipped it once and it went floppy. Well, there was a neighbor boy that I think used to flip them for mischief...
On May 14, 10:59 am, " snipped-for-privacy@att.bizzzzzzzzzzzz"

The tape was a joke. Accelerated salt air corrosion of electricals is common here. On the web I see advice to use a dielectric grease (non conductive) on connections, although not likely suitable for circuit breakers. My breaker panel is protected, but normal garaged or even household electronics can expire fast here, especially when not used.

Many times now. It has such a warp that it wants to spring off the box and fall down while I fiddle with clamps. Needs one hand to hold it up, one hand to force the clamp, and one elevated knee to smoosh the warp. Got it down now, but it had made me a bit dizzy and I at first overlooked things you guys were coaching me on.
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@dumbstruck:
It sounds like you would be surprised at what power surges can do... Breakers fail all the time for various reasons: overloading on the circuit protected by the breaker, cycling on/off when being used as a switch (they aren't intended to be used to switch lights on and off, that is what switches are for), damage cause by an overloaded panel cooking the breaker, lightning strikes/power surges and old age...
The "neighbor boy" and your tinkering are BOTH reasons why those panels should be locked up with panel locks and have the trim cover plates attached with security head tamper resistant fasteners so that one one gets hurt by tampering in the panel and no one is inconvenienced by a nuisance power outage caused by a troublemaker...
I have no idea where on the internet you read about dielectric grease being used in/on electrical connections but I have *never* heard of it being used in line voltage applications on/near circuit breakers... I think you were confused -- dielectric grease is only useful in marine and automotive/engine applications to waterproof connections which could get water sprayed on them...
You really shouldn't be taking apart electrical panels in a building where you are an occupant in a unit you do not own... It is considered trespassing... You wouldn't take apart the panel inside the elevator cab, nor should you, treat all the circuit breaker panels in the building the same way, they belong to the landlord/management/housing authority and only authorized agents/employees of the owner of the building should be touching such panels...
~~ Evan
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On Sat, 14 May 2011 21:11:43 -0400, "Stormin Mormon"
Let the "Ghost" do that. He's a real sparky, after all.
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wrote:

I know how to kill power for our floor; there is just a concern how I will kill grannies in the neighboring units who are on life support machines or whatever. Nobody pays attentions to notices I may give beforehand... well that's a side issue about me wanting to do it when the whole building and thus elevator is shut down. I would have to be ready with the right tools and hardware.

Holy moley, I had seen a disengaged clamp on one side (thought it was to lock the door) but now I found little slots to unclamp the other 4 sides. This converts the 20 pound cover into a guillotine blade trying to shoot straight down and amputate the feet (same thing on the reclamp which it strongly resists doing).

This is a 35 year old big industrial size unit. It looks like breakers could only come out to the side where the wires attach. I can just barely see a little quarter inch hex nut hidden there; maybe getting a socket wrench on that will set it free? Even if unlocked, it looks almost impossible to get out due to the geometry, and maybe some other framework has to be removed (big job).
I guess the next step is to find some place selling possibly obsolete circuit breaker types and look at the screws. Maybe I will shoot wd40 into it first, because why would an unused circuit breaker fail. Maybe a leaf spring broke? Thanks... want to avoid another expensive service visit like the plumber who charged me 5X what was justified and stole some repair material from me.
**If you can post some pictures, it'll be very easy to determine how it comes out
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These came out pretty fuzzy, but see the double circuit 29/31 with the fat wires:
http://i54.tinypic.com/2jcg1td.jpg
http://i51.tinypic.com/b9fyfd.jpg
http://i56.tinypic.com/op2yx0.jpg
http://i55.tinypic.com/dh8paq.jpg
http://i56.tinypic.com/2wem8u8.jpg
I'm guessing it is close to http://www.relectric.com/Store/Circuit-Breakers/BAB2050 as a westinghouse "ba" 2 pole 50 amp, but the my switch toggle doesn't bridge both. Not sure of the voltage or how to remove (socket wrench?). Thank you
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wrote:

