I have a single GFCI outlet on it's own circuit in a bathroom. When the breaker is on and outlet isn't wired, the hot has current (using a probe tester) and neutral and ground do not. When I hook up the GFCI and turn the breaker on, the hot and neutral have current, ground does not, but the GFCI won't reset and power devices plugged into it. I have tried 4 different GFCI outlets and know that at least two of them are functional as they work when hooked up to other wiring. There is nothing else on this circuit, and I don't have any idea what might be causing this. Please help!

  • 1
    Are you sure you connected the wires to the line side and not the load side?
    – DoxyLover
    May 14, 2017 at 5:36
  • 2
    When you say "has current" do you mean "has voltage"? Those are quite different things. The tester will indicate presence of voltage, not current. May 14, 2017 at 6:33
  • Are there plug in GFCI receptacles which would plug into a standard receptacle? I know there are extension cords with a GFCI in them. Having something like this could be used for diagnosis of problems. Every hand- held hair dryer I have seen has a GFCI plug so one of these could be used to demonstrate whether a circuit has a ground fault between the receptacle and the panel. May 14, 2017 at 11:22
  • Your neutral is broken or not connected properly at the panel.
    – brhans
    May 14, 2017 at 13:46
  • The GFCI uses a small amount of power to run the electronics you may just be seeing the "return" on the neutral , since it won't reset it may be bad if connected correctly.
    – Ed Beal
    Oct 4, 2017 at 13:26

4 Answers 4


In your case the neutral wire is broken.

It is rather unusual for wires to break by themselves, so most likely the problem is at a termination. We can exclude this location, that leaves the service panel.

The neutral wire isn't becoming magically energized when you connect a GFCI to it. The GFCI uses some electricity for its own functions and returns it to the neutral wire. With the neutral broken there is nowhere for that voltage to go, so it stays on the neutral wire, lifting it to 120 volts. The same thing would happen if you used a regular receptacle and a night light.

No receptacle will work at this location until you fix the neutral.


A GFCI won't reset for a few reasons.

First the GFCI is broken. Which you have seemed to already checked.

Second the GFCI does not have proper voltage. Which is covered by Harper above.

Third the GFCI is connected wrong. Check out DoxyLover above also make sure you have the correct polarity when connecting up the GFCI, the neutral and ground should be on the same side of the receptacle.

Finally there is a leak in the wiring connected to the GFCI. Make sure the voltage reading is exactly the same when measuring the hot and the neutral and the hot and the ground. The leak is usually between the neutral and the ground. If nothing else works, try connecting the neutral and hot to the GFCI and not the ground and see if it will reset. If it does, there is definitely a problem between the neutral and ground. Do not leave it like this since it defeats the purpose of the GFCI. Instead you or someone else needs to figure out the problem and correct it.


Of course it will not reset... Notice your hot and neutral are HOT carrying current.

Your neutral should be exactly that neutral - you state it is hot when wired. So here is a possible scenario.

  • your TEST button is pressed on.
  • You have wired the neutral to the hot connection.

EDIT 10/04/2017

  • If a GFCI does not reset with something plugged in - Unplug the connected device and try to reset.
  • You might have a down stream device on the Bathroom outlet as sometimes a secondary bathroom might be wired to it - make sure the down stream device and the GFCI is wired correctly, also unplug any load on the downstream outlet and try to reset.

  • If you just installed the GFCI and it does not reset with no load ..trouble shoot the wiring.

  • If GFCI had been working - most likely it is bad but given that it is in a bathroom you might have a down stream outlet which could be where your issue resides.
  • When power is being consumed on a circuit both the hot and neutral are conducting and a neutral will cause a non contact probe to light.
    – Ed Beal
    Oct 4, 2017 at 13:29

I agree with previous answers, but they are needlessly complex. When a simple probe light indicates a voltage with respect to ground on the neutral (aka grounded) conductor, that conductor is not connected to ground.

Restore continuity in the elementary electric circuit so that the grounding (safety ground), grounded (neutral current carrying) and ungrounded (line, hot, phase) conductor are all properly connected before attempting to resolve what could be wrong with the GFCI outlet.

If an individual with limited understanding has installed this branch circuit, it is possible that they have misapplied wiring instructions for a branch circuit protected by a combination GFCI and overcurrent breaker to a branch circuit protected by an ordinary overcurrent breaker and a GFCI outlet. A GFCI breaker is connected to both the ungrounded and grounded conductors of a 120v branch circuit, and it has a concealed connection to an ungrounded bus bar, and a visible (white wire) connection to the neutral bus bar. An ordinary overcurrent breaker is connected only to the ungrounded conductor of the branch circuit and has a concealed connection to an ungrounded bus bar. The grounded conductor of the branch circuit is connected directly to the neutral bus bar, and the grounding conductor is connected to the grounding bus bar. (At a service entrance grounded and grounding may be the same bus bar, at any downstream distribution panels the current carrying grounded conductor is separate from the the safety grounding conductor that only carries fault current. A GFCI outlet can be added to a branch circuit whether or not it is protected by a GFCI breaker. There is no change to any part of the wiring between between a GFCI outlet and the service entrance when it is installed even when the GFCI outlet is wired to protect other devices on the same branch circuit.

I would also point out that while broken conductors are less common than missing connections, they do happen, and perhaps a little more often when an inexperienced person is making connections in a duplex box. When a conductor itself has been flexed too many times and cracked where it enters a box, it can't be spliced outside the box in the wall. Either a replacement cable has to be run to the panel or an upstream junction box or a new box has to be placed somewhere upstream to put the splice in.

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