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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?

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  • 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 at 1:13
  • @Ecnerwal GE panel. All GE breakers. It’s a 40A double pole breaker.
    – Skeptic
    Jan 13 at 1:14
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    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 at 1:29
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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.

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