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Old 12-08-2013, 07:03 PM   #1
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Proper Wiring Power to Outlet to 3-Way switch to lighte


I have a couple of chandeliers above my stairs and a light at the top of the stairs that are not working (they were previously).

Power comes into an outlet on the first floor. Power runs from this outlet upstairs to the bedroom (everything up there works fine).

Power also runs from this outlet to the first switch of a three-way switch, then to the second switch, then to three lights. Outlet works fine.

Currently (pun fully intended), I am getting power to both switches and at least the first light fixture. However, I seem to have a problem with my neutrals. At the first switch, a combo of checking power to neutral shows working. At the second switch, it does not (but power to ground does).

I have the power coming in hot from the outlet to the common on the first switch. Neutral is connected at the outlet to the side of the other neutrals, and is wire nutted to the next neutral wire in the first switch box. The traveler and power wires go out from the other two posts in the first switch box to the two posts in the second switch box. The power out leads from the common in the second switch box, and again, the neutrals are nutted together.

At the first two light fixtures, three power lines are nutted together, one in, one out, and one line runs to the fixture. Same with the neutrals.

The third fixture is very difficult to get to, so I've not gotten to that one yet. I'm trying to cover all bases before I get to that one, 'cause I don't want to have to go there if I don't have to.

Added: switches brand new, lightbulbs brand new


Last edited by msandrbs; 12-08-2013 at 07:05 PM. Reason: (added info)
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Old 12-08-2013, 07:13 PM   #2
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Proper Wiring Power to Outlet to 3-Way switch to lighte


You will find the wiring at the last fixture to be black to black of fixture, white to white of fixture.

If neither fixture works, and you made sure of the connections in first fixture, there is no need to look at the connections of the second fixture.

How are you measuring voltage?

With a meter check the common screw to the neutral wires.=120 volts
At the second switch, common to neutral will be 120 based on switch positions.

What happened when they quit working?

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Old 12-08-2013, 07:29 PM   #3
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Proper Wiring Power to Outlet to 3-Way switch to lighte


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You will find the wiring at the last fixture to be black to black of fixture, white to white of fixture.

If neither fixture works, and you made sure of the connections in first fixture, there is no need to look at the connections of the second fixture.

How are you measuring voltage?

With a meter check the common screw to the neutral wires.=120 volts
At the second switch, common to neutral will be 120 based on switch positions.

What happened when they quit working?
Yes, this is what I assume about the last fixture.

Currently, I just have a simple on/off tester (actually, I also have a digital multimeter ... but no leads for it). If the best way to diagnose this requires the ability to test the voltage accurately, I am not opposed to getting the tool to do so. I just have not had need of one yet.

As I recall (for a variety of reasons, this has been a delayed project), they were working then just stopped. It may have happened when a switch was flipped.

House is about 10 years old.
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Old 12-08-2013, 10:39 PM   #4
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Proper Wiring Power to Outlet to 3-Way switch to lighte


So, I think I have it wired correctly. After some more testing, I believe that there is a short somewhere in the cable between the second switch and the first fixture. Tomorrow I will bypass that wire and see if that makes the lights work (if so, it will confirm this theory).
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Old 12-09-2013, 02:51 PM   #5
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Proper Wiring Power to Outlet to 3-Way switch to lighte


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Originally Posted by msandrbs View Post
So, I think I have it wired correctly. After some more testing, I believe that there is a short somewhere in the cable between the second switch and the first fixture. Tomorrow I will bypass that wire and see if that makes the lights work (if so, it will confirm this theory).
Please be careful ! three way switchs are wired differently to normal
switchs ! so if you dont underestand the difference, you could get into trouble.

Do you understand the difference ?
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Old 12-09-2013, 03:26 PM   #6
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Proper Wiring Power to Outlet to 3-Way switch to lighte


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Please be careful ! three way switchs are wired differently to normal
switchs ! so if you dont underestand the difference, you could get into trouble.

Do you understand the difference ?
Yes, I do understand. But always good to check. I also have some assistance coming over tonight who has a bit more experience (and ohm and volt meters).
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Old 12-09-2013, 04:04 PM   #7
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Proper Wiring Power to Outlet to 3-Way switch to lighte


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Originally Posted by msandrbs View Post
So, I think I have it wired correctly. After some more testing, I believe that there is a short somewhere in the cable between the second switch and the first fixture. Tomorrow I will bypass that wire and see if that makes the lights work (if so, it will confirm this theory).

If you had a short (circuit) you would trip the breaker. A short (circuit) means the hot is crossed (touching) the neutral.
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Old 12-10-2013, 12:58 AM   #8
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Proper Wiring Power to Outlet to 3-Way switch to lighte


So ... it turns out that the neutral wire running from the bottom switch to the top switch is not continuous. We checked this both with an ohm meter and bypassing with a separate wire.

Additionally ... at the second light fixture, with all wires at that light fixture disconnected, when the black (power in) line from the first fixture is connected to the white (neutral return) from the THIRD fixture, we got 110v reading. My assistant (okay, I was the assistant ... he knows much more about this than I do) believes that this means that somewhere between these two fixtures another neutral line has been tied in.

What we guess happened ... when they put the sheet rock up 10 years ago, someone put a nail through the neutral line in the line going between the switches. Rather then take the sheet rock off and fix it right, they just tapped a separate circuit's (or maybe from a more distant line on the same circuit) neutral line back into the line that was not working.

However, I checked the line in the attic and did not see any place where that line connected with anything other than the two fixtures. Going to recheck, since this seems to be the issue.

Right now, we disconnected the white neutral wire in between the switches and instead are using the red traveler as the neutral, and I have a 2 1/2 way switch. We also disconnected both wires going to the third light fixture, so only two of the lights are working (but that is two more than before).

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