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how much brute force should it take to yank a zinsco breaker?

Posted by fixizin (My Page) on
Thu, Jan 21, 10 at 0:08

I'm not talkin' 'bout the skinny ones or a single pole, but a big ol' 2-pole 50A double-waaaad. It failed in the middle position, and I hope it didn't arc-weld itself to the buss bars, as they are reported to do. How many kilo-Newtons or lbf should a clueless DIYer expect to exert in removing it from the panel?

I've done some serious rocking and tugging, even with large pliers... it ain't lettin' go. I know they kinda rock-in, such that the wire-end goes in first, out last... biased my pulling at the non-wire end... no dice.

I've chipped off some plastic here and there, but I figure "erosion" is not a good strategy... bound to contact some "BZZZOTTT!!" metal, eventually. =:O

Plus I figure the buss bars underneath will probably be hosed anyway.

There's some room at the bottom of the buss bars, but I'd have to pigtail 8AWG braided Cu to reach there... 'cause the "electrician" (or HVAC installer) didn't leave the required loop/slack.

PS: On the replacement CB (refurb'd GTE/Sylvania), I see several deep detents on the non-wire end; is there a TOOL, resembling a pry-bar, that hooks in there for yanking?

Thanks in advance.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: how much brute force should it take to yank a zinsco breaker?

The bigger zinsco breakers have a provision for a screw to hold it down (as required if it is being used to back feed it). Someone might have decided it would be fun to install this even though it's not requird. It's a recessed hex right on the seam between the two halves of the breaker between the handle and where the load screws are.


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You may be thinking... INDUSTRIAL?...

Umm, no, this Zinsco breaker is 1.5" wide, and neither new nor old CB have any such recessed screw. Besides, I don't know where in the "smooth" Zinsco panel the threads would engage--i.e. no holes.

These are the panels withOUT discrete slots for the breakers. The CBs can "slide" (and sometimes do) to any position vertically along the buss bars. Yeah, I told you it was lame.


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After some examination of the sit-chee-ation...

... since the broken breaker is at the very top of panel, I think I'm going to obviate the pigtail, and just slide/relocate all the remaining breakers 1.5" down, and just put the replacement CB on known good buss bar, right below the faulty one... retired in place.

Recently acquired some tested/cert'd lineman gloves, rated for 17kV, and a loaner facemask, so I'm ready to YANK A METER, POCO seal be damned! (Sparkies and HVAC guys do this ALL the time in my AHJ, no permit, and not so much as a by-your-leave from the POCO... YEARS later the POCO notices and puts a new seal on, no big woop... so long as usage is not out of line.)


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RE: how much brute force should it take to yank a zinsco breaker?

Around here we take them off and put them back together. Not sure what happens if one of us is so lucky to have it be meter reader's day :/ Remember though it is not just shock danger, pulling a meter/ replacing it incorrectly can result in arc flashing, shrapnel, and other harm than shock. For routine maintenance, changing the breaker you might even be able to do a legit shutdown by calling the power company and having them shut it off for an hour without dealing with a permit.


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BUT, but...

If all breakers in the house are off, i.e. zero load, that should reduce the chances for "excitement", eh? Is it hard to line up the meter tabs?

POCO seems to send some pretty dubious, NON-employee sub-cons around to swap out new digital meters for old. And they do it with the HVAC and whatever else on and drawing... minimal excitement.

Around here we take them off and put them back together.

You mean the seals, or the meters? LOL...


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RE: how much brute force should it take to yank a zinsco breaker?

Have a trick with the seal tabs. The danger is hitting metallic parts that are grounded with the energized tabs. Does seem unlikely but is possible.


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POCO seals...

(*whispering*) OK, what's the trick?... nudge-nudge, wink-wink, say no more... ;)

Anyway, turned EVERYTHING off, pulled and re-installed meter, no issues... VERY disappointed with the APPARENT quality of ALuminum tabs involved, on both house and POCO side of things... or is it TINNED COPPER?

Have to repeat tomorrow, as MANY new pitfalls learned about ZINSCO and their totally CHICKENSH*T panels!


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Back ON original topic...

... how much brute force DOES it take to remove a Zinsco "slide-o-matic"? Well, I finally fixed the nearby garage door opener, and thus, with an abundance of natural light, I spy there's a lock-down bar, so, essentially, it takes INFINITE force, lol.

And the lockdown bar is held in with ONE-WAY screws... in a channel... can't grab 'em with pliers... my $5 bargain rack anti-tamper kit doesn't have the trick attachment. Durn.

SO... ALL new breakers have to be SLID into place... but only from the bottom... and my dead double-wide is at the very top. Fook Mi. But wait, before I slide out EVERY breaker, I notice the opening is only large enough for the skinny CBs... hmmm... so HOW did the double-wide originally get installed?

Well, the HUGE homerun lugs at the top are removable... with effort... I make the effort... only to find the dead CB has indeed WELDED itself to the buss bars! Fook Mi. BACK to sliding EVERY breaker out the bottom.

