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Correcting Miswired 3 Way Switch

1757 Views 13 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  captquin
Just found this forum and looking forward to contributing!

Hoping someone can help give direction on a 3-way circuit I’m struggling with. It hasn’t worked correctly since we’ve lived here, so I believe it was wired incorrectly by the previous owner. I am changing one of them to a smart switch and would like to correct the issue while I’m at it. In short, one switch (“switch 1”) has to be in a specific position for the light to work. Switch 2 is the one I’m changing to a smart switch since that box has the natural wire bundle.

Here’s what we have from what I can tell so far:

Switch 1, Manual,
• Wires in box are White, Black, Red, and Ground
• The WHITE wire is hot at all times.
• I have wired this to the common/line terminal on the manual switch.
• Black & red are therefore the travelers. My understanding is that the order doesn’t matter.

• Switch must be in a certain position (“on”) in order for switch 2 to control the light
• If in the “off” the light obviously goes off, but switch 2 can not turn the light on

Switch 2, Smart Switch (TP Link, KASA 3 Way)
• 2 gang box. I have not removed other single-pole switch for inspection. It appears to have a RED wire on one of the terminals if that helps anything. It operates a separate light
• Wires on previous 3 way switch: Black single, 2 reds
• Other wires in box: Neutral wire bundle, black wire bundle
• I have wired the smart switch: black to the to the common (I believe this goes to the light), reds as travelers, white to neutral bundle.

So now the set up operates as it did before with switch 1 having to be in a specific position for switch to work. The smart switch receives power at all times as LED on front is lit up regardless of switch 1’s position.

I have not removed the light fixture or the other single pole switch. I’m wondering if something is jacked up with the red wires in the switch 2 box. There were two red wires connected the original switch 2 but only one to switch 1. Seems like the travelers should be the same. Also odd that there is a red on the single pole switch.

That’s a lot of words. Any ideas on what’s going on and how to wire so that it operates appropriately? I thought about moving the smart switch to Switch 1, but not sure that makes sense with the neutral bundle in the other box.

Thanks in advance
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Will do. I've installed 4 of these switches so far. This is only one I've seen set up like this. It's like one switch powers the other instead of the light being in the middle. And I still don't know where the other red traveler goes that's on the back of switch 2.

I'll break into it after work. Hope to be at a stopping point for the national championship game!
First some pics:

Here's what I learned last night:

-The line/source wire is actually located in the light box. It then sends power to the 2 gang switch box.
-There it was originally bundled with a white wire which sent power to the single switch.
-Again though, the light didn't operate properly as a 3 way originally, so I'm trying to figure how it SHOULD be done.

The switch leg to the light is the red wire also in the 2 gang box. I thought the source wire and switch leg would be on different switches and connected by travelers.

Is that the purpose of the white wire bundled with the black - to send power to switch 1? This would connect to the common on switch 1 w/ the red & black being travelers?

Something similar to this maybe?

It would seem like that would leave me short a terminal on switch 2:
-Common (from light box)
-Traveler 1
-Traveler 2
- Switch leg to light

Does that help? Thoughts?
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Hmmm. By second light, you mean the other single pole switch that controls a different light (above the toilet)?

Originally there was a little jumper that ran from the “hot” bundle over to it.

The only hot I could find with everything disconnected was the one in the light box connected in a bundle to some other black wires.
Sorry, I hit submit prematurely.

If you mean the other switch for the three-way light, there is an outlet close by I could potential he draw power from. It is on a different circuit
Thanks for the replies.

The white line wasn't connected to switch two as traveler generally would be. It was bundled in the 2 gang box and sent to the other single switch.

Is that correct? If so, it should go to the common terminal on the single switch correct?

If I can't resolve tonight, I'll put it back together as it was and draw a diagram of how it's actually wired.

Curious if it was ever working properly. I assume so, but it's a head scratcher. I don't think anything is miswired in the light box, but nothing would surprise me at this point.
Following up here. I got it squared away last night and wanted to share in case it’s useful to someone else down the road.

My house was wired similar to the diagram above w/ the common wire coming from the light. The confusing parts:
• The circuit was not working properly at the beginning, so you couldn’t trust what was there. Might have been a good thing. See below.
• Source wire was bundled in box 2 and routed to box 1 rather than going directly there from the light
• Hot wire coming from box 2 (above) was white and not marked
• Switch leg to light was red instead of black.

I think the previous homeowner trusted the conventional color usage and switched the black traveler with the red switch leg during a remodel. In any case, it works perfectly now and the smart switch is always appreciated. Love the timer feature for when the kids leave the light on.

For anyone else troubleshooting a 3 way circuit, here are a few tips and rules:
• Take pics before disconnecting the original switches
• Identify the hot
• Don’t trust the wire colors
• Know the hot and switch leg (wire to light) have to be different switches
• Hot goes on the common terminal of one switch
• Switch leg goes on the common terminal of the other
• You must have two travelers, but the configuration (position 1 & 2) doesn’t matter

Thanks for the responses here. No one had the “answer” but talking through it was helpful and kept the thought process going.
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