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Old 01-26-2008, 12:56 AM   #1
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4 Way Switch Circuit Gone Wrong


Ok, well - the one time I stopped baby sitting the contractors - it comes and bites me in the butt yet again.

Our entire downstairs is now livable and move in ready. Problem is there is a switch downstairs that controls flood lights outside for the back yard. This switch (was) connected to 2 other switches upstairs - one in a kitchen and one in a bedroom.

Now - after the contractors have rewired it all - the switch downstairs pretty much controls the two upstairs - example..


Down stairs switch when off - Upstairs switches do not work. Neither of them.

Down stairs switch when on - Upstairs switches work as normal.


Of course this is not how it should be. It should be all three switches working so when I go click one on it turns the lights on and I can go to any other and turn it off. They are telling me it only had two wires. Which of course is a lie. It worked before. Problem is the wall and ceiling is up and complete. Only way to fix it is to - tear it out - right?

How many wires are used in a four way? Four? Three? Is there a way to delete one of the other switches upstairs and create a three way without having to tear out the wall downstairs? Or am I just waiting for a problem.

I think I will have them tear it out and fix it. Really ticks me off and I am being nice saying that. I have a few choice words.

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Old 01-26-2008, 01:38 AM   #2
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4 Way Switch Circuit Gone Wrong


A four way switch needs two sets of travelers (four wires) connected to it and it has to be inbetween the two three ways. We need a description of the wiring in the switch boxes. But if the bottom switch is a 3-way and the contractors said there are only 2 wires in that box you are missing a traveler wire and the switch will work everything in one position but everything will be off in the other position. So they either did something to change things (you said it worked before they were there) or miswired something. Can you open up the downstairs switch box and tell us what wires and how many and what colors are in there and how did they connect them. If it is a 3-way switch (I think it is) it will have three screws on it and one of them will be dark in color the other two will be brass colored. see if one of the brass screws does not have a wire connected to it.

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Old 01-26-2008, 01:40 AM   #3
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4 Way Switch Circuit Gone Wrong


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A four way switch needs two sets of travelers (four wires) connected to it and it has to be inbetween the two three ways. We need a description of the wiring in the switch boxes. But if the bottom switch is a 3-way and the contractors said there are only 2 wires in that box you are missing a traveler wire and the switch will work everything in one position but everything will be off in the other position. So they either did something to change things (you said it worked before they were there) or miswired something. Can you open up the downstairs switch box and tell us what wires and how many and what colors are in there and how did they connect them. If it is a 3-way switch (I think it is) it will have three screws on it and one of them will be dark in color the other two will be brass colored. see if one of the brass screws does not have a wire connected to it.

I will post a pic up tomorrow. Much appreciated.
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Old 01-26-2008, 01:51 AM   #4
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4 Way Switch Circuit Gone Wrong


Great and I meant to say downstairs switch not bottom.
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Old 01-26-2008, 02:44 AM   #5
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4 Way Switch Circuit Gone Wrong


I checked one of the switches after reading up on how a 4-way works. It's basically 2 - 3-way's outside and a 4-way in the middle (or more). I believe the middle switch - 4-way is the one in the bedroom. It has 4 wires going to it. I have not checked the kitchen switch yet or the downstairs one either. I will do that in the morning.

I went to replace the kitchen switch a few years ago and ended up having to call in an electrician to fix it - it even took him almost an hour to figure it all out.

Another weird thing is in the same box that has the 4-way I am talking about - is another switch that has 4 wires going to it. This switch USED to control the ceiling fan in the room. However, when the bathroom was remodeled in that room, the light in the bathroom I guess was pulling power from the ceiling fan power? That wire was disconnected from the ceiling fan power and deleted. Ever since then the switch no longer works.

The joy's of house wiring from the 60's/70's. Lol.
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Old 01-26-2008, 10:02 AM   #6
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4 Way Switch Circuit Gone Wrong


Why don't you call the contractor back and have him fix it?

If you want to try and fix it yourself then tell us all the wires in the switch boxes and how they are connected. Don't tell us upper right left or lower etc. That means nothing since different switches are layed out differently.
Tell us the wire on the common screw. The common screw is marked COMMON or is the black screw.
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Old 01-26-2008, 10:06 AM   #7
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Why don't you call the contractor back and have him fix it?