Made some calls, wholesaler agrees to swap double-wide for equivalent skinny 2P-50A... got it... will have another go at it Saturday.


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RE: how much brute force should it take to yank a zinsco breaker?

Well in your case if you use a 3/4" double braided rope and attach it to the bumper of a truck, you should have no problem removing the breaker in question. You should also turn the power off first if you don't want to see fireworks combined with brute force. Maybe you should have a replacement panel and breakers handy just in case.


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It IS becoming a Pharkus-esque tale, to be sure!

... you should have a replacement panel and breakers handy just in case.

IOW, you're saying it's *ALWAYS* a good time to replace the dreaded fire+shock hazard, known far and wide, as... ZINSCO! I CONCUR!


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RE: how much brute force should it take to yank a zinsco breaker?

... At this point, assuming this is a paid job, your customer is already paying you more for labor than the cost of a new panel would be. :P


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RE: how much brute force should it take to yank a zinsco breaker?

EXACTLY what I said in the other thread....

just replace the panel


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RE: how much brute force should it take to yank a zinsco breaker?

He doesn't have a customer. He's doing illegal work on his sister's house.


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No mas, no mas... I surrender... ;')

At this point, assuming this is a paid job, your customer is already paying you more for labor than the cost of a new panel would be.

Hey bud, thanks for checking in. No, it's much like that screamingly comedic thread of yours (can't remember the title), i.e. "all in the family", "spare time, paid in home-cooked meals", "kick the can down the road", "hasn't started a fire in 45 years", "holy crap, all THIS for a single CB swap, WTH?". I was feeling a bit Phuk-used, lol.

Seriously, the difference between ZINSCO and every-other-panel-ever-made is BEYOND night and day! Think about it: Zinsco CBs are actually inserted and removed in SERIES (mechanically speaking), not directly/parallel as with a real panel. Crazy.

Yes, I was caught un-awares by the sheer SQUIRREL-iness of The Dreaded Zinsco, but, apparently, no one else on this forum is conversant with the "Yugo" of the electrical world either. (Good for them, bad for me.) My way out is simply splicing two AWG8 wires, and sliding the new CB in the bottom of the "stack".

PS: ron & hex are rightly pissed 'cause I wrongly cheesed 'em in a related thread... also APOLOGIZED in same thread. I'm big enough to admit when I'm small.


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RE: how much brute force should it take to yank a zinsco breaker?

Sorry, but you're just furhter indicating your stupidity. I'm sorry, but the Zinsco breakers come out without sliding them off the busbars. No matter what your relationship to the owner of the house and no matter how many home cooked meals you get, you can't do what you are doing. I replaced and moved breakers in my Zinsco panel a couple of times before I trashed the thing in favor of SquareD. Even then I pulled the breakers and doled them out to some of my neighbors who still had the original panels in their houses.

You had no business touching that electrical meter. Someday your sister is going to have to explain why the seal was tampered with. You were lucky you have an equally ancient meter that pulling it actually did kill the power.


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RON, Ron... poor ron...

Ron, old bean, you were totally wrong, earlier in this very thread, about the presence of a hold-down screw, and now, SADLY, you are just as wrong about there NOT being a lockdown rail (along the left edge, i.e. the NON-wire side), a rather substantial rail which prevents--quite effectively I might add--simply rocking out the CB where it stands. There is several millimeters of engagement/overlap.
Believe me, I *wish* it was not there.

(I could post a digital photo of said rail... and said screw-less CB, but... then... YOU would have to post photos of your Master Electrician's license(s)... deal?)

At this point a RATIONAL soul would realize that he and the other party are NOT talking about the same Zinsco, agreed?

The Zinsco in question (mine) was installed by a large tract home developer in 1964 A.D., ergo, I presume it was manufactured not long before. Let's call it The Kennedy Era Zinsco. What vintage are YOU referring to?

You are obviously thinking about a different model or generation of Zinsco panel than the one under discussion. In fact, you seem to be FIXATED on *your* particular Zinsco. It's not healthy dude. It's also why you can't provide ANY useful information whatsoever on *my* Zinsco. Bummer.

Sorry, but you're just furhter indicating your stupidity.

Now that's uncalled for, and pure CRANKINESS to boot. Having no M.D. after my name, I shan't speculate on the hormonal underpinnings. Still, it's strange how you take what I said to hexus as aimed at you. Really strange... inappropriate too.

No matter... how many home cooked meals you get, you can't do what you are doing.

Once again, you're (*wait for it...*) WRONG. Not only can I do it, it's already done. Slide the old breakers down and out, slide the new CB in and up, slide the old breakers in and up after it, connect wires, restore power. Dude, you shoulda seen me... totally symphonic. Oh,wait, you probably DID see me!... using your, you know... cock-sure know-it-all astral-projection see-inside superpowers?

You had no business touching that electrical meter.

In fact I had the most VALID reason for touching the "sacred" meter. Someday I'll install a whole-house cutoff; for now, the meter IS the whole-house cutoff. Old codes, doncha know.

