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Old 05-02-2010, 10:10 AM   #1
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3-way switch problems


Do 3-way switches have to be in any sort of "position" before replacing them? Here is my problem:

Replacing two 3 way light switches, pulled out the old ones, connected the new one and made sure the common to common wires were correct (black wire) and red and white wires were oriented the same on both switches.

So here is what's going on: I can turn on the lights with switch 1, I can turn them off with switch 2, but I can not turn them back on with switch 1, I have to turn them on with switch 2 and vice versa.

I can't remember how the switches were positioned before I cut the power off to make the switch, but I'm pretty sure the light were on.

I've tried every combo of wiring, tried switching switches, but when I plug the original switches back in, they work perfectly, even when I replace just one of the switches and leave the 1 old one on it does the same as described above.

Oh and here's another weird thing. So I put back the old switches, I turned both to the "off" (down) position, connect the new switches, both in the "off" position, when I flip the breaker back on, the lights come on, and to turn them off, I have to flip one of the switches to "on" and then no matter what combination of flipping I use to turn on the light with either switch, it's always in the down or off position.

Clear as mud?

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Old 05-02-2010, 11:27 AM   #2
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3-way switch problems


wish i could help you but i do know there is no off position on a 3 way switch, in other words there shouldnt be markings saying off or on
on or off is only relitive to the opposing switch, ie: if the light is off one switch will be in the "off" down position and the other will be in the "on position (up)

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Old 05-02-2010, 11:28 AM   #3
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3-way switch problems


If they (lights) will work with the old switches then you have at least one bad new switch. Go and get two more and install them. Take the other two back.

Your words: "but when I plug the original switches back in, they work perfectly"
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Old 05-02-2010, 11:39 AM   #4
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3-way switch problems


Quote:
Originally Posted by bobbysan View Post
Do 3-way switches have to be in any sort of "position" before replacing them? Here is my problem:

Replacing two 3 way light switches, pulled out the old ones, connected the new one and made sure the common to common wires were correct (black wire) and red and white wires were oriented the same on both switches.

So here is what's going on: I can turn on the lights with switch 1, I can turn them off with switch 2, but I can not turn them back on with switch 1, I have to turn them on with switch 2 and vice versa.

I can't remember how the switches were positioned before I cut the power off to make the switch, but I'm pretty sure the light were on.

I've tried every combo of wiring, tried switching switches, but when I plug the original switches back in, they work perfectly, even when I replace just one of the switches and leave the 1 old one on it does the same as described above.

Oh and here's another weird thing. So I put back the old switches, I turned both to the "off" (down) position, connect the new switches, both in the "off" position, when I flip the breaker back on, the lights come on, and to turn them off, I have to flip one of the switches to "on" and then no matter what combination of flipping I use to turn on the light with either switch, it's always in the down or off position.

Clear as mud?
Doesn't matter what position the switches are in! 3 way switches usually are wired with the red and black connected to the unidentified terminals (doesn't matter which).
The white (supposed to marked with black tape) is connected to the identified terminal. Its usually black!
This would apply in the case where the power arrives at the light first.
If the power goes to the switch first, you would have the two whites nutted together. The feed black would connect to the identified terminal on the switch. The red and black of the 3 conductor cable would connect to the unidentified teminals. (doesn't matter which)
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Old 05-02-2010, 01:43 PM   #5
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3-way switch problems


Some info for 3-way switching...

White from the source goes directly to the load.

Black from the source goes to the common terminal of one of the 3 way switches.

Black of the load goes to the common terminal of the other 3 way switch.

The travelers get hooked to the remaining terminals.

If you have to use a white as 'hot', it has to feed a switch and be re-identified at both ends. I usually use a black "Sharpie" marker.


Use 14 gauge wire on a 15 amp circuit, 12 ga on a 20 amp circuit.

I found that if you want the lights to be off when both switches are down (or both up), you reverse the travelers. I made my own rule of thumb, and call it "Red on Right". If I'm using cable and both 3-way switches are identical, I put the red traveler on the right side of the first 3-way switch, and then on the left of the second switch. Mount them both using the same orientation.

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Old 05-02-2010, 03:54 PM   #6
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3-way switch problems


The one switch sounds like it is defective. Replace it.
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Old 05-02-2010, 06:48 PM   #7
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3-way switch problems


You need to identify the common terminal (usually darker colored) on the switch.

It does not matter whether the traveler wires are reversed on the other two (traveler) terminals.

Words like "upper right" or "bottom" cannot be used to describe the ocmmon terminal; it varies from one brand of switch to another.

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