If you want to try and fix it yourself then tell us all the wires in the switch boxes and how they are connected. Don't tell us upper right left or lower etc. That means nothing since different switches are layed out differently.
Tell us the wire on the common screw. The common screw is marked COMMON or is the black screw.

I am just trying to get all my info straight. They will be fixing it, even if I have to cut a hole in the ceiling and prove they screwed it up.

I checked the switch in the kitchen - two brass, one black. Black screw, black wire. Seems all the wires are black on all the switches. I am going now to attempt a photo of the culprit switch.
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Old 01-26-2008, 10:26 AM   #8
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4 Way Switch Circuit Gone Wrong


Ok, it is a wiring problem as stated. The switch downstairs is a single. It's missing a third wire.



Can not get anything better for the wires here.. all wires are black for this switch. The other switch with the red wire is for the room.

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Old 01-26-2008, 12:24 PM   #9
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4 Way Switch Circuit Gone Wrong


Not much help, other than it will never work with a single pole switch in the downstairs location. You said this all worked before? So the cables were already existing ? I'm thinking this contractor was a remodeler but not an electrician or his workers were not electricians. It would appear they had the wires disconnected if they already existed and didn't get them back correctly so with only two wires they bailed and threw in a single pole switch. However something helpful to a degree would be to trace the two sires connected to the switch you show... does one of them go to a cable that has red and white in the cable also. The switch with the red wire on it would likely be a 3 way switch and you say that switch is for the downstairs lights? Are the down stairs lights on a 3 way circuit? It is possible if that isn't the case that they confused what switch was supposed be wired to the two upstairs switches. Also that wiring in that switch box is poorly done (organized) but you already know that.

If they knew this wiring was existing and it worked originally it would appear to me at least when they removed the switches to paint the walls they didn't understand or lost track of what wires and cables went to which switch nor did they have the knowledge of the correct wiring scheme for the application the switches were installed to do. so my guess is they have the wrong wires connected in that downstairs switch box and may have just used trial and error till they got close to the correct wiring then gave up. good luck getting them back to fix things.

Joed... who replied earlier is one of the best I have seen for straightening a mess like this out over the internet. So you may want to wait till he replies back. We can spend the time and get this working for you if you are willing to be patient and do this yourself. this is of course if this wiring was existing and no new cables were run to the uptairs switches. If the wrong cable with not enough wires in it was run upstairs to tie in with the downstairs switch....this will not be fixable without running a new cable.

You also indicate that the kitchen switch is a 3-way switch with 3 screws on it one of them a dark colored screw which is the common. You mention though that all the wires connected to it are black. This would be way wrong so we will just have to wait and see how things develop from here. Let us know if you want to tackle this. We are going to need detailed descriptions of the switch box cables and wires and how they are connected to the switches and what colors of wires are connected to which screws on these switches and what switch is the 4-way switch of the three switches in question. Sounds like it is the bedroom switch. Let us know.

Last edited by Stubbie; 01-26-2008 at 01:04 PM.
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Old 01-26-2008, 12:33 PM   #10
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4 Way Switch Circuit Gone Wrong


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Not much help, other than it will never work with a single pole switch in the downstairs location. You said this all worked before? So the cables were already existing ? I'm thinking this contractor was a remodeler but not an electrician or his workers were not electricians.

Yeah, they turned out not to be a lot of things. Then they also turned out to be a lot of things I can't say here


Lol. Not a big deal. Cut out a piece in the wall and ceiling and get it fixed. Patch it up and be merry Just pisses me off it was done half assed to start with. Oh well.
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Old 01-26-2008, 03:51 PM   #11
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4 Way Switch Circuit Gone Wrong


It is a bit of an unusual setup to have the three ways upstairs to control that light outside. They probably didn't realize there were two other switches on the circuit. I would not have expected it.
Is there any extra wires in the switch box with the wrong switch? They should have ended up with an extra wire when they put in the two way switch. Probably a simple fix when you explain it to them.
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Old 01-26-2008, 03:57 PM   #12
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It is a bit of an unusual setup to have the three ways upstairs to control that light outside. They probably didn't realize there were two other switches on the circuit. I would not have expected it.
Is there any extra wires in the switch box with the wrong switch? They should have ended up with an extra wire when they put in the two way switch. Probably a simple fix when you explain it to them.

I am going to have them look at it and fix it. Period. The guy that did it said there was only two wires. I don't think they were aware of what was going on with this switch. Either way it needs to be fixed.

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