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There is one outlet with the GFCI and several other outlets without. The GFCI outlet works fine, while anything plugged into the other outlets causes the GFCI to trip.

How should I detect and fix the problem?

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2  
Anything plugged in? Even a simple two-prong incandescent lamp? Are these outlets and the GFCI on the same circuit? –  Kaz Sep 24 '13 at 5:03
    
I am having this same problem, and yes, absolutely anything plugged in to the other outlets, including a two-prong lamp with no light bulb, will trip it. –  Foo Bar Dec 8 at 11:58

2 Answers 2

A GFCI trips when the current coming in through the hot and out the neutral are not equal. The fact that your GFCI trips whenever something is plugged into a LOAD-side outlet, but not when plugged into the GFCI itself, suggests to me that there's a neutral-to-ground-fault (neutral wire touching ground) somewhere on the LOAD side.


This is the way I would diagnose your problem:

  1. Hit the "Reset" button on the GFCI so the LINE and LOAD are disconnected.
  2. Turn off the electricity to that circuit.
  3. Remove the outlet approximately halfway down the chain on the LOAD side.
  4. Test for continuity (eg. using the OHM setting on a multimeter) between the ground and the neutral screws. Under normal circumstances, ground and neutral are connected at the main panel, but since the GFCI (hopefully) disconnected the neutral, a correctly-wired circuit should find no continuity. If my guess is correct, you will find continuity, confirming there is a neutral-to-ground fault.
  5. Look for any loose wires in the box. If you find any, re-splice the connections.
  6. Unsplice the neutral and ground wires in the box. Check for continuity between the neutral and ground screws again. If there is continuity, the outlet is defective.
  7. Check for continuity between the incoming neutral/ground wires. Repeat for the outgoing neutral/ground wires, if any. If there is continuity, that tells you which half of the circuit the problem is on, so you can repeat this process from step 3 to narrow down the location of the fault.
  8. If the issue turns out to be in the wall between two outlets, I would just run a new wire between those outlets.

The above is not a one-hour job; it will probably take you the better part of a day. It will take longer if you don't already know how the connections between the outlets are laid out.

If you're not comfortable with any of this, hire a licensed electrician.

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Can you use a receptacle tester to speed up checks? –  RedGrittyBrick Sep 24 '13 at 16:06
2  
@RedGrittyBrick: No, plugging it in with the power on will cause his GFCI to trip (and they can't be used with the power off). –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Sep 24 '13 at 16:51

It sounds like the outlets are daisy chained to the GFCI. The fact that the GFCI is tripping is a good thing, because you most likely have a wiring problem downstream from the GFCI.

Electricity is the one thing I am wary of doing myself unless I am 100% confident in the task; so my best answer to "howto diagnose" is to call a reputable electrician.

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What does 'daisy-chained' mean when referring to house wiring? Why do you think it's daisy-chained? What can he do to tell? What can he do to fix it? Sorry, but I need to -1 as I feel this answer is extremely incomplete, and (assuming by 'daisy chained' you mean 'wired in series') also incorrect. –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Sep 24 '13 at 18:24
    
@BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft Daisy-chained means that the GFCI is connected to the wiring that goes back to the breaker box, then one or more outlets are wired to the GFCI. This provides GFCI protection to the additional outlets at a lower cost. The installation instructions for most or all GFCI outlets include instructions for properly daisy chaining additional outlets. –  rob Sep 24 '13 at 19:54
    
@BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft what was incorrect? That you should not mess with electricity unless you are confident in the situation? Or that when the use of an outlet/fixture causes a separate GFCI to be tripped it is likely that they are daisy-chained / wired in a series? –  dfc Sep 27 '13 at 5:47

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