How to Fix a Tripped GFCI Outlet When Nothing Is Plugged In

Having a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet trip when nothing is plugged into it can be frustrating. However, there are several potential causes for this issue that can often be addressed DIY style to get your outlet working again. Here is a comprehensive guide to troubleshooting and fixing a tripped GFCI outlet with nothing plugged in.

What Causes a GFCI Outlet to Trip With Nothing Plugged In?

There are a few common reasons why a GFCI might trip even when nothing is plugged into the outlet:

Loose Wiring

The most likely culprit is a loose wire connection either within the GFCI outlet itself or elsewhere in the circuit. Vibration or normal wear and tear can cause wires to become loose over time. This can lead to arcing or fluctuation in the electric current that will trip the GFCI.

Faulty GFCI Outlet

The GFCI outlet itself could be faulty. Like any electrical component, GFCIs can fail or malfunction over time. A damaged or defective GFCI will often trip for no apparent reason.


Excessive moisture in the GFCI enclosure or elsewhere in the circuit can sometimes cause a trip. A very small amount of current leakage through condensation or a minor water intrusion can trigger the GFCI to deactivate the circuit.

Damaged Wiring

Exposed or damaged wires somewhere in the GFCI circuit can sometimes lead to current leakage. This includes damage from pests, age, or installation issues. Even if the problem area is not right at the outlet, it can still cause the outlet GFCI to trip.

Shared Neutral Wires

Sometimes a GFCI will trip if it shares a neutral wire with another GFCI or AFCI outlet. This is due to small fluctuations in the current on the shared neutral.

How to Diagnose the Specific Cause

There are a few steps you can take to determine what is causing your GFCI to trip when nothing is plugged in:

If an outlet downstream from the GFCI trips too, this points to a tripping cause somewhere in the circuit wiring. Isolating the issue this way simplifies troubleshooting.

Fixing a Faulty GFCI Outlet

If you determine the GFCI outlet itself is faulty, fixing it is straightforward:

  1. Turn off the circuit breaker powering the outlet.
  2. Remove the outlet cover plate and unscrew the outlet from the wall box.
  3. Disconnect the outlet wires.
  4. Install a brand new GFCI outlet.
  5. Carefully connect the wires to the new GFCI (line, load, neutral, ground).
  6. Secure the new outlet in the wall box and replace the cover plate.
  7. Switch circuit breaker back on to restore power.
  8. Test the outlet by plugging in a lamp and pressing the "Test" button.

Replacing the faulty GFCI outlet should resolve the tripping issue if this was the cause.

Fixing Wiring Issues

For tripping caused by wiring problems, it takes a bit more work to isolate and repair the fault:

Once the issue is found, repair the wiring as needed:

Thoroughly checking the wiring and connections in this way should reveal any issues that caused the outlet to trip.

Preventing Future Tripping Issues

To help prevent such tripping issues from recurring:

With the right diagnosis and by addressing the cause, a tripped GFCI outlet without anything plugged in can be fixed relatively easily in most cases. Paying close attention to wiring connections and moisture ingress will also help prevent nuisance tripping issues in the future.