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Old 01-01-2011, 05:59 PM   #1
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troubleshooting a 3 way switch


hi guys,

I'm looking for some tips on how to troubleshoot a 3 way switch. I moved into a house where a hallway light controlled by 2 switches only functions when the switches are in certain orientations. Specifically, both switches have to be in the up position for the lights to be able to turn on at all. Then, the switch turned to the down position to turn the light off then becomes the only switch able to control the lights.

Does this make sense? Anyways, it drives me nuts and would love advice on how to figure out the mis-wire on these switches, or I suppose the light fixture.

Any help is appreciated. Thanks.

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Old 01-01-2011, 06:20 PM   #2
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troubleshooting a 3 way switch


Sounds like a mis-wire, if both switches have to be in the same position. Have you taken the switches out of the boxes to make sure that they are 3-wire switches, and verified that stamped on the metal on the front, that the "top" is at the top.

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Old 01-01-2011, 08:09 PM   #3
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troubleshooting a 3 way switch


The first thing to do is find the power wire. One of the six wires connected to the two switches will constant power. That wire needs to go to the common screw(black one).

If you can tell us all the wires in the two switch boxes we might be able to identify the power wire for you.
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Old 01-02-2011, 11:03 AM   #4
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troubleshooting a 3 way switch


Check to be sure that you actually have the correct type of switches. To control the light from two locations you must use two "three way" switches. Attached is a hand drawing of where the wires go. It is intended to simply show where each wire gets connected.
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Old 01-02-2011, 11:43 AM   #5
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troubleshooting a 3 way switch


One of the switches themselves ma have worn out.

When replacing it, do not take apart any other wires in the box, in order to avoid confusion and complications.
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Old 01-02-2011, 12:48 PM   #6
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troubleshooting a 3 way switch


Joed, on a 3-way switch, you have two travelers, so there is not going to be a common hot wire. The hot wire would be the main switch, or in the light junction if it was wired that way, with the three ways as switch legs.
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Old 01-02-2011, 12:57 PM   #7
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troubleshooting a 3 way switch


Quote:
on a 3-way switch, you have two travelers, so there is not going to be a common hot wire.
As I understood three-way wiring, one of the wires going to one of the switches' common connection will be unswitched 'hot'. Perhaps I misunderstood what you were saying?
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Old 01-02-2011, 01:54 PM   #8
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troubleshooting a 3 way switch


There is no unswitched "hot" in a three way circuit. You have a Neutral, and two travelers. You have a "Master" and "Slave" in a 3-way switch circuit. What you have, is a miswiring issue.
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Old 01-02-2011, 02:27 PM   #9
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troubleshooting a 3 way switch


One of the wires connected to one of the common screws has to be an unswitched hot wire. The other common screw is connected to the wire going to the fixture hot.

The drawing is only one of eight different ways to wire three way switches. There is no way to know which one was used unless you look at the wires in the boxes.
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Old 01-02-2011, 03:10 PM   #10
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troubleshooting a 3 way switch


There is only one way to wire a 3-way switch. If you are talking about where the feed from the circuit breaker enters the circuit, yes there can be only two different combinations. Enter through the light, then feeding the two three ways, or entering the circuit through one of the three ways. Those are the only two ways that you are going to feed the circuit with power.
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Old 01-02-2011, 04:33 PM   #11
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troubleshooting a 3 way switch


Quote:
There is no unswitched "hot" in a three way circuit. You have a Neutral, and two travelers. You have a "Master" and "Slave" in a 3-way switch circuit. What you have, is a miswiring issue.
My understanding is the same as JoeD. In fact, I thought it was best avoiding switching of the neutral with an uswitched hot at the fixture. In my house, ALL three-ways use unswitched hot supply to feed the common of one switch. I hope they did this correctly.

That this is a miswiring issue I think we all agree.
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Old 01-02-2011, 05:15 PM   #12
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troubleshooting a 3 way switch


I could have posted 8 different wiring diagrams, but I did not think that would be very helpful to the OP who was looking for a way to check what he has to see what may be wrong. The diagram that I posted is a basic look at what wire goes where. You can put the load in the middle box, put the source in the middle box, at either end, etc. but that does not alter the basic hook-up, just which wires have to be pulled to where.

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