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EV Charger Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping: Causes, Troubleshooting and Solutions

Does your EV charger circuit breaker keep tripping with or without load? you will need to address the issue immediately – ignoring a tripping EV charger circuit breaker could result in major electrical damage, shock, or even fire. This guide highlights some causes, troubleshooting, and solutions to address the issue.

An electric vehicle charger circuit breaker plays an essential role in an electric vehicle branch circuit, it trips when there are problems in the electric vehicle branch circuit such as EV charger wiring issues, overloaded circuit, overheated EV charger, electrical shorts, or ground faults issues in the electric vehicle branch circuit.

The image shows a detailed diagram of a single-phase electrical circuit specifically designed for a Level 2 Electric Vehicle (EV) charger installation in residential settings. It showcases key components such as the main breaker, ground bus, EV charger terminal block, dedicated amp breaker, hot conductors (P1 & P2), ground/earth conductor, wire insulation, and protective conduit. Each component serves a crucial role in ensuring the safety and functionality of the EV charging system. The diagram underscores the importance of proper wiring configurations, adherence to electrical codes, and consultation with a qualified electrician for a safe and compliant installation. It highlights the need for adequate protection against electrical hazards while emphasizing the distinct requirements for Level 3 EV chargers, which demand higher amperage capacities and different wiring setups.

As shown in the electric vehicle branch circuit diagram above, EV charger branch circuits involve a complex interplay of electrical components. Dealing with an electric vehicle circuit breaker that keeps tripping – with or without the EV charger plugged in – pinpointing the exact culprit in the electric vehicle circuit can be frustrating.

This guide aims to simplify the process by outlining common causes and practical troubleshooting steps. Once you identify the source of the reason why your EV charger is tripping, you can safely resolve it with the help of a licensed electrician or certified EV charger installer.

This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be used for DIY repairs. A tripping EV charger circuit breaker is a crucial safety feature. We strongly advise against attempting to fix a tripping EV charger circuit breaker yourself. Electrical work, especially with high-voltage circuits like EV chargers, requires a qualified electrician or licensed EV charger installer.
Table of Contents

Why Your EV Charger Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping

This guide covers both hardwired and plug-in EV charger installations. It addresses issues with tripping circuit breakers, whether the EV charger is connected or disconnected from the outlet. Additionally, it provides troubleshooting tips for when the charger trips the circuit breaker while charging.

Electric Vehicle Branch Circuit Wiring Issues.

Wiring issues in an electric vehicle branch circuit can be a problem that can lead to tripping electric vehicle circuit breakers especially when the EV charger is not connected, the three common issues of wiring problems in an electrical vehicle circuit include:

Electric Vehicle Branch Circuit Current Leakage.

One of the common issues of a tripping EV charger circuit breaker when the charger is not connected includes current leakage in the electric vehicle branch circuit wiring, this can be due to one or more of the feeder wires from the main panel or to the EV charger outlet/junction box experiencing small amounts of current strays from its intended path and flows unintentionally to ground or another conductor.

This can happen for several reasons:

Electric Vehicle Branch Circuit Wire Insulation Degradation.

The wires used in your EV charger installations should be protected from heat and moisture with a conduit, even protected EV charger installation wires over time experience wear and tire, due to heat or moisture which can degrade the insulation of the EV charger installation cables, making them susceptible to current leakage.

Damaged Electrical Vehicle Branch Circuit Components.

Depending on the complexity of your EV charger installation you might have different components installed such as smart meters, emergency power-off buttons, renewable energy EV charging transfer switches, and junction boxes that can develop internal leakage paths allowing current to escape, for complex EV charger installation electrical components installed in the electric vehicle branch circuit can have a minor imperfection in their installation or manufacturing process that can lead to internal current leakage.

The image below above shows a complex EV charger installation involving a renewable EV charger integrated system with lots of components installed in the electric vehicle branch circuit, any damaged components in the circuit might lead to internal current leakage.

A renewable EV charging system circuit diagram showing components such as Ground Bus, Main Breaker, EV Charger Terminal Block, Renewable Energy EV Charging Systems, 120/240 VAC, P1, P2, Ground/Earth, AWG Wire, 1-¼" conduit, Main/Subpanel, Current Sensors, Smart Meter, Incoming solar feed, Solar Sensors, Transfer Switch, Solar EV Charging Circuit Diagram, Emergency Power Off (EPO) Button, Dedicated Circuit Breaker, Level 1 EV Charger, Level 2 EV Charger, Level 3 EV Charger - that can be damaged leading to current leakage.

Faulty components like capacitors, transformers, or switches can develop internal leakage paths, allowing current to escape. Even new components may have minor imperfections in their installation or manufacturing process that can lead to slight leakage currents.

Poor Electric Vehicle Branch Circuit Grounding.

Poor grounding practices, such as loose connections or missing grounding wires, can create alternative paths for current flow. It’s essential to use high-quality grounding conductors, maintain secure connections, and verify grounding continuity throughout the electric vehicle branch circuit to prevent grounding issues from causing leakage problems that would trigger the EV charger to trip.

