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Hi all, I've got an old 100 amp panel with pushmatic breakers. My water heater and clothes drier are on a 220 breaker that is not resetting properly. I was informed that they can seize up due to age and not being reset periodically. Its also been raining buckets here (so cal). I wonder whether spraying WD-40 in the breaker might drive out any moisture that may be in there and lube the internal mechanism of the breaker thus allowing it to reset. Several electricians have suggested I should upgrade to a 200 amp panel, but $2k is tough at present and I'm hoping I can get the breaker to reset then deal with just getting the one problem breaker replaced for much less$ . Need your expert advice. thanks
 

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Hi all, I've got an old 100 amp panel with pushmatic breakers. My water heater and clothes drier are on a 220 breaker that is not resetting properly. I was informed that they can seize up due to age and not being reset periodically. Its also been raining buckets here (so cal). I wonder whether spraying WD-40 in the breaker might drive out any moisture that may be in there and lube the internal mechanism of the breaker thus allowing it to reset. Several electricians have suggested I should upgrade to a 200 amp panel, but $2k is tough at present and I'm hoping I can get the breaker to reset then deal with just getting the one problem breaker replaced for much less$ . Need your expert advice. thanks
WD40 is primarily hexane and LPG... I wouldn't recommend spraying an aerosol-propelled petroleum-based product into an enclosed space that may be prone to arcing. That sounds like the recipe for a bad day.

That being said, even if the WD40 wasn't volatile, I'm not sure that it would really help that much. You are dealing with an old mechanical device that sounds like it is pretty worn out. Even if the lube does work once or twice, you're likely to continue to have problems.

How often do you have to reset the breaker?

Does your local code does not allow for the breaker to be replaced? I agree that the ultimate solution is to upgrade the entire panel, but replacement breakers are available. They are a bit more expensive than "regular" breakers, but much cheaper than a whole new service panel.
 

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no! do not spray anything in or on the breaker that was not specifically designed for the use and then, only with following exact directions.


Cruise the internet for a breaker. I believe there are replacements available.


did you happen to think it might be tripping for a reason? When an element in a water heater burns out, it can short out and would cause the breaker to trip.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
I'll skip the WD-40 then. I've only had to reset them once or twice a year, but it's being stubborn now. I didn't shut the main off, so I'll try that again before trying the problem breaker. I don't know if local code allows breaker replacement. I assume it does as at least one electrician that suggested he could replace the breakers (at about 2/3rds the cost of a new 200 amp panel). I will ask about just replacing the one breaker for the present. Thanks for responding clashley! Thanks nap, will do. Thanks jerzeedivr - got it, no WD-40.
 

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replace

whatever you can afford, replace the bad breaker or replace 100 Amp. service norm. a 20 circuit panel, or 150 Amp. service norm. 30 circuit panel or 200 Amp. service norm. 42 circuit panel. There is nothing wrong with 100 A. If you have alot of circuits than go bigger.
 

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I'm reading this as his dryer AND water heater are on the SAME circuit breaker. I'm assuming that's why it's tripping.

That said, allow me to remind of one of the common pushmatic breaker problems. They are grease-fed, and, without exercise, tend to dry out and become very difficult to operate.

WD-40 is a good solution for stuff that is stuck due to corrosion and small debris. It is not a lubricant. Your pushmatic breaker is sticking due to lack of lubrication.



I've used WD-40 on a breaker before. OUT of the panel, AWAY from a source of ignition, and allowed to dry for a good hour or two before being installed.



Again, however, WD-40 is also a DEGREASER, and isn't the final step on anything that requires grease! Thus, it's probably NOT a solution for a pushmatic.



My suggestion is that you cycle the breaker until it sufficiently greases itself - but before you do that, wait a couple hours for comments from others as to whether or not this is a good idea.
 

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since the ingredients of wd-40 are a trade secret and not known to the public, it simply is not a good idea to use it on something such as a breaker. You have no idea how any of the chemicals are going to react with any particular part of the breaker. Given the purpose of a breaker, it simply is not good to mess with the manufacturers design without specific approval.


here is an excerpt from the we-40 MSDS sheet (and the bulk container, not the aerosol)


DANGER! Harmful or fatal if swallowed. Combustible Liquid. If swallowed, may be aspirated and cause lung
damage. May cause eye irritation. Avoid eye contact. Use with adequate ventilation. Keep away from heat,
sparks and all other sources of ignition
I'm thinking the arc inside of a breaker might fall into that last statement.

btw: wd-40 IS a lubricant. From the wd-40 site:

What does WD-40 do?
WD-40 fulfills five basic functions:
1. CLEANS: WD-40 gets under dirt, grime and grease to clean. It also dissolves adhesives, allowing easy removal of labels, tape and excess bonding material.
2. DISPLACES MOISTURE: Because WD-40 displaces moisture, it quickly dries out electrical systems to eliminate moisture-induced short circuits.
3. PENETRATES: WD-40 loosens rust-to-metal bonds and frees stuck, frozen or rusted metal parts.
4. LUBRICATES: WD-40's lubricating ingredients are widely dispersed and tenaciously held to all moving parts.
5. PROTECTS: WD-40 protects metal surfaces with corrosion-resistant ingredients to shield against moisture and other corrosive elements.

a little known or practiced recommendation from the breaker manufacturers:

You should exercise your breakers. This means, turning them on and off several times. I typically suggest doing it at least annually. It helps prevent breakers from seizing and not functioning properly when needed to do so. Since this breaker has been exercised regularly (by tripping), Repetitive tripping can also cause a breaker to wear out.

I suspect it is simply worn out and should just be replaced.
 

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Most electricians in the industry consider push-a-matic panels grade A for replacement. There are known problems with them, parts are hard to find, etc. I would begin saving for a panel change out.
 

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The OP said his breaker is not resetting properly.

That is the only assertion. It currently is not resetting. At no point has it been indicated that it trips FREQUENTLY.

I would assert that the most common problem with pushmatic breakers is actually lack of exercise, and thus, I doubt this is a frequent problem.

Perhaps the OP will correct me and state that this breaker has tripped many times, but so far, there has been no such statement.



"no-trips" are a common problem of FPE and Zinsco, not pushmatic. They have two main issues. 1- NEEDING regular cycling, 2- the indicator flags becoming un-synchronized with the actual state of the breaker. Both can be tolerated in some cases, so replacing them is not always a top priority (I, personally, like them.)
 

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T
hat is the only assertion. It currently is not resetting. At no point has it been indicated that it trips FREQUENTLY.
Who said frequently besides you?
.

but regardless, he should not spray a flammable substance in or on a breaker. It's never good to spray flammable substance on something that knowingly produces an arc.
 

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In my neck of the woods a drier and water heater cannot be on the same breaker. Separate breakers for each. Nevertheless, I have found that Pushmatic breakers tend to go "soft" over a number of years and start nuisance tripping especially if they have been running at the upper end of their rating.
I would replace the breaker with a new one. They are still available
 

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I would replace the breaker. You could source it yourself and have an electrician install it. Try oregonbreakers.com. I've bought a few Pushmatics from them and didn't find them terribly expensive, especially compared to a panel change. Maybe $80-100 for a 2 pole breaker depending on size. It wouldn't take an electrician more the 1/2-1 hour to install.
 
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