4-way switch problem

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  #1  
Old 10-30-00, 10:26 AM
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I replaced 2 3-way switches and a 4-way switch after painting. I have a 4-way switch controlling a hall light. There are 2 3-way switches as well that control the light. When the light is shut off by the 3-way the light can no longer be controlled by the 4-way. The 4-way has 2 whites on one side, 2 blacks on the other side and 2 reds are wire nutted together. Any suggestions?
 
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  #2  
Old 10-30-00, 12:30 PM
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Let me see if I've got this straight.

You removed all three switches during the painting? True or false.

You recorded what wires were attached where before you removed the switches? True or false.

You put back the very same switches you removed, connecting them (or attempting to do so) just as they were connected before? True or false.

I don't think you can assume the problem is with the wiring on the 4-way. It's probably the easiest one to get right.

Ignoring the 4-way, are the 3-ways working perfectly? E.g., both down is off, both up is off, one up and one down is on regardless of which is which?

The answers to these may help us. But in the meantime you should double-check the wiring of the 3-ways. It's pretty easy to interchange two wires of the same color when putting them back on.

To get the best answer, you should tell us how many cables and how many wires are in each of the four boxes (i.e., the three switch boxes and the hall light box), and how they are connected. I know this is a lot of information, but we can usually narrow down the possibilites quickly with this information (although it may still not be possible to answer with complete certainty).

Be patient with us. These problems often take a bit of investigation.
 
  #3  
Old 10-30-00, 01:22 PM
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Let me see if I've got this straight.

You removed all three switches during the painting? True or false.
After painting - switched from beige to white.

You recorded what wires were attached where before you removed the switches? True or false.
Forgot that step!

You put back the very same switches you removed, connecting them (or attempting to do so) just as they were connected before? True or false.
Brand new switches.


I don't think you can assume the problem is with the wiring on the 4-way. It's probably the easiest one to get right.

Ignoring the 4-way, are the 3-ways working perfectly? E.g., both down is off, both up is off, one up and one down is on regardless of which is which?
I'll need to check that.

The answers to these may help us. But in the meantime you should double-check the wiring of the 3-ways. It's pretty easy to interchange two wires of the same color when putting them back on.

To get the best answer, you should tell us how many cables and how many wires are in each of the four boxes (i.e., the three switch boxes and the hall light box), and how they are connected. I know this is a lot of information, but we can usually narrow down the possibilites quickly with this information (although it may still not be possible to answer with complete certainty).
I'll let you know the numbers of wires in the switch boxes. The light box is out of the question - heavy chandelier 20 feet above the ground!

Be patient with us. These problems often take a bit of investigation.

You've been a great help so far! Thanks
 
  #4  
Old 10-30-00, 05:35 PM
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Okay, this is good so far. I'm waiting for the other information you're collecting.

One more question: do you own a multimeter or a circuit tester? If not, would you consider buying one?
 
  #5  
Old 10-30-00, 06:21 PM
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hello puzzled,
from the info in your post i think i know where your problem lies. i believe that you miss wired the 4 way. try putting the white and black that r in the same cabel on 1 side of the 4 way and other white and black in the other cabel on the other. im includeing some sites that deal with 3 way switch wireing and between them and the info given by us here im sure that u will get the switches operating properly. http://www.howstuffworks.com/three-way.htm
http://www.wfu.edu/~matthews/courses/p230/switches.html
 
  #6  
Old 10-30-00, 07:10 PM
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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by John Nelson:
Okay, this is good so far. I'm waiting for the other information you're collecting.

One more question: do you own a multimeter or a circuit tester? If not, would you consider buying one?
<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Hi John

I do own a simple circuit tester (white and black wire with a small orange light inside an orange plastic casing).

My 3-way switches have two terminals on one side and one terminal on the other. The common terminal has a black screw and the terminal above it has a silver screw. The terminal on the other side is gold.

One 3-way switch is on the main floor. It has a 3-wire coming into the box. The light is off when in the up position. The black wire is attached at the black (common) screw. Above it is the white wire connected to the silver screw. Red is on the other side to the gold screw.

