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Old 01-18-2012, 09:55 AM   #1
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Need help with twin 3-way switches


We have a hall light that is operated by two switches. My wife asked me to replace the switches with the lighted Decor variety.

I've replaced at least one set of similar switches in the house, but used a different brand, which came with directions. The directions were quite simple, easily describing how to find the "common" terminal.

However, the different brand switches I got have NO directions , and I have a problem.

Both switch boxes have two black wires and a red wire. I connected the two black wires to the standard locations (both screws are brass colored) and the red wire to the screw terminal that is "flat black". There are no green/ground wires on any of the switches in the house (we are gradually replacing them all with the lighted "Decor" variety).

OK, so one switch works as designed...can turn the lights off or on with that switch. However, the second switch seems to have an issue. When I try to turn the light on with the second switch, the "lighted" feature on the switch glows dimly and sort of flickers, but the hall light will not turn on.

I suspect that I have some wires "crossed", for lack of a better term, but I could imagine a defective switch, too.....

Without a VOM, is there any way I can check to see if the wiring is connected corrrectly? Can I safely switch the two black wires on the switch that doesn't function correctly? Is it possible that the terminal with the "flat black" screw should have one of the black wires attached, rather than the red?

No manufacturer should put out a product such as a 3 pole switch without directions!!!!!

I have felt all the wires and the switch, none of which seem to be even warm, if that helps.

TIA for whatever advice y'all can offer, folks. If necessary, I could provide photos.

Cheers!

Dugly

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Old 01-18-2012, 11:57 AM   #2
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Need help with twin 3-way switches


The only wire that matters is the common.

You need to find the old switch, find which wire was connected to the common wire and hook that same wire onto the black screw of the new switch.

Does both switches have a 3 wire cable and a 2 wire cable?

If so, then the black from the 2 wire cable should connect to the common screw.

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Old 01-18-2012, 07:04 PM   #3
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Need help with twin 3-way switches


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Originally Posted by jbfan View Post
The only wire that matters is the common.

You need to find the old switch, find which wire was connected to the common wire and hook that same wire onto the black screw of the new switch.

Does both switches have a 3 wire cable and a 2 wire cable?

If so, then the black from the 2 wire cable should connect to the common screw.
Thanks for that info....I am 100 miles away right now, but will be back in the house tomorrow.

I'm not sure what you mean about the switches (which are identical) having a 3 wire cable and a 2 wire cable.

Both switch boxes have 3 wires coming into them...2 black wires and a red wire...no white or green wires. The switches.....as I recall they had two brass colored screw terminals, one at the "top" on one side and I think on the bottom on the opposite side. They also had a green screw terminal (obviously a ground) and a flat-black screw terminal.

My apologies for not having known better the particulars regarding the connections. I'll take photos tomorrow and will be certain of the connections.

Is the red wire the "jumper wire"? I ask b/c:

Here's what I recall from the directions with the previous (other brand) switch: once one identified the common terminal on the existing switch (I can't remember if it was the silver or the brass screw), that wire was marked with a piece of tape for future reference, and then it was connected to one of the wires in the box. That had to be a specific wire. The other two could be connected either way, it didn't matter. For the switch on the other end, it was necessary to conduct the connection following the same procedure.

I'm certain this must seem pretty elementary to those experienced with electrical work, but electricity sorta scares me a lot, so I proceed with extreme caution. When I left home this morning, I left the light off and felt the wires and the switches and they were all at room temperature...hopefully that means no fire danger .

Here's the problem.....the old switches are both out and in the boxes in which we brought the new switches home. It was suppose to be a straight swap, so no photos, diagrams, nothing of that sort to identify which wires would have been attached to which terminals. Sorry.

My digital VOM is 860 miles away in the vacation home, hence my hopes that the wires would be easy to identify by their black and red colors.

Thanks, again, and here's hoping I can figure this out. I asked if I could switch the two black wires at one of the switches.....if the red is the jumper wire, wouldn't it need to attach to one of the black wires that comes out of the new switch housing? Black is usually "hot", white "common", green "ground", red....well, I put a 240V breaker in the breaker panel in the vacation home and wired in an outlet for an electric range using 8-4 wire....that had a red wire, but the outet clearly identified which color wires (white, black, green, and red) went where. That's the only time I have ever used red. This is different as it is existing wiring and of course all I can see is what exits into the switch boxes (no wiring diagrams from the builder, of course ).

Cheers!

Dugly

MOD: thanks for moving this out of the "sticky" section...I tried a search and came up with a month's reading.

Last edited by YerDugliness; 01-18-2012 at 07:09 PM. Reason: Wanted to thank the MOD who made this a separate thread
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Old 01-18-2012, 07:53 PM   #4
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Need help with twin 3-way switches


Pick up a new meter for $10-12.

Without being there it is hard to explain what to do.
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Old 01-19-2012, 11:37 AM   #5
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Need help with twin 3-way switches


One of the cables will have a black and a red together in it. These go the the brass screws. The black that is in a cable without the red goes to the odd colored screw.
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Old 01-19-2012, 12:30 PM   #6
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Need help with twin 3-way switches


There are a lot of different ways to wire these, depending on where power comes in, where light comes in, etc.

