Servicing Electrical Panels

This procedure will apply to most breaker panels and buss systems except bolt-on breaker panels. However, your panel may require special treatment.  Check with the manufacturer first.  Please read instructions completely before execution.


Instruction for preparing to and turning off an electrical panel 

Turn off all loads connected to the electrical panel, in the house, building, or structure: lights, heat, AC, stove, computer, TV, etc. Open panel and secure inner cover. Take pictures of the breaker’s locations. NEVER STAND IN FRONT of a breaker you are turning on or off.  Note!  Identify breakers that are off or tripped. Turn off all the smaller breakers, 15, 20, then the 30, 40, 50, etc.

If the panel has a solar system or solar breaker installed, power may still be present on the conductors.  Turn off solar system at the solar control cabinet or power source and test for volts.

Ensure that all other breakers are off.  Always stand to the side to turn off the main service breaker.

To turn off the main breaker, use the palm of your hand and with a quick motion turn off the main.

To turn panel back on – reverse procedure. The large wires or entrance buses going into the main breaker are still powered up with volts, but the circuit breakers and buses should be de-energized. Test buses for sure.

To de-energize the service entering the main breaker, in most cases, removing the METER or SERVICE that is entering the building is a job for an electrician or your electrical service provider.

In most cases your electrical service provider will remove the meter or turn off your service, while your panel, buss bars and breakers are being serviced.

NOTE:   If your panel is 35 years old or more it is always a good idea to replace all your breakers with new ones.

Servicing panel

Ensure that the panel buss is powered off.

First, ensure that all the wires in the breakers are tight, (tighten wires that are coming out of the breakers) black and red wires. If the main service entrance is powered off, you can also tighten the main breaker. Test to ensure that power has been removed.

Remove all small breakers, but not the main breaker unless it is being replaced. It is okay to let breakers hang by the wires for now.

Now, tighten neutral wires (white) and then grounds (clear copper and green).  All wires should be tight.

Use air line or an air supply to blow off excess dust from panel.  Remove the de-oxidizing polishing bar from the kit, then clean, de-oxidize and polish the busses and or stabs. Wipe clean with lint free rags or towels. Repair burnt or rough spots with a fine cut flat file or fine emery cloth, brush and wipe clean. Use air line or an air supply to blow off excess dust from panel.  If you need to use the repaired area, use a small amount of copper grease on the rough spots. Use a very thin coating of plain grease on the rest of the busses and stabs.  Use lint free wipes to clean off excess grease.

By applying a very thin coating of grease over the electrical busses, this does 4 things:

  1. Reduces the friction of the breaker sliding over the buss, reducing clamp loss.
  2. When the breaker seats on the buss it forms a very small puddle.  This puddle eliminates the oxygen in the connection.  If the breaker were to overcurrent, it would retard the burning effect on the buss.
  3. Coating the panel buss and stabs with grease reduces oxidation and electrolysis over time.

Take oxidation off the breaker’s stab connections with the 2000 and 4000 grit wipes.  The wipe ends can be cut off to renew the wipe’s tip.  Use the 2000 grit, lightly removing oxidation and then the 4000 grit to smooth the surface.  Do not apply excessive pressure on the breaker stab connections that might reconfigure the contact surfaces.

Grease the preset gap gauge, set breakers gap to hold to the 80 thousandth gauge.  Hold the gauge up with the breaker connected and then remove breaker from the gauge.  This should require some effort.  Breakers should not just fall off.  Adjust if necessary with small screwdriver.

Finalizing panel

Reinstall breakers on the greased buss or stabs.  Use your pictures for locations.

Ensure all breakers are installed and turned off and all wires are connected.

If service is off, restore service power and test.

Turn on main breaker – stand to the side and turn on with the palm of your hand.

Test to ensure main power is on.  Turn on all breakers except breakers that were off or tripped when pictures were taken.

Test all breakers for power.  Repeat in 25 years. 

Use of this product is at your own risk. 

John Shook and/or Shook Electric are not responsible for errors in use of this product by any person.

If you have questions, please contact John at:  (916) 783-3617 (8:00 am to 6:00 pm Pacific time zone)