I have an indoor/outdoor fan that has a GCFI reset plug at the end of the power cord that has tripped and will not reset. Can you tell me the proper method to replace it? I have extremely limited experience in electronic repair and would need some pretty detailed advise if possible...any help would really be appreciated!

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    I take it you are talking about a GFCI that's part of the cord to the fan, no? – ThreePhaseEel Apr 14 '19 at 3:27
  • I replaced one in a space heater with a regular plug ; However it was always plugged int a GFI receptacle – blacksmith37 Sep 12 '19 at 19:18

If I understand correctly, you have a GFCI device on the end of a power cord attached to a fan - i.e., the GFCI was provided with the appliance and is not built in to the building. Assuming that is the case, there are two possibilities:

  • Failure of the GFCI
  • A ground fault in the device

If the GFCI has failed - and they can fail - then replacement makes sense. However, I think more likely is that there is a ground fault somewhere in the fan. A ground fault could include wiring (e.g., starting with cracks in the cord insulation), motor damage, switch damage, etc. I know of only two ways to get a 100% definite diagnosis:

  • Replace the GFCI. If the fan works, the problem was the GFCI. If the fan doesn't work, the problem is the fan - in which case toss the whole thing (and in which case you have just wasted a new GFCI module).
  • Replace the GFCI with a temporary regular plug. Plug the fan in to a GFCI-protected receptacle (e.g., kitchen or bathroom that has been updated to include GFCI) and see if it works. If the GFCI receptacle (or breaker) trips immediately then the problem is the fan - in which case toss the whole thing. If the GFCI does not trip and the fan works, then you should replace the temporary plug with a GFCI module.

I suspect an indoor/outdoor fan has a GFCI included because typical use may include outdoors, in the rain, plugged into a grandfathered non-GFCI-protected receptacle. So bypassing the GFCI protection, except for a very temporary testing procedure, is not a good idea.

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Check laws in your area and any other appropriate entities(landlord, etc.) to make sure you're allowed to repair this yourself.

Check if a breaker is tripped. Test the fan on another GFCI plug and see if it trips. If the fan is good and the plug is definitely getting the correct voltage and therefore is faulty, power down the circuit at the panel, confirm there is no voltage by metering line and identified conductor voltage to ground, remove the cover plate and if the plug has screws on the side, check both sides with a Non Contact Voltage Tester.

Upon confirming there is no voltage, undo the mounting screws at the top and bottom of the plug and carefully pull it out without stressing the wires or cutting them on any sharps. If existing wiring is aluminum, come back here and say so for further instructions.

Use the NCVT to check every wire in the box. Meter neutral voltage to ground. Undo the existing connections to the old GFCI plug (if it was connected with push in method, rather than cutting the wires off, you can find a release slot on the side or back of many plugs, and if that doesn't work or you don't have a suitable pokey, firmly grip one wire at a time, firmly grip the plug and pull while rotating it back and forth 45-60 degrees to release the wires. Check the original stripping to make sure the original installer did not gouge or ring the copper. If the copper is damaged in this way, cut it back and re strip it. Avoid shortening wires when not necessary. Check the strip guage on the new plug and if necessary adjust the length of bared copper. Pre fold the wires back into the box without damaging them, so that when you reattach them to the plug and push the plug into the box they won't pinch or experience undue pressure.

Terminate the wires on the plug, ground first to green screw, then identified to white/silver screw, then line to brass screw. If the original GFCI was protecting additional plugs, take the sticker off the additional load screws and attach those wires, white first, then black. How best to terminate will depend on the attachment method of the new plug. If you decide to use push in connections, be sure to do up the screws on the side of the plug so they aren't sticking out loose to cause a short.

While it is still extended from the box, remove the mounting screws if they have retainers, wrap it with 2-3 wraps of 300V electrical tape to insulate the screws.

Turn on the breaker and go back to attempt to test, reset, test, reset the plug. Use a plug tester with GFCI function to test it once more and reset.

Power the breaker back off, and fold the wires in a sensible way as you push the plug back into the box so as not to stress them. When you have the plug all the way back to the finished surface, you can let it relax back out an inch, and replace the mounting screws and retainers. If installing on an uneven surface, bend the "ears" of the mounting strap to ensure the plug is perpendicular to the mounting surface and at a sensible depth(you can dry fit the cover plate several times as you do up the mounting screws to achieve ideal perpendicularity and depth.). Do up the mounting screws and reinstall the cover plate. Turn the breaker back on. Test with the fan.

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  • 1
    It sounds like a GFCI-built-into-the-plug setup, so part of the appliance and thus repairable... – ThreePhaseEel Apr 14 '19 at 3:27
  • @ThreePhaseEel yeah I suspect either box and plug on whip, wall or surface mounted or recessed GFCI might be the case from the description(if OP meant "that the cord is plugged in to" by "at the end of the power cord". Really not clear. In many areas you can change out devices as well, but I figured include every step and hopefully OP executes a safe, legal and sound repair. – K H Apr 14 '19 at 3:33

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