Someday your sister is going to have to explain why the seal was tampered with.

Dang, so you can do astral projection, AND you're clairvoyant! That's some kinda lucky for this forum, yessiree. FYI: My sister will never have to explain anything. You give our POCO *way* too much credit. Besides, in my AHJ-zone, the std. reply is "the A/C guys did it"... which is true, 98% of the time. Still, it's nice that you're genuinely concerned about my sister, and not just using her as a foil for some CRANKY internet flaming. ;')

You were lucky you have an equally ancient meter that pulling it actually did kill the power.

It's a new (< 2 yrs old), wirelessly-read, digital meter, plugged into the original 1964 meter base. There's nothing "lucky" about it--i.e. you either have an owner-side whole-house cutoff, or... (*wait for it*) THE METER ACTS AS THE WHOLE-HOUSE CUTOFF. For real. If there be houses that don't have at least one such cutoff, they aren't in my county.

And even though it's glaringly obvious, staring into the empty meter base, that the mains are now separated from homeruns by several inches, I'm a belt+suspenders kinda guy... I tested the buss bars before I dove into The Dreaded ZINSCO.

Ron, do you see how ENTIRELY ERRONEOUS and OUTRAGEOUSLY OFF-BASE you've gotten? What IS up? I'm starting to think your overexposure to Zinsco has induced... delusions? Perhaps you need a vacation? I sincerely hope that's all it is. Gotta go.


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RE: how much brute force should it take to yank a zinsco breaker?

as much as I would enjoy writing a long winded post completely tearing you apart about how wrong you are, how many things you are wrong about, and how you actually really do not know near what you think you do about the electrical industry, I know it would be a total waste of my time.
Though I accept your apology for insulting me I do not accept that you should be doing any sort of electrical work. Personally to be brutally honest I can't stand people like you.
In addition to it just flat out not being fair that we have to jump through so many hoops to be legitimate electricians/contractors while people like you just stroll in and think you're above the law, the shoddy work you do really irritates me. Though I'm sure you think you did a good job, the reality is you did not. It's clear from your threads you didn't know what were doing and had no business trying to attempt it.
Rationalize it all you want, but pulling a meter like you did is illegal period. Call up your local power company and let them you know what you did and make sure you rationalize to them like you did to us. I'm sure they'll be very understanding.

To be blunt, either find a new way to make a living/extra money, or enroll in an electrical apprenticeship and do it the right way. People like you just are what give honest tradesman a bad rep.

Feel free to write a nice long post trying to be funny and make sure to throw in some caps lock here and there like I know you love to do. However I'm done. You're a hack plain and simple, you have no right and no business doing electrical work and never will I post again in any of your threads asking for help or advice.


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RE: how much brute force should it take to yank a zinsco breaker?

No, you had no valid reason to touch that meter. You're not an electrician nor working for the power company. It's even possible that what you did was illegal. Even licensed electricians who are allowed to pull meters (and that is NOT the case in all jurisdictions) are required to get them resealed by the power company promptly. Further, pulling the meter is not something that should be done by the casual idiot. The power companies and the fire departments even discourage the average fireman from pulling the meter in emergencies. Better to dispatch someone with a clue how to do it properly.

I see that in addition to doing dangerous and illegal activities, your newest theory is to adopt a policy of lying and having your poor unsuspecting sister lie for you. AC guys have no business pulling meters either and I've never seen one who had any reason to.

You can act like a two year old and sit there spouting your incorrect theories and calling those who know better names, but it doesn't help your case.


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Uh... what?

hex, buddy, don't know WHERE you got the idea that I do this for living, or even for money. I do it to save some money, yes, but only on my own properties, or those of immediate family members.

I've never come close to representing myself as a real licensed electrician, either here or in real life. I've bought several books, looked over shoulders, tapped you guys, then had my work blessed by city inspectors.

Oh yes, I've pulled permits for bigger jobs, esp. on rental props., and you can bet, that as an UNlicensed DIYer, I get serious extra scrutiny. They don't send the barely English-speaking contract employee who checks out the tract home builders, no... they send the senior guy... he even has a badge. He was impressed, and said so. Approved. C.O. granted. Tenant moved in. Years later, zero issues.

Of course it takes me probably 4x longer than it takes you guys, but at least I KNOW there's no bogus practices hidden behind walls or box covers.

Ron, since you're not even reading ON the lines, I guess I can't expect you to read BETWEEN the lines. To wit:

Recently acquired some tested/cert'd lineman gloves, rated for 17kV, and a loaner facemask...

Clue time--POCO lineman in the family. When I tell you my sister will NEVER have to answer any questions, BELIEVE it. ;') For those who worship "the seal", there will be new one on there in a few weeks, right as rain.

PS: For the record, it's OK to say "I've never seen THAT panel before, but you MIGHT try this..." Really, there's no pressure to know everything. But insisting I have panel A, when, in fact, I have panel B, well, that's just... crazy?


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