But, what will always be the same, is that the two 'traveler' wires must go from switch to switch.

These two wires connect to the brass colored screws on the switches. The third wire goes to the 'common' or black screw.

You have to determine which two wires are the 'travelers'.
Their color could be anything. They will only go from switch to switch.

There are various ways to determine which two are the 'travelers'.
A meter is probably the easiest.

Good luck
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Old 01-19-2012, 12:43 PM   #7
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Need help with twin 3-way switches


Quote:
No manufacturer should put out a product such as a 3 pole switch without directions!!!!!

Dugly
They did ... If they came in boxes the instructions are printed on the inside wall of the box the switch came in ....

Relax it won't be that hard .. besides it was mostly your fault ... So quit *****ing like a transplanted peach picker.


BTW at least one of the boxes must have more than 3 wires coming into it. So focus and tell us which box has the incoming power and is it the same box with the wires to the light or otherwise.
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Old 02-06-2012, 06:21 PM   #8
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Need help with twin 3-way switches


Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluehawks View Post
Pick up a new meter for $10-12.

Without being there it is hard to explain what to do.
Quote:
Originally Posted by jammin06 View Post
You have to determine which two wires are the 'travelers'.
Their color could be anything. They will only go from switch to switch.

There are various ways to determine which two are the 'travelers'.
A meter is probably the easiest.

Good luck
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stubbie View Post
They did ... If they came in boxes the instructions are printed on the inside wall of the box the switch came in ....

Relax it won't be that hard .. besides it was mostly your fault ... So quit *****ing like a transplanted peach picker.


BTW at least one of the boxes must have more than 3 wires coming into it. So focus and tell us which box has the incoming power and is it the same box with the wires to the light or otherwise.
OK....I'm ready to go buy a meter!

My GF already threw away the boxes...we do have a single-pole switch that is made by the same company...guess what, there ARE directions on the inside of the box. I had looked, didn't see them b/c they are so very faintly printed that they are hard to see without really GOOD light.

So, given that I will now go buy a meter (I assume I do not need the kind that measures AMP flow), I could use some help with what procedure to use to identify each of three wires to the switches.

I'll get into the wall boxes and take photos to post.

Cheers, and thanks for the help!

Dugly
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Old 02-06-2012, 06:45 PM   #9
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Need help with twin 3-way switches


Put the black wire that is NOT in the cable with the red wire on the common terminal.
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Old 02-06-2012, 09:21 PM   #10
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Need help with twin 3-way switches


You said each box has three wires coming into it. Two black wires and a red wire. I believe you mean those three wires go to the switches. We'll get back to that.

For each BOX, there should be going to it, a 'romex' cable, with a black, white, and red insulated copper wire, plus a green or bare ground wire.
This is a three wire cable.

In addition, at least ONE of the boxes should have a 'romex' cable with a black and white insulated copper wire, plus a ground wire.
This is a two wire cable.

Or both boxes could have a two wire cable.
Or one box could have two two wire cables.
Or etc., etc.

But, BOTH BOXES should at least have the three wire cable.

And then however it was wired is how many two wire cables there are. It doesn't matter.

Now, going back to the beginning. You said both boxes have two black wires and a red.

If the red and a black come out of the three wire cable together, they are the travelers, and connect to the two brass colored screws.
It doesn't matter which side.

The remaining black wire connects to the black colored common screw.

Both boxes the same.

This should work. Let us know.

Last edited by jammin06; 02-06-2012 at 09:27 PM.
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Old 02-07-2012, 09:50 AM   #11
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Need help with twin 3-way switches


Quote:
Originally Posted by jammin06 View Post
Now, going back to the beginning. You said both boxes have two black wires and a red.

If the red and a black come out of the three wire cable together, they are the travelers, and connect to the two brass colored screws.
It doesn't matter which side.

The remaining black wire connects to the black colored common screw.

Both boxes the same.

This should work. Let us know.
Jammin, you might just be my hero !!!!

That's exactly the kind of advice I was hoping to receive. I did as you suggested, found that the black and red wires on BOTH switches were reversed, and now both switches work as desired .

My GF wanted the lighted switches so she wouldn't have to hunt for the switch when the house is dark. Both switches now are lighted when the light is off, and once either one of the switches is pushed to turn the light on the internal lights on both switches go off. Turn the light off with either switch and both switches light up again. The lights inside both switches are strong (one was "flickering" and weak before I followed your advice).

I could not have asked for a better outcome....can't thank you enough !!!

Cheers to you, Jammin06!!!

Dugly
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Old 02-07-2012, 03:37 PM   #12
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Need help with twin 3-way switches


For those of you who have hit on this topic, perhaps by way of a search (3 way switches), you might want to check out this thread, too:,

3 Way Switch - Wiring Help

It contains a very good description of the wiring for two 3-way switches, as well as an understandable discussion of theory.

Hope your project turns out as well as did mine!

Cheers!

Dugly


Last edited by YerDugliness; 02-07-2012 at 03:38 PM. Reason: fluidity
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