Does the breaker lug (connection) look burned? Like it got hot? Is the service entrance cable aluminum? Do you feel comfortable working on a possible fix? If so follow these instructions.
1) Remove power. If you have a disconnect you do not have to pull the meter. Turn off the disconnect (lock it out if possible)and make certain the power is completley off. If you have no disconnect you need the power company to pull the meter?
This is where you could be without power for some time, as I doubt they are going to wait until you are done.
Now, I am not telling you to do this, but this is what I would do.
Turn off the main breaker at the main service panel. Kill the whole house! Then cut off the tag on the meter and pull it out. Now, you can be certain the power is off.
2) Losen the wires with a screw driver or allen head. Pull them out off the breaker.
3) Remove the screws holding the breaker in place and remove the breaker. They are recessed, you may not be able to see them. Look in the hole with a flashlight and see if they are phillips head or flat head screws.
4) Test that all the lug bolts (where the wire goes in) and make sure they will losen and tighen easily. If they are stuck you can use some lubricant to free them up. Just a drop or two. Do not get any lube inside the breaker. If the lugs are stripped or look burned, get the specs from the side of the breaker and locate the breaker on internet or electric supply (Home Depot)? A new one. Take breaker with you.
5) Clean wires with sand paper, blow off residue (sand particles). If there is enough wire cut off the bad section, just enough to get some clean wire. Strip the end and replace in the breaker. If it is aluminum wire, you should get an aluminum protect paste (NOLOX) or similar. Rub this into the wire real good and put some in the breaker lug before you put the wires back. You can use some of the aluminum protectant on the threads of the lugs.
6) Tighten lug bolts very securely.
7) If lug will not tighten and is stripped the breaker cannot be saved. You must get a new one.
8) With main breaker still off replace meter and cover.
9) Turn main breaker back on.
Call power company and tell them you had to pull the meter as you were concerned for fire. That they are welcome to come inside and see your work.
Last edited by J. V.; 12-02-2007 at 12:18 PM.