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I have an ITE electrical panel from the 1970's. We noticed some flickering in the bathroom and some noise coming from the electrical box. There was a single breaker arcing in the panel. I pulled it and attempted to move another breaker to this slot and it did the same.

So it seems I have some sort of corrosion on this slot of the busbar. I was wondering for anyone that has experience with this, is there a recommended way to clean and potentially grease this one spot to ensure better contact?

panel

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  • Looks like you’ve got several mismatched breaker brands in that panel, even tho they fit, that is a no-no unless they are specifically listed for use (I doubt the GE breaker is). There is no way to clean up a damaged bus and return it to factory specs. As a temporary band-aid you could buy the appropriate twin breaker for that panel and put 2 circuits in one slot. Be sure to put an inactive breaker in the bad spot because the bus is live and you don’t want to leave a way to touch it when the cover is back on. Bottom line that panel is likely due for replacement/upgrade.
    – Tyson
    Dec 7, 2018 at 19:34

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A picture postcard example of "wrong breaker type"

Note the alien breaker in position 27, a GE, an obvious misfit. If that one is still working, it's only because it hasn't been put under heavy load as this one was.

People who think "if it snaps in, it's good" fail to notice that the snap-in pressure is all wrong compared to proper breakers. That's because even though breakers often roughly fit, each manufacturer's busbar is a different shape. The correct breaker gets surface contact. The wrong breaker gets edge or corner contact - works for a few lights but when you load it, it starts arcing. Since this is on the supply side of the breaker, nothing stops this. Anyway it's a series arc, current won't be more than the load's draw.

Siemens makes correct breakers for ITE panels.

The contact isn't corroded. It is destroyed. The arcing removed metal from the contact. The metal is gone, and cannot be restored. That slot is done for and you will not be fitting breakers there anymore.

Your best bet is to plug the hole with something. Your choices are a panel hole cover UL listed for that panel, though those can be hokey and hard to find; or a spare Siemens/ITE breaker, labeled "Unused", under $5.

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    Thanks, you were correct. On closer inspection there is a good amount of metal missing from that one slot. I will put a blank in there. I've already swapped out the GE breaker and plan on putting new Siemens breakers throughout.
    – Bob
    Dec 11, 2018 at 14:30

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