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Old 03-10-2012, 02:52 PM   #1
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Replacing A 3way Electrical Switch.


I was changing out old switches in an old apartment when I came across this enigma. Switches in the kitchen and hall both operate the hall light. The switch in the kitchen was a regular 3way switch job with a red, a black and a white wire. The switch in the hall had four wires, 2 black and 2 white. I replaced this with a 4way which my husband said was incorrect. In the mean time until we find the correct type of switch (which I'm open to suggestions) we put the old ones back on but must have messed something up because now the kitchen switch only works when the hall one is positioned "down". I have multiple questions. What is the red wire hooked to? None of the wires in the 4-wire box read 110v so which one is the power coming in from? I'll stop here for now. Thanks.

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Old 03-10-2012, 03:12 PM   #2
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Replacing A 3way Electrical Switch.


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Originally Posted by Chris E. View Post
I was changing out old switches in an old apartment when I came across this enigma. Switches in the kitchen and hall both operate the hall light. The switch in the kitchen was a regular 3way switch job with a red, a black and a white wire. The switch in the hall had four wires, 2 black and 2 white. I replaced this with a 4way which my husband said was incorrect. In the mean time until we find the correct type of switch (which I'm open to suggestions) we put the old ones back on but must have messed something up because now the kitchen switch only works when the hall one is positioned "down". I have multiple questions. What is the red wire hooked to? None of the wires in the 4-wire box read 110v so which one is the power coming in from? I'll stop here for now. Thanks.
Do you have a picture of the old switches? A 3 way switch will have 4 terminals---including ground while a 4 way switch will have 5 terminals---including ground.

Cant tell you what wire go where just by color. Find out what wire at the kitchen switch is your ALWAYS HOT WIRE
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Replacing A 3way Electrical Switch.-4way.jpg  

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Old 03-10-2012, 03:16 PM   #3
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Replacing A 3way Electrical Switch.


Following are three common setups for 3-way switch configuration. Depending on whether the ALWAYS HOT wire is coming into a switch box or the load(light) box:
Diagram 3 is where incoming power(ALWAYS HOT WIRE) comes into the load box.

Diagram 1 is where incoming power(ALWAYS HOT WIRE) comes into one of the 3-way switch boxes box and the other 3-way switch is AFTER the load.

Diagram 2 is where incoming power(ALWAYS HOT WIRE) comes into one of the 3-way switch boxes box and the other 3-way switch is before the LOAD
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Replacing A 3way Electrical Switch.-load-20switch-20switch.jpg   Replacing A 3way Electrical Switch.-switch-20load-20switch.jpg   Replacing A 3way Electrical Switch.-switch-20switch-20load.jpg  

Last edited by hammerlane; 03-10-2012 at 03:20 PM.
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Old 03-10-2012, 04:29 PM   #4
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Replacing A 3way Electrical Switch.


when you put the 'old switches' back, you got the common wire of the hall switch on a traveller screw
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Old 03-10-2012, 05:40 PM   #5
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Replacing A 3way Electrical Switch.


Is there a third switch that also controls this fixture? If the one switch was a four way then there should be a third switch that is a three way.
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Old 03-11-2012, 07:54 AM   #6
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Replacing A 3way Electrical Switch.


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Do you have a picture of the old switches? A 3 way switch will have 4 terminals---including ground while a 4 way switch will have 5 terminals---including ground.

Cant tell you what wire go where just by color. Find out what wire at the kitchen switch is your ALWAYS HOT WIRE
These are very old switches I'm replacing. Sorry, no pic. They are the old dark brown with all gold screws. Two on the bottom and two on the top. There is continuity from top to bottom and top to bottom diagonally (on the switch). We're probably just doing something stupid but can't seem to get 120v from any of the wires at either box. We also took the light down and there is only one black and one white wire attached to it.
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Old 03-11-2012, 08:11 AM   #7
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Replacing A 3way Electrical Switch.


Have you answered Joed's question? There has to be a third switch somewhere. To simplify three ways, I like to think as input power goes to the common of one switch, and the load goes to the common of the other 3 way switch.

Four way's go in the middle, and there can be as many as you want.
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Old 03-11-2012, 08:20 AM   #8
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Replacing A 3way Electrical Switch.


