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sjh5g 02-08-2012 07:48 PM

Wall Timer Wiring Issue

I bought a wall timer switch to use with outdoor lights. I removed the old switch, and installed the timer. Black to black, red to red, white to the bundle of white in the back of the box, and ground to ground. When the timer is in the "on" range of times, the timer motor moves and the hours progress. As soon as it reaches the off point on the dial, it's as if the circuit supplying power to the timer motor shuts off and the timer stops. I can still turn on the lights, but the power operating the timer must be off. There was another white wire hooked to the original switch, and I tried this one too, but it doesn't power the timer at all, whether in the on of off zones of the dial. Any ideas?

I stuck a multimeter on the blacks and whites, and all seem to have volts passing through. Sounds like something is going on when the switch shuts off the black to red connection, it is somehow stopping the flow of power from my neutral wire bundle to the timer motor.

Thank you.

AllanJ 02-08-2012 08:29 PM

I would say exchange the black and red wires on the timer.

Did you say that the old switch had 3 wires on it (red, black, white)?

Is there another switch somewhere that also controls the same light (3 way switch)?

When you measured voltage on all the wires, from where to where did you measure? Voltage is always measured between two places; report back here what voltage you measured for each pair of places you measured.

a_lost_shadow 02-08-2012 08:29 PM

First, how many wires and what colors were connected to the original switch? Second, how many switches controlled the outdoor lights before you put the timer in?

sjh5g 02-08-2012 08:37 PM

Light is only controlled by one switch, but the switch looks like a 3 way to me. From face on looking at the old switch, ground wire was on the bottom left side, red top left, two blacks bottom right and white top right.

Multimeter out of battery....need to replace before I can answer that question.

sjh5g 02-08-2012 08:42 PM

Oh, and I should add, the timer switch is in a box, and that other switch is definitely a 3 way and is hooked to a light that is controlled by another switch, perhaps this accounts for why there were two blacks hooked to the same place on the switch I removed for the timer?

Jim Port 02-09-2012 07:18 AM

The two blacks might have just been constant power in and constant power out.

A neutral would not have been connected to the switch. It sounds like a traveller.

sjh5g 02-09-2012 07:40 AM

I located the second switch this yes it is a three way. I put back in the original three way switch....but now when I flip it, only one of the two outdoor garage lights comes on...checked bulb, tried other switch, and checked my re-wiring (took photo before I unhooked) and no luck. Any suggestions, or time to call expert? Is it possible that i blew something in the light unit itself? I did trip a breaker yesterday with one of my wiring attempts. Thanks.

Jim Port 02-09-2012 07:47 AM

If you tripped a breaker nothing would work and you would have had to reset it to get anything to work.

You may want to check your connections again. Your bulb may have blown out at the same time.

sjh5g 02-09-2012 09:00 AM

Hi Jim,

You are correct, in all the messing, one of the four neutrals in the bundle had slipped out, back in, and we are in business. But, back to where I started, original three way switch is installed...guess I need to go and buy a three way wall timer? Or is there any way to make this work if I leave the second switch always on?

AllanJ 02-09-2012 09:05 AM

Provided you have a real neutral (bunch of whites tied together almost always is) where you put the timer, you can substitute the timer for one three way switch and leave the other 3 way switch toggle in one position and the timer will work fine.

You do need to identify which wire and terminal on the old 3 way switch is common (generally with a darker stained screw or "C" engraved on the switch body nearby.)

sjh5g 02-09-2012 09:14 AM


Thanks. Yes, I do have a real neutral, and it was powering the timer motor, but only when the timer was within the "on range of times, not when in the off range. When I try to re-hook up the timer, what do I do with that common wire? Does it go anywhere on the switch, or get capped? I had it capped before, and this when I had the issue of the timer motor only running in the on time slots....

AllanJ 02-09-2012 10:47 AM

Have you tried exchanging the red and black wires on the timer unit yet?

The one that is always live should go to the timer "input" and the other one should go to the timer "output"

sjh5g 02-09-2012 11:08 AM

I have not, but to your earlier post, you mentioned finding which wire on the old switch was the common one...once I find it, what do I do with it in terms of hooking it up to the timer switch? Thanks.

hammerlane 02-09-2012 11:21 AM


Originally Posted by sjh5g (Post 848597)

Thanks. Yes, I do have a real neutral, and it was powering the timer motor, but only when the timer was within the "on range of times, not when in the off range. .

Is it possible the timer is defective??

sjh5g 02-09-2012 11:25 AM

Possible...but have tried two, so, guessing it is my wiring. Something to do with it being a three way I would guess?

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