The second 3-way is on the second floor. In the box there is a 2-wire and a 3-wire. Black from the 2-cable goes to the common terminal. White from the 3-cable is connected above on the silver screw. Black from the 3-cable is connected on the other side of the switch (gold screw). Red and white from the 2-cable are wire nutted together.

The 4-way box is on the second floor as well. The light being controlled is on a cathedral ceiling leading to the second floor (that is why it is impossible to describe the wire configuration in the light box. Two three wire come into the 4-way box. The reds are wire nutted together. Not sure how to onnect the 4-way. There are two black screw terminals on one side and are labelled IN. On the opposite side are a silver and a gold screw labelled out. I have tried many configurations with no luck. The lower floor 3-way will turn on the light, the 4-way turns of the light yet the second 3-way can't turn it back on again and so on. Hope this helps.

 
  #7  
Old 10-30-00, 08:04 PM
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Try this wiring exactly in the order it is said. This should solve the problem.

Turn your breaker off.

Start at the 3 way switch box that has a 12/3 cable and a 12/2 cable in the box. Wire the black of the 12/2 cable to the black screw of the 3 way switch. Now wire the white of the 12/2 cable to the black of the 12/3 cable. Now connect the red and white of the 12/3 cable to the two empty screws of the 3 way switch in either order.

Now go to the other 3 way switch. Wire the black of the 12/3 to the black screw of the 3 way switch. Then wire the red and white to the other two screws in either order.

Now go to the 4 way switch. Wire nut the two blacks together. put the red and white wire of one 12/3 cable to the right side of the 4 way switch. Put the red and white wire of the second 12/3 cable to the other side of the switch. Turn the breaker back on and test the light. If you are lucky and we read your wiring style right it should work.

Let us know if it worked for you. I think it will.

Good Luck

Wg
 
  #8  
Old 10-30-00, 09:06 PM
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hello puzzled,
ok im going to have to admit, that i was wrong on my asssment of your problem, that the problem was in the way the 4 ways were wired. from the info that was presented later, it was not only the 4 way but the 2 3ways as well. the old foot in mouth syndrum of speaking befor u have all the facts, im my hast to help others out in need i do this some times. i too believe if you follow the wireing sceam that wg presented to you your lights will work, i would have told you the exact same wireing sceam.
 
  #9  
Old 10-30-00, 09:10 PM
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Wg, I have some questions for you. Are you assuming that the power comes first to the light, and from the light to the second floor 3-way? Or are you assuming the line power comes first to the second floor 3-way.

If the line power comes first to the light, your recommended wiring might be switching the neutral rather than the hot (although the white wire should be taped black). The result would be that your wiring would work, but not be completely safe.

If the line power comes first to the second floor 3-way, the light is probably between one of the 3-ways and the 4-way. In this case, your wiring would be correct.

But if puzzled remembered correctly about the two red wires being connected together at the 4-way, isn't it also probable that the light is wired using the red rather than the black as hot? In this case, puzzled would need to wire as you said but interchange the black and red in all 12/3 cables.

But I don't know how we can know for sure. If you agree Wg, I recommend that puzzled use his circuit tester to make sure where the constant line power is.

If we could see the wiring at the light, we might not have to make this guess.

Do I have valid concerns?


[This message has been edited by John Nelson (edited October 30, 2000).]
 
  #10  
Old 10-31-00, 09:18 AM
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No box in the house has white wires taped black! The contractor did not bother to do this. I'm surprised it passed inspection. The house is only 12 years old. The 3-ways in the laundry room are wired in a similar manner with the red being wire nutted to the white. I think I'll try the suggestion from the one posted website using a continuity meter. One question though... it states shutting off the power and removing all three swithches then testing pairs of wires. Are the wires tested with the power off as well? I have no problem doing new installations but when I can't see what has been happening behind walls I'm 'puzzled'. Thanks thus far for all your help. You guys are great and your response time is fantastic. My response time is not as fast because a thing called work gets in the way of my home repair time. Halloween won't help either tonight so it will be Nov.2 at the earliest that I will tackle this dilemna again.
 
  #11  
Old 10-31-00, 09:37 AM
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Test continuity with the power off. Test voltage with the power on.
 
