I have a 25 year old home in Arizona. The breaker panel is standard with no GFCI circuits. I have 4 outlets in the house/garage and one outside, that do not work and people tell me that is because the GFCI in the garage was tripped. There are no GFCI outlets in the garage, but there IS a standard outlet labeled as GFCI protected. I took it out and there are only 3 wires. I assume these are neutral, load and ground. With this old wiring, how can I tell if it really is feeding the other protected outlets? Is it possible that I can just replace the standard outlet with a GFCI outlet and everything will work? Is it possible that I just have 5 bad outlets? I realize this is a job for an electrician, but I can't get one to come, so I am trying to fix it myself.

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    Are you sure it's not fed off a GFCI somewhere else in the house? Have you checked other places (bathroom, laundry, kitchen) where you'd expect to find a GFCI? Commented Feb 5, 2022 at 17:40
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    There are several reasons an outlet(s) can fail. If you truly have no GFCI breakers, it might be a failure in a connection in one of the outlets, maybe due to the infamous "back stab" outlets. Next: You don't have 5 bad outlets. Outlets are wired from one to the other in a single circuit, one bad connection in an upstream outlet can render the rest of the outlets dead. I'm really thinking you have one outlet with a bad connection leaving the others dead. .....comment continues below Commented Feb 5, 2022 at 18:03
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    ....continued from above. Replacing a standard outlet with a GFCI outlet isn't going accomplish anything unless the standard outlet had a bad connection. Also, since you mentioned there are only 3 wires in the box, that's what we call "end of run". If there were additional downstream outlets from this one, there would 2 blacks, 2 whites and 2 ground wires: Power in, Power out. You don't sound very comfortable doing electrical work, there are lots of great beginner wiring books at places like Home Depot and Lowes . DON"T EXPERIMENT. It's too dangerous. Commented Feb 5, 2022 at 18:09
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    1990s home = GFCI for the garage in a nearby bathroom. I could strangle every one of the cheapskate electricians that did that. What a royal pain. The garage should have at least a dedicated circuit anyway.
    – isherwood
    Commented Feb 6, 2022 at 0:59
  • Check behind shelves, cabinets, pegboard, etc if you have any in the garage. Had a neighbor whose GFCI receptacle was behind pegboard hanging on the wall. No cutout or label or anything...
    – mmathis
    Commented Feb 6, 2022 at 4:14

2 Answers 2


The "GFCI-Protected" label means there's a GFCI somewhere "upstream" of the outlet with that label (between the breaker, and that outlet.) The outlet is being supplied from the LOAD terminals on that GFCI. All the outlets downstream of a GFCI are supposed to have those labels, but the labels tend to have short lifetimes (if they are even applied as they are supposed to be in the first place.)

The "upstream GFCI" may or may not not be in the garage at all, but somewhere else in the house. The outlet with that label is not getting power because the GFCI that is protecting it (wherever it may be) has tripped (or failed, but usually tripped) so you need to hunt for it and find it to reset it, or replace it if resetting it does not work. If it's not one of the 5 dead outlets you mention, it's either a 6th dead outlet (with Test and Reset buttons) you have not found yet, or it could be a "deadfront" GFCI (no outlet, just Test and Reset buttons.)

With only 3 wires, the outlet is not "feeding" anything else - it's an end-point connection.

Replacing that outlet without finding the GFCI that's feeding it will not get you power there, since the GFCI that is feeding it is not sending power to that location (or 4 others, evidently) at present.

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    In my house, the upstream GFCI is in the master bathroom. Look in your bathrooms.
    – DaveM
    Commented Feb 5, 2022 at 20:18
  • I have found that GFCI fails a lot more often than I'd expect. I've had to replace more than one. Commented Feb 5, 2022 at 21:49
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    They certainly do fail, I've replaced many, but "trip .vs. fail" favors trip most of the time.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Feb 5, 2022 at 22:52
  • To be honest, "GFCI-Protected" means only that somebody applied this label to the socket. You shouldn't assume it means anything, until you found GFCI itself. Commented Feb 6, 2022 at 21:24

There is zero chance that you have five bad outlets. This outlet is a red herring, being that it only has 1 cable /3 wires, it's at the end of the chain and can't be the issue.

When you install a GFCI (any kind really), there are 2 terminals called "Load". If you extend the circuit further off the "Load" terminals, then that part of the circuit is protected by that GFCI device.

And Code requires when you do that, that you mark all the other outlets with "GFCI Protected" stickers. 99.9999% of installers don't bother, but yours did on that one outlet.

So the sticker tells you this is one of "the other" outlets. The location of the GFCI remains a mystery.

So this is a "keep looking" sort of a deal. Look behind stacked stuff, look behind furniture, look in little-used rooms.

A GFCI can be a breaker with a "TEST" button on it, or it can be a blank plate (looks like a GFCI receptacle but with no sockets). Or it can be a 1-socket 1-switch deal with buttons also.

Don't count on the buttons being red and black. The favor is now for same-color buttons.

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    "Don't count on the buttons being red and black. Apparently UL banned this, and now they're all normal color." They did? I still see some being sold, e.g., homedepot.com/p/… leviton.com/en/products/gfnt1-ri and I also quickly looked through the free digital view of standardscatalog.ul.com/ProductDetail.aspx?productId=UL943 and didn't see anything about that. Commented Feb 6, 2022 at 2:12
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    Some requirements for GFCI electronics have changed. Under the old standard, units were required to have buttons that were usefully colored red and black. To allow visual identification of units with the newer electronics, they are now required to have colors that match the housing, thus making it hard to distinguish the test and reset buttons.
    – supercat
    Commented Feb 6, 2022 at 20:51
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    UL banning red/black buttons sound absurd to me. The only sensible story I can come up with is that the red/black button requirements rubbed homeowners the wrong way, who didn't want "ugly" buttons but wanted them to blend and match. So I'm sure that manufacturers are now allowed to sell GFCI outlets with matching colour buttons, but I'm also certain that they're not banned from producing outlets with contrasty buttons. Lots of places (ie: shops, industrial/commercial) would prefer to have easily visible buttons, I'm sure, and there's no sensible reason to disallow it. Sources?
    – J...
    Commented Feb 7, 2022 at 13:24
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    Personally, I like the red & black buttons because they make it really obvious. I have one (i.e., brand new in box, not the ones already installed) right in front of me - Leviton GFNT1-RW, and the Leviton site shows a few others. Actually, I have a few sitting around because when I was redoing receptacles to add ground I was worried I'd find no ground and planned to put in ungrounded GFCI - but haven't had to do that (yet). But most are white. Commented Feb 7, 2022 at 20:11
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica Yeah, that's got nothing to do with the button colours. What got pulled was the provision to allow the red EOL indicator that warned the GFCI was dead but still providing unprotected power. All units must deny power on fault now, so maybe you were remembering the red LED indicator and not the buttons? I can even find you alternate route GFCIs with matching buttons, so I'm pretty sure it's a crossed wires situation.
    – J...
    Commented Feb 7, 2022 at 21:36

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