These came out pretty fuzzy, but see the double circuit 29/31 with the fat wires:
http://i54.tinypic.com/2jcg1td.jpg
http://i51.tinypic.com/b9fyfd.jpg
http://i56.tinypic.com/op2yx0.jpg
http://i55.tinypic.com/dh8paq.jpg
http://i56.tinypic.com/2wem8u8.jpg
I'm guessing it is close to http://www.relectric.com/Store/Circuit-Breakers/BAB2050 as a westinghouse "ba" 2 pole 50 amp, but the my switch toggle doesn't bridge both. Not sure of the voltage or how to remove (socket wrench?). Thank you
** You have to remove the interior cover. There are usually 4 screws. Once that cover is removed, you can see if the panel uses snap in or bolt in breakers. That particular circuit breaker bridges both poles internally.
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These came out pretty fuzzy, but see the double circuit 29/31 with the fat wires:
http://i54.tinypic.com/2jcg1td.jpg
http://i51.tinypic.com/b9fyfd.jpg
http://i56.tinypic.com/op2yx0.jpg
http://i55.tinypic.com/dh8paq.jpg
http://i56.tinypic.com/2wem8u8.jpg
I'm guessing it is close to http://www.relectric.com/Store/Circuit-Breakers/BAB2050 as a westinghouse "ba" 2 pole 50 amp, but the my switch toggle doesn't bridge both. Not sure of the voltage or how to remove (socket wrench?). Thank you
*As RBM previously mentioned those breakers look like they just stab onto the buss after getting hooked on the side. If that is the case you would need to remove that inner cover, remove the wires, and give it a yank out from the center. An electrician can do this while the panel is hot. Because of the spacing between the two columns of circuit breakers, it is possible that these are bolt-on circuit breakers. In which case you would need an insulated screwdriver or insulated nutdriver to unscrew the breaker from the buss. If you remove the inner cover, you will see right away if the breakers are bolted on.
I'm not sure about the proper replacement. It may take a type BR breaker if they are the stab-in type. If there are any labels on the cover or inside the panel it may state what breakers are approved for that panel.
You could take some better pictures and go to an electrical supply company and show them to try and match it up. It is possible that an old timer in the supply house will know exactly what breaker you need.
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@dumbstruck:
That is clearly *NOT* your electrical panel to be fixing AT ALL...
Inform your landlord that your stove no longer works because you can not reset it's circuit breaker...
Besides it not being your panel to work on let's address the other obvious issues here:
1. You have only removed the outer panel trim cover, that is a commercial grade load center panel and it has an inner cover plate that secures the breakers and covers the busbars so people like you won't get hurt when you try to poke around inside a panel you have no business touching...
2. You wouldn't have to shut off power to the whole floor to work on that one panel, the fact that you do not know this means that you shouldn't be working on that panel even if you had legal control over it and had authority to effect any repairs...
Even if you weren't paying for your electricity individually each power panel requires having a means of disconnect so it can be worked on without killing the entire building...
3. Your first inclination to try and solve the problem here (being an old failed circuit breaker) was to ponder whether spraying WD-40 (a highly flammable liquid and propellant) into an electrical panel where ignition of the flammable substances is a very probable outcome... Even if the problem with the dead breaker was as simple as a broken spring, the breaker is designed so that the failure of any component would open the circuit so that the lack of power triggers investigation and replacement of the failed device, if the circuit stayed closed after something broke or failed you wouldn't know about it until after it caught on fire...
4. How large is your unit/apartment/whatever, that seems like an awfully large panel with a large number of circuits in it to be servicing only one unit... If it is serving more than one unit, you don't have the authority to repair it on your own, only the landlord does...
This repair is clearly above you both in the techniques that are required to complete the work and your level of physical endurance... Leave it well enough alone and call your landlord so that the building maintenance/electrical contractor can be scheduled to repair it properly...
~~ Evan
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wrote:

@TGITM:
I wouldn't say troll, but more likely a bored geezer living in publicly provided senior housing in some high-rise building...
Most likely in Unit #1501 way up on the 15th floor, as he described the "long climb up" that someone would have to endure when the building is shutdown for "maintenance day" which probably involves switchgear inspection/service which is unsafe to work on live due to the amperage involved...
You can see in one of the piss poor pictures where someone has written with pencil on the inner cover of the panel...
That building definitely has issues if the panels aren't properly marked and labeled with legends plus the fact that none of these panels are locked to control who can access them -- anyone could wander around randomly flipping breakers off if they wanted to be a pest...
~~ Evan
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On Sat, 14 May 2011 12:57:53 -0700 (PDT), dumbstruck

DO NOT put wd40 in there. It is flamable, and if there is an arc fault of any jind in the panel you WILL have a fire.
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