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The switch in the kitchen was a regular 3way switch job with a red, a black and a white wire..... What is the red wire hooked to? None of the wires in the 4-wire box read 110v so which one is the power coming in from?
You said in your first post the red wire is attached to the kitchen 3-way switch correct? Well you tell us what the red wire is hooked to. Is it hooked to a black terminal on the 3-way switch or a brass terminal?

Can you check at the kitchen switch location to see what wire is the ALWAYS HOT wire? Are there any other wires in the kitchen switch box? If you have a red wire at the kitchen switch and no red wire at either the other switch or no red wire at the light, then there is another junction point somewhere.

It was asked before by joed...are the switch in the kitchen and the switch in the hall THE ONLY 2 that control the light in question

Last edited by hammerlane; 03-11-2012 at 08:27 AM.
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Old 03-11-2012, 08:28 AM   #9
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Replacing A 3way Electrical Switch.


Are you renting?
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Old 03-11-2012, 09:03 AM   #10
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Replacing A 3way Electrical Switch.


You need a multi tester to check the wires in each box and the light box to find the source or always hot wire...then follow one of the diagrams provided in the replies here..the idea is this: the source HOT wire goes to the common conductor on one 3 way (even if it enters thru the light box it has to continue to one of the switches first) and then you run travellers from the other two terminals on the switch to the corrsponding two terminals on the other 3 way then the common of that second 3 way goes to the light which completes the circuit...the other terminal of the light gets the neutral of course ...what seems odd is one three way had a red whire indicated a 3 conductor cable but this wire didnt show up in the second switch box normally the red and white wires are from 3 cable and are the travellers...the black wires are either the source wire or the switch wire to the light...sounds like someone is using two 14-2 cables in place of 14-3 cable for part of the run..I did this myself when I had plenty of 14-2 and didnt want to waste it and go buy 14-3 I just snipped off one of the white wires (not connected to anything)
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Old 03-11-2012, 11:35 AM   #11
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Replacing A 3way Electrical Switch.


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what seems odd is one three way had a red whire indicated a 3 conductor cable but this wire didnt show up in the second switch box
The presence of a red wire at the one switch but not at the other switch or at the light indicates another junction point.

the diagrams that I posted are simplistic in nature because there is only one device at each box and all cables incoming to each box are being used by either a switch or the light.
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Old 03-11-2012, 04:25 PM   #12
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Replacing A 3way Electrical Switch.


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Is there a third switch that also controls this fixture? If the one switch was a four way then there should be a third switch that is a three way.
There are only two switches that I'm aware of. Like I said in my first post, a 3way (3 wires) and one with 4 wires.
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Old 03-11-2012, 04:37 PM   #13
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Replacing A 3way Electrical Switch.


With only two switches both switches should only have three wires connected to them + possibly a ground.
Can you tell us all the cables and wire connections in the two switch boxes.
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Old 03-11-2012, 05:02 PM   #14
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Replacing A 3way Electrical Switch.


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With only two switches both switches should only have three wires connected to them + possibly a ground.
Can you tell us all the cables and wire connections in the two switch boxes.
The box in the kitchen contains 2 switches. The first one is a 3way that is connected to another 3way in the hallway box that operates a set of lights in the kitchen and dining areas. It has been replaced and is working fine. The second one (the one I'm working on) is also a 3way. It is connected to the 4wire switch I'm having trouble with. They operate the front hall light. The box in the hall where the light is located has three switches; the one connected to the kitchen/dining light, one to the front hall (again, the 4-wire switch) and the third one is another 3way that operates a back hall light. All the switches except the ones in my original post have been replaced and are working great.
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Old 03-11-2012, 05:10 PM   #15
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Replacing A 3way Electrical Switch.


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one to the front hall (again, the 4-wire switch) and the third one is another 3way that operates a back hall light. All the switches except the ones in my original post have been replaced and are working great.
You're not understanding what everyone is saying. In your case there is a 4-way switch operating the hall lights. If thats the case (and I'm not entirely sure that it is, without pictures), then there has to be at least two other switches controlling the same set of lights.

I think it may save you a lot of time on here if you just take the time to take some pictures and post them, so we can all see exactly whats going on.

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