Improper EV charger ground installation can also lead to ground faults, causing the circuit breaker and potentially a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) to trip. Ground faults occur when the ungrounded (hot) conductor comes into unintended contact with the grounded circuit path (e.g., metal box, grounding wire). This creates a low-impedance path for current to flow, bypassing its intended route.

Long Electric Vehicle Branch Circuit Feeder Wires.

We recommend making sure the electrical panel is close to the point of use to mitigate voltage drops, in poorly designed electric vehicle branch circuits where the distance between the circuit breaker and the EV charger is long, or the distance between the dedicated circuit breaker and main breaker is long, this can lead to leakage of current.

It’s crucial to ensure that the wire capacities are sufficient to handle the current flow without any risk of leakage in the current configurations.

How to Fix Electric Vehicle Branch Circuit Current Leakage.

To fix the electric vehicle branch circuit current leakage, you will first need to identify the source of the current leakage in your electric vehicle branch circuit, you can start by:

  • Visual inspection of the electric vehicle branch circuit wires, junction boxes, connection and splices, electrical components in the electric vehicle branch circuits, and other connections for signs of damage.
  • If you happen to own devices that can detect and diagnose current leakage in electric systems such as a multimeter, clamp meter, insulation resistant tester (Megohmmeter), earth leakage circuit breaker tester, or a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) tester, can use them to specifically detect the exact components in the electric vehicle branch circuit with a current leakage causing your electric vehicle circuit breaker to trip.
  • Visual inspection alone can’t diagnose current leakage in your EV charger circuit. Degraded insulation or faulty components might be the culprit, requiring specialized tools electricians possess. Seek professional help for a definitive diagnosis and lasting solution to prevent future tripping of your EV charger circuit breaker.

Overheating EV Charger

When an EV charger overheats, it draws excessive current. This increased current flow trips the EV charger circuit breaker, cutting power to the charger and preventing further damage. Under such circumstances a tripped breaker serves as a crucial safety measure.

An overheating EV charger can result from a manufacturing defect or human error during electric vehicle charging.

Manufacturing issues that can cause EV chargers to overheat include faulty internal components within the charger or charging cable, such as damaged circuitry and wires that impede efficient heat dissipation and may lead to current leakage causing your EV charger circuit breaker to trip.

The diagram below illustrates the components of a typical EV charger and their role in preventing overheating. These components may include thermal monitoring devices that can trigger the circuit breaker to trip if excessive heat is detected.

Exploded view of EV charger components: Coupler with Drop Protection Seal, Cable with Bend/Stress Relief, Grid Cord with Temperature Monitoring and Seal, In-Cable Control Box (ICCB) with Temperature Monitoring, Contact Monitoring, Leakage Current Detection, Overcurrent Detection, Drop Protection, and Seal

Human errors that can lead to EV charger overheating include using the charger in enclosed spaces or obstructing the EV charger ventilation vents, which trap heat inside. EV chargers require adequate airflow to dissipate the heat generated during operation. Additionally, using the charger on a circuit already burdened by other appliances can overload the system, causing overheating of the charger and circuit components.

Other issues that can cause your EV charger to overheat when charging your electric vehicle causing the circuit breaker to trip include poor installation of the EV charger, some of the common issues relating to poor EV charger installation include loose connection and splices, and undersized EV charger wiring can create resistant points that can cause the electrical vehicle branch circuit components including the EV charger to generate excess heat especially when the EV charger is being used (loaded).

How to Prevent Your EV Charger From Overheating.

You can prevent your EV charger from overheating when using the EV charger which can cause the EV charger circuit breaker to trip by taking the following precautionary measures to minimize the risk of the EV charger from overheating and prevent your EV charger circuit breaker from tripping.

  • Ensure Proper Ventilation: Maintain adequate clearance around the charger and avoid blocking vents. Consider installing the charger in a well-ventilated location.
  • Keep Your EV Charger Clean: Regularly clean the EV charger with a dry cloth to remove dirt, dust, oil, and grease that can accumulate on the EV charger’s ventilation and connection points.
  • Regular Maintenance: Schedule periodic inspections of the EV charger and the electric vehicle branch circuit by a qualified electrician to identify potential issues such as wiring problems, loose connections, and other issues and ensure the overall EV charging system is in optimal condition.
  • Qualified Installation: Contact a licensed electrician to install your EV charger to ensure adherence to safety codes and proper sizing of electrical components.
  • Monitor Circuit Load: Avoid using the EV charger on a circuit already loaded with other appliances. Distribute your electrical load efficiently.

Electric Vehicle Branch Circuit Overloaded Circuit.

When the electric vehicle charger attempts to draw more power than the capacity of the branch circuit, it causes the wires and electrical components to heat up. This overheating triggers the EV circuit breaker to trip, serving as a safety measure for overcurrent protection during electric vehicle charging.

