How to Tell if a Surge Protector Is Bad? (Answered & Explained)

A surge protector is designed to protect your electronic devices from damage due to power surges. When a surge protector fails, it will not be able to protect your electronics and can oftentimes cause damage to them.

But, when a surge protector comes with inferior quality or it doesn’t function properly, your appliances won’t be safe anymore in a sudden power surge. Now, how to tell if a surge protector is bad?

If your surge protector has failed, there will be signs that it is no longer functional. Not thus there are more signs and ways to whether is it bad or not other than the lack of its protective abilities.

If you are still confused, continue reading as I am going to tell you about some clear signs which indicate a bad surge protector.

How to Identify a Bad Surge Protector?

While this is easy to answer, but it’s not so easy to do. I’ll start by saying that there are many fake surge protectors on the market. If you are not sure what exactly you purchased, then I can’t blame you for that because it’s easy to get scammed.

Below is a list of tips and tricks which could help you to identify a bad surge protector.

Sign 1- Feels Hot

A surge protector that feels hot is not protecting your electronics. If it is hot, this means there isn’t a good connection between the power source and the electrical devices. It may still be plugged in, but not working properly and can cause damage to your devices.

Also, if the surge protector is hot, it may be in standby mode. So in this case, it won’t be able to protect your devices even if it is turned on.

Sign 2- Smells of Burning Plastic

If there is a smell of burning plastic coming from the surge protector, it means that it is faulty. Sometimes, it may also mean that there is a fire hazard.

So if you see this happening, check the device for any sign of overheating or burning. If you see either, turn off your surge protector right away to ensure safety.

Sign 3- Lamps Flicker

If your light bulbs are flickering when the surge protector is activated, it means that you are not getting the correct voltage.

It can also mean that the wiring is faulty, which would require professional help from an electrician. If this is not the case, it can be a sign that your surge protector is faulty.

So, you should get a new surge protector in that case.

Sign 4- Plugged In but Not Working

If your surge protector is plugged into an outlet or plugged into your electronic device, sometimes you might notice that it’s not working. You should also check the indicator light on the surge protector or if it doesn’t have any power buttons.

So when you see this, it is a sign that your surge protector is faulty or that its internal components may have burnt out.

Sign 5- Broken Fuse

If your surge protector has a fuse and the glass is broken, it can’t be fixed. So it’s time to buy a good quality surge protector. Why does this happen? It’s most likely due to power surges.

If your surge protector fuse is broken and you’ve checked everything, it may occur due to a power surge. Power surges happen when the voltage coming from your power source is too high.

Sign 6- It Keeps Turning Off And On

When it keeps turning off and on continuously, it means that your device is not grounded, or there may be a short circuit. So in this case, it won’t be able to protect your devices and can even cause damage to them.

So when you see this happening, get a new one. Also, you’ll see that the lights on it are flashing. Sometimes, it will beep too.

Sign 7- Warranty Has Expired

If your surge protector is past its warranty, you’ll need to get a new one if it’s faulty or not working right anymore. A good rule of thumb is that if the device is two years old, you should either replace it with a new one or call an electrician to check the wiring in your house.

Although most of the manufacturers offer more than 2 years of warranty, it’s a good idea to check your surge protector for any signs of malfunction and get it serviced. If the warranty period is expired and the device is not functional anymore, you should go for a new one.

If your surge protector is more than 5 years old, you should consider replacing it with a new one. The main reason is that surge protectors do not last forever.

Most electricians recommend changing a surge protector every five years, whether it’s faulty or not. So if you want to avoid any electrical disasters, just go ahead and replace them.

Sign 8- It’s Not Grounded

Sometimes, it can be hard to tell if your surge protector is not grounded. If the plug doesn’t fit snugly into an outlet, then it’s most likely not grounded. This can cause an electrical shock, so get it checked if you see this happen.

So this is one of the most important signs that your surge protector is bad or has lost its ability to protect you from electrical problems. If you face this issue, don’t worry. Many people already know how to do grounding for a surge protector.


Is there any device to check bad surge protectors?

If you want to test a bad surge protector by yourself, you need to identify and measure the impedance between the hot and neutral legs of the AC power line.

In that case, you can use a receptacle tester to check any improper wiring & resistance between the hot and neutral legs.

Can surge protectors wear out?

Yes, surge protectors can wear out and their ability to provide protection can diminish as they age. There is no way to know when a surge protector has started to wear out other than by inspecting it.

Carefully inspect all signs of damage or deterioration including loose, frayed, or bare wires, a swollen or bloated part, or a strip that has turned dark brown or black.

If you find any sign of damage or deterioration, don’t use your protector. Dispose of the damaged surge protector properly and replace it with a new one.

Are old surge protectors safe?

An old surge protector can be perfectly safe to use. The only thing that can happen is it might be broken because it is old or has been used a lot.

Also, an old surge protector does not work automatically means that the device is defective or unsafe to use. They are broken because it has been used a lot, so you have to replace them with a new one.

Can an RV surge protector become bad?

Yes, most RV owners suggest they need to be replaced every 3-5 years, and sometimes sooner. Although RV surge protectors are specially designed to last longer, they may also go bad in some situations. If you use it frequently for an extended period of time, it can become bad.

Wrapping Up!

Finally, when you see the above-mentioned signs in your surge protector, you should replace them. But if you use it for many years, there is no guarantee that it will work well.

The final advice is for you the above list is a general guideline only. It’s best to follow the instructions you will get from the manufacturer while buying a surge protector.

If you’re not sure what to do with your surge protector, you should call a professional electrician.

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