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Old 04-27-2009, 11:26 AM   #1
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hooking up 3 way switches


hello,

i'm replacing 2 3 way switches that both control two hallway lights. the old switches are very outdated, but i'm having a problem with the new ones.

i can get them both hooked up to turn on/off the lights, but when one switch is off, the other won't work. i don't know what's going on.

in the first box the black wire is the hot, which i attach to the common. then the red and white are travelers and w/out power.

in the second box, the black has no power, and the red and white are powered.

i've tried every combination on the 2nd box and can't get it to work correctly. the old switches weren't grounded to the box. could it be something w/the new switches?

thanks!

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Old 04-27-2009, 11:57 AM   #2
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hooking up 3 way switches


Grounding has nothing to do with the switches not working. You have the wrong wire on the common at one or both swithces.

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Old 04-27-2009, 12:30 PM   #3
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hooking up 3 way switches


Follow these steps if you can.

Separate all 3 wires from each switch, find the only hot wire. Between the 2 switches only one will be hot if wired correctly.Put that hot wire on the common. If using Decora style switch, look very closely for the common, it fools many!

In the same switch box put the remaining 2 wires on the remaining screws on the 3 way.

At the other switch location - wires sticking out of box -only one wire will now be hot,that will be a traveller. At the previous switch turn the switch to the opposite postion. A different wire will be hot back at the other switch location, this is the second traveller. The remaining wire in the switch box will be your common.

If using an inductive type tester that may be giving you a false reading, test hot to ground if possible. Good Luck!
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Old 04-27-2009, 06:24 PM   #4
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thanks uncleduey, i believe i can follow your steps.

although, when both switches are off of the box altogether, and the wires are sticking out of the box and the power is on, box 1 has 1 hot wire. box 2 has 2 hot wires. i thought box 2 would be dead until getting power from box 1?
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Old 04-27-2009, 07:48 PM   #5
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hooking up 3 way switches


It should be be. What are you using to test for power? A digital meter? It could be a false reading. Did you disconnect the neutral from the feed line as well?
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Old 04-27-2009, 08:05 PM   #6
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no, i'm not using a meter. i used on of those indicators that beeps when there is electricity nearby. i put it on the lowest setting and touched all 3 wires. in the 2nd box, 2 wires beeped indicating they were hot. in the 1st box, 1 wire beeped indicating hot.

is this wrong?
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Old 04-27-2009, 08:25 PM   #7
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Quote:
in the first box the black wire is the hot, which i attach to the common. then the red and white are travelers and w/out power.

in the second box, the black has no power, and the red and white are powered.
Simple.

In the second box, the black is common.



The power comes from the first switch to the second on either the red or white wire depending on the position of the switch.

The second switch sends that power to the fixtures in the same manner.

Last edited by 220/221; 04-27-2009 at 08:29 PM.
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Old 04-27-2009, 08:40 PM   #8
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hooking up 3 way switches


You guys who know this stuff flat-out amaze me.

Electricity has always been a bit of a mystery to me. I've learned to do the basics, and I can figure out some of the more complex things pretty well given a good book and a lot of patience, but it's never come natural.
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Old 04-27-2009, 08:47 PM   #9
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It's all smoke and mirrors.


Well....smoke anyway.
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Old 04-27-2009, 08:53 PM   #10
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hooking up 3 way switches


you are using the wrong type of tester those voltage "detectors" are only made to sense the magnetic field from AC current, they will usually beep if any wires in the box are hot and sometimes from a voltage imbalance on the neutral wire. Which means the wires you think are hot are not. You need to use a "contact" type tester and touch one lead to a wire and the other lead to ground (or neutral)

Be careful, you could have done the same thing with the power off using a continuity tester to find whih wires are travellers, leaving the commons as the last to hook up.

Remember a dead circuit NEVER killed anyone
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Old 04-27-2009, 09:41 PM   #11
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so do i use just a regular volt meter, like for cars? what's the process?

thanks!
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Old 04-28-2009, 12:09 AM   #12
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hooking up 3 way switches


Please describe the wiring in each switch box. Something in my opinion is missing.

For example is there only one cable coming into each switch box with a red,white and black wire plus ground or is there more than one cable in a switch box beside the 3 wire with ground cable ?
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Old 04-28-2009, 01:16 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Stubbie View Post
Please describe the wiring in each switch box. Something in my opinion is missing.

For example is there only one cable coming into each switch box with a red,white and black wire plus ground or is there more than one cable in a switch box beside the 3 wire with ground cable ?

box 1: 1 cable entering with a ground wired to the box: black, white, red

box 2: at least 2 cables entering with a ground wired to the box: brown, white, and red
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Old 04-28-2009, 10:52 AM   #14
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hooking up 3 way switches


Quote:
Originally Posted by 220/221 View Post
It's all smoke and mirrors.


Well....smoke anyway.
Electrical devices are filled with magic smoke. When the smoke escapes it is time to replace the device.
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Old 04-28-2009, 12:02 PM   #15
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hooking up 3 way switches


Quote:
Originally Posted by norcalsurfer1977 View Post
box 2: at least 2 cables entering with a ground wired to the box: brown, white, and red
Was this a typo?

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