We recently bought a home with a defective ceiling fan (stuck in reverse), so I bought and installed a new one. The switches were kid of old and ugly so I replaced those as well. (1) switch for the fan and light and (1) switch for the can lights.

With the new switches installed and still hanging out of the wall, everything works seamlessly, but as soon as I push the switches into the switch box it trips the breaker. There doesn't appear to be any loose or frayed wires, and I have a good solid ground. Wired in exactly how I took it apart (one wire at a time).

  • Are the switches installed using screws or backstabs? Are the screws tightened down all the way? How much clearance is there between the switch and the box? Is it a metal or plastic box? Jul 21 '17 at 1:13
  • @ThreePhaseEel Used the screws and one back stab. There is one wire that is ran through both switches. Haven't measured the clearance and I'm not home now, but I would guess 1/4 - 3/8 of an inch clearance and the box is plastic. It really beats all I've ever seen. I'm not an electrician, but I've done many switches and light fixtures in my time. Jul 21 '17 at 1:59

Pushing your switches back into the box is causing something to short together - your screws, grounds, or any exposed wire sticking out of backstabs (of which there should be none).

Are you getting intense arc flashes? If you look closely at your screws, grounds, and any exposed wire sticking out of backstabs -- you will probably find arcing marks that will tell the tale.

If you are not getting arc flashes of any size, this part of the circuit may be protected by AFCI or GFCI.

To protect screws, wrap the switch or receptacle with electrical tape so the screws are covered.


I had that problem too. After installation of the switch I pressed too much to check the on/off. The breaker tripped. I fixed the box alignment to resolve this issue. Please make sure the on the wall is not too much misaligned.

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