breaker tripping

Hi James!
JP> We had a bad storm here a week ago. I came home to find a breaker that JP> controls the family room was tripped. I reset the breaker only to have JP> it trip 2 hours later. I unplugged everything in that circuit and reset JP> the breaker again. It tripped again but it only took about 10 to 15 JP> seconds this time. I figured the breaker was bad because nothing was JP> plugged in so I replaced the breaker. It tripped again and I thought one JP> of the outlets was bad. I then replaced all 6 outlets in that circuit JP> and reset the breaker. The power stayed on for about 3 hours and the JP> breaker tripped again. Can someone please give me some guidance here.
When you replaced the outlets did you check for any arcing in the box or on the old outlet? Thinking of possibly water getting into a box, though seems like you would have noticed this.
JP> When I reset the breaker the last time I took voltage readings at each JP> outlet and everything read 120 volts which is normal. If something was JP> shorting to ground the breaker would trip right away correct? My next JP> step is to call an electrician so any help would be greatly appreciated.
Next logical/inexpensive step would be to replace the breaker. I assume the breaker in question feeds only the family room -- doesn't also feed an outlet on the opposite side of a wall or a doorbell transformer.
As for the 120v, when the electrical system is operating correctly you will get a 120 volt reading. When not correct the voltage should drop some -- the length of time depending on whole buch of variables. Trouble is the voltage will drop along the whole length of the circuit so not really a big help in locating the fault.
If after replacing the breaker you still have the problem the next step is to trace the wiring. I would suspect broken wire insulation and would check where the wire is clamped to the box before replacing the run.
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