Breaker Trips When I Turn The Light On – How To Troubleshoot








Breaker trips from light switch. I turn the kitchen ceiling light switch ON and the circuit breaker trips. I am assuming the light switch or the light fixture is the cause. What can cause the breaker to trip when the light switch is turned on?

Breaker Trips When I Turn The Light OnBreaker Trips When I Turn The Light On

There are different reasons why a breaker will trip/reset when you turn on a light using a wall switch. See below for the reasons why flipping on a light switch could cause a breaker to trip/flip/reset.

SAFETY: Be sure to flip the breaker off when inspecting or troubleshooting any electrical issue. Use a flashlight or headlamp to safely inspect the area. Use the appropriate tools/gloves when working with electrical components. It is recommended to read this complete page before you begin troubleshooting your electrical issue.

Quick Troubleshooting: Start by turning the breaker OFF. Check the light switch by removing the switch cover. Fix any wires that are loose or damaged. Check the light fixture for any brittle/damaged or loose wires. If both the light switch and light fixture are wired properly, next inspect the wiring within the circuit. Most “breaker tripping” issues in this case involve the light switch and or the light fixture. For more detailed information keep reading below…



Recently replaced the light switch or fixture? If you have replaced the light switch or light fixture with a new one and the breaker trips when you turn the light on, the switch or fixture is most likely wired incorrectly. Turn off the circuit breaker and rewire the switch or fixture. Use the wiring diagram that came with the light switch/fixture to wire it correctly.

Having electrical issues with your ceiling fan? Ceiling fans may vibrate connections loose and cause a tripping breaker.

What do I check to fix the breaker from tripping? To find out why the breaker trips when you turn the light on, check the wiring, the light fixture, and the light switch. Inspect all components to be sure the wiring on the light fixture and light switch are not loose or damaged. Check the switch and fixture for the correct wiring with no shorts to neutral/ground. All of these conditions can cause the breaker to trip.

How To Fix Light Switch/Trips Breaker

Troubleshoot efficiently by checking the switch first. Remove the switch plate (2 screws) and check the switch with a flashlight. Inspect for any wiring touching the side of the box or other wires. Fix as needed, then check the light fixture and inspect the wiring for issues. If the issue goes beyond the light switch and light fixture, call an electrician to troubleshoot the problem.

Remove light switch cover and check wiringLight Switch Trips Breaker?
Remove light switch cover and check wiring
Loose wires will cause a breaker to trip/reset

 

Light switch wiring diagramLight Switch Resets Breaker?
Check wiring on light switch
Loose/damaged wires will trip breaker

Light switch wiring diagram



When a light switch trips the breaker, a faulty light switch or light fixture is usually the cause. A wire may have come loose at the switch or fixture and is shorting out the hot wire. Always check the switch and fixture first.

Also check any GFCI receptacles that are on the circuit for a malfunction or fault.

If you recently hung a picture or put a nail/screw through the wall, this is likely your issue as a nail or drill bit may have damaged the wiring. If a nail or screw has damaged the wire, you can replace the wiring around the fault by using junction boxes for the splice.

Why Does Light Switch Trip Breaker?

See below for the reasons why a breaker can trip and what may be causing the problem. There can be more reasons but these are the most common/average.

Light Switch Can Trip Breaker When:

  1. Light Fixture Fault
  2. Light Switch Is Faulty
  3. Wire Connections Are Loose
  4. Short Circuit Issues
  5. Ground Fault Problems
  6. Nail/Screw Through Wiring
  7. Rodent Chewed/Damaged Wires
  8. Faulty GFCI Receptacle

Circuit breaker faulty? Here is how to safely remove and replace a circuit breaker.

How to Replace / Change a Circuit Breaker in your Electrical Panel

Reasons Light Switch Trips Breaker

1. Light Fixture Fault
If a light fixture is faulty, a breaker can become overloaded. The wires in an old light fixture can fall apart and cause a short or ground out. Turn off power before checking the light fixture for damage. Replace the light fixture if found to be faulty.



2. Light Switch Is Faulty
A light switch that has become faulty can short out and trip a breaker. An old light switch can crack and become unusable and cause the breaker the flip. The wires can become brittle and cause a circuit overload or a short. Turn off the breaker when checking the light switch. Replace the light switch if found to be faulty.

3. Wire Connections Are Loose
If any of the wires become loose it can ground out and short circuit causing the breaker to trip/reset. Remove power, remove cover if applicable, and inspect the terminal screws on the switch to be sure they are not loose. If loose, tighten the screws and be sure they are secure. Be sure terminal screws are tightened all the way down.

4. Short Circuits
A wire is contacting another wire and current flows through and flips the breaker. Wires can become brittle and the insulation can fall off. Inspect all wires to be sure there are no short circuits. Replace any wiring if you find it to be brittle and or the insulation has become brittle and falling off. This causes grounding and shorts.

5. Ground Faults
This happens when a live wire comes in contact with a metal area of the switch housing or similar. This can cause shock and also trip the breaker. Inspect all areas on the wiring to be sure there are no ground faults.

6. Nail/Screw Through Wiring
If you have drilled into the wall to hang a picture lately, you may have drilled too deep and damaged a wire. This is a difficult scenario as the damaged wire will need to be repair and or replaced. It is best to call a pro at this point.

7. Rodent Chewed/Damaged Wires
A rodent in the wall may have chewed on the wiring. This will cause damaged wiring and cause a short that will flip the breaker. The wiring will need to be repaired or replaced.

8. Faulty GFCI Receptacle
Check any GFCI receptacles on the circuit for a malfunction. If the light switch wiring is going through a GFCI receptacle and the GFCI is faulty, this can cause a problem and trip the breaker. Replace the GFCI receptacle if found to be faulty.



More common electrical problems and solutions:

What To Do If Electrical Breaker Tripping In Your Home?

Microwave Oven Tripping Breaker

Power Out In One Room But Rest Of The House Has Electricity?

No Power To Outlets In One Room Or Wall

If you have read through this page and still have a light switch that trips the breaker, please describe your issue below and we will get back to you with a solution.

ALLEN VETTER - DIY Repair Assistant
Allen is a Home Maintenance/Appliance tech and the author/creator of this website. He has 30 years of experience troubleshooting and repairing all types of machinery. Contact here



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