Well I went and did a dumb thing. Noticed the heating element in my oven wasn’t working. So I removed it and wanted to test the connectors for power, to see if the problem was there. Accidentally must’ve gone to ground somewhere, because I got a lot of sparks, a little fire (quickly extinguished by the insulation in the oven cavity), and more sparks. I pulled out the probes just as the stove shut off. Figured the breaker tripped, but when I checked it at the box it hadn’t. I turned it off manually. I cleaned everything off, made sure the connectors were separated, and turned the breaker back on, and the stove worked. (At least, the clock.) Now I know this was stupid, and I’ve learned my lesson. (The power is off. And I’ll leave the rest of this oven repair to a pro.) But now I’m wondering: why didn’t the breaker trip? Could the breaker be faulty?

  • What's the brand-name of the breaker panel? There are a few that are known to be prone to failing to trip and where the panel should be replaced before it burns your house down - Zinsco, Federal Pacific Stablok are two of them - but 50A at 240V is a LOT of power, and I've seen my failed oven element arc and build a minor volcano on itself without bothering a good breaker.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jan 13, 2022 at 1:13
  • 2
    Then the odds of it being a faulty breaker are quite low. The odds that it was less than 40A worth of arc are fairly high.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jan 13, 2022 at 1:29

1 Answer 1


It takes a lot of load, sustained for a period of time, to trip a 50A breaker. It takes much less current to make sparks. It's unlikely that you have a bad breaker. Generally, if they're going to fail they fail open or trip more easily than they should.

So the only answer with certainty is "yes", but it's not likely.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.