The diagram below shows and electric vehicle branch circuit diagram of a level 2 EV charger, the EV charger used a 50 amps dedicated circuit breaker and 6 awg sized wire that can handle upto 90 degrees temparatures, and a NEMA 14-50 outlet that can handle the EV charger load.

Some of the signs your electric vehicle branch circuit is overloaded apart from the tripping EV charger circuit breaker includes, slow EV charging speeds, flickering or dimming indicator lights and display of the EV charger, EV charger not charging even after being plugged in, buzzing or humming sounds from the electrical panel housing the circuit breaker, burning smells terminating from any components of the electric vehicle branch circuit, warm to touch wires.

Preventing Overloaded EV Charger Circuits.

  • EV Charger Compatibility: EV charger compatibility requires a three-pronged approach. First, ensure the charger’s output matches your EV’s charging needs (voltage, current, connector type). Second, verify the charger’s voltage and current requirements align with your electrical system’s capacity (circuit breaker rating, wire gauge). Finally, confirm the charger adheres to compatible EV charging protocols (J1772 for AC, CCS Combo, or CHAdeMO for DC fast charging) for seamless communication with your EV.
  • Check Your Electric Panel Load: Check your electrical panel rating and its load, check for devices that are connected to the same electrical panel that might cause the electrical panel to overload, and stop their processes to reduce the overall power demand of the main electrical panel.
  • Install Dedicated Circuits: Not only does your EV charger need to be connected to a dedicated circuit breaker, but other high-powered devices connected to the same electrical panel should have a dedicated circuit breaker to reduce the chances of the electrical panel overloading

FAQ About Breakers That Keep Tripping

If your EV charger circuit breaker keeps tripping, you’re not alone, EV charger circuit breakers are a safety measure to prevent the electric vehicle charging system from potential risks, a tripped EV charger circuit breaker can be a puzzling experience to electric vehicle owners with questions regarding the causes, troubleshooting and solutions. we have answered common frequently asked questions we get asked regarding tripping EV charger circuit breakers to assist you in navigating the intricacies of electric vehicle branch circuit and ensure a safe and reliable EV charging experience.

Can an EV Charger Circuit Breaker Go Bad if It Keeps Tripping?

Yes, a breaker can wear and fail from frequent tripping, but it’s usually caused by underlying issues like circuit overload or ground faults in the EV charger circuit. Call a qualified electrician to diagnose the real problem.

How Do You Know if an EV Charger Circuit Breaker Is Bad?

Frequent tripping without an obvious cause (overload/ground fault) might suggest a faulty breaker. Inspect for burning, discoloration, or strange noises. Test by flipping it off and on. If it feels loose or won’t reset, or if tripping persists, consult a qualified electrician for a diagnosis. Remember, a tripping breaker is a safety feature – prioritize the cause, not replacing the EV charger circuit breaker itself.

What Usually Causes an EV Charger Circuit Breaker to Trip?

Overload in the electric vehicle branch circuit: The EV charger draws more current than the circuit can handle, like using a high-powered appliance on the same circuit. Consult an electrician to ensure your circuit is properly sized for the EV charger.

How Do You Fix an EV Charger Circuit Breaker That Keeps Tripping?

A frequently tripping EV charger circuit breaker can be frustrating, but replacing the breaker itself is usually not the answer. Common culprits are circuit overload (too many devices) or faults within the circuit (ground fault, faulty EV charger).

Identify the cause by isolating the EV charger. If the breaker still trips, it likely points to an overloaded circuit, requiring a qualified electrician to assess capacity.

For potential ground faults, short circuits, or internal EV charger issues, a professional can diagnose and fix the root cause for safe and reliable EV charging. Remember, a tripping breaker is a safety feature – prioritize the cause, not just replacing the tripping EV charger circuit breaker

Why Might My Tesla Charger Breaker Trip?

Your Tesla charger breaker may trip due to several reasons.

First, it could be a circuit overload situation where the charger draws more current than the circuit can safely handle, especially if other appliances are also on the same circuit or if the charger’s current demand exceeds the circuit’s rating.

Second, improper installation or damaged wiring can cause ground faults, creating unintended paths for current to flow to the ground and triggering the breaker’s protective mechanism.

Finally, internal malfunctions within the Tesla charger itself, such as excessive current draw or ground faults, can also lead to breaker tripping.

These factors highlight the importance of ensuring proper circuit capacity, installation practices, and equipment condition for reliable operation of your Tesla charger.

James Ndungu

About the Author: James Ndungu

James Ndungu, founder and editor-in-chief of Electric Vehicle Geek, brings over five years of hands-on experience in Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) selection, permitting, and installation. He specializes in assisting businesses and homeowners in the United States with a seamless transition to electric vehicles.

As a certified EV charger installer and holder of advanced certifications, including the EVITP (Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program), Diploma in Electric Vehicle Technology, and Diploma in Engineering Fundamentals of Electric Vehicles, I provide expert guidance and in-depth reviews on the latest EV charging equipment.

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