  #12  
Old 10-31-00, 12:52 PM
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John Nelson

The wiring that he was working on I took as existing because he is just replacing devices, not changing or running new wires. This wiring was installed in a previous NEC version.

The 96 NEC allowed the white to be used in a 3 way switch system without marking the conductors as hot. The change appeared in the 99 NEC. This means that any wiring existing before the 99 came into affect for ever it be existing and under the control of the prior Code requirements unless you run new wiring. Only then the new wiring must meet the 99 Code. All untouched wiring in the dwelling would still be ruled as existing and under the previous Code in effect when the existing wiring was installed. His using the white as a hot switch conuctor was legal unmarked until the 99 came into affect and is still legal unless new wiring is installed, not just devices.

Now as for the how did I decide where power was located, I will try to explain using his words in my explaination.

HE said;
One 3-way switch is on the main floor. It has a 3-wire coming into the box.

I decided;
This statement that only one 3 wire cable was in this box made me believe that this three way switch was the dead end of the swith system and was on the main floor.

He said;
The second 3-way is on the second floor. In the box there is a 2-wire and a 3-wire.

I decided;
The statement that a 2 wire cable and a three wire cable was in this box made me believe that the power had to be in the light box because he only mentioned on 2 wire cable in the switch boxes and it was in this box. This told me that a 2 wire cable came from the light box to the upstairs 3 way switch box, then a 3 wire cable came from that upstairs 3 way switch box and went to the 4 way switch box and another 3 wire cable went from that 4 way switch box to the last dead end 3 way switch

What he said told me that power was in the ligth box and that the wire nutting in the light box was not desturbed therefore existing negating my concern for whether the grouded leg is the switched wire or the ungrounded leg was the switched wire. This light fixture was untouched and beyond the question as to whether it was right or wrong. We have to have a border on the picture somewhere and this light box was the first untouched wiring junction.

You are right that you could have switched the red wire with the black wire but saw no advatage to using the red wire. If you used the black wire as the extension to the last three way it simplified the connection to the devices by ending with a black, red, and white wire to connect to the two three ways, thus limiting the probablility of confusion.

Hope this clears up what I was thinking. Let me know if you have concerns.

Wg

 
  #13  
Old 10-31-00, 05:28 PM
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It's probably just my inexperience, but I think you jumped to too many conclusions.

I agree the main floor 3-way is a dead end.

But the second floor 3-way has a 2-wire and a 3-wire. He didn't say that the 2-wire came from the light fixture -- he has no way of knowing that. I see no way of knowing that this isn't line power. The 3-wire could go from the second-floor 3-way to the light, with another 3-wire from the light to the 4-way, and another 3-wire from the 4-way to the downstairs 3-way. Is this so far fetched?

And if the wiring is as I hypothesized, there is both a black and a red in the light box, and the light could be connected to either -- how would we know?

But anyway, even if the power comes to the light, and then from the light to the upstairs 3-way, how do we know the line power arrives at the upstairs 3-way on the black wire. Couldn't it just as likely arrive on the white wire (if line black is connected to white in the light box)? In fact, isn't this the way it would be wired according to the 99 NEC (i.e., switched power returning to the light on the black)?

I guess I'm still concerned. But I'm sure you're applying the experience of how things are usually wired (which I can't claim to have much of). I'm applying the skepticism of how things might be wired.

Thanks Wg for helping with my education.
 
  #14  
Old 10-31-00, 08:21 PM
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Hello All Have Posted Replies

I'm from Ontario-Canada so I'm confused with NEC. Does this affect my posting?

Thanks again for the prompt response.

"Currently Yours"

puzzled
 
  #15  
Old 11-01-00, 12:26 PM
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The Canadian Electrical Code parallels the NEC in most occasions. There are some areas that seem to be less stringent or some areas that differ in design but they both are quite similar and tend to reach the same conclusion on most subjects in the end.

The 99 NEC is now called the International Code Electrical Code. The powers at be are currently trying to come to agreements to make the International Electrical Code a cross breed of the other electrical codes in the world to make them all just one electrical code. I have been in on some communications and meeting where Canada and Mexico and the Philipinnes are trying to come to an agreement at this time to make some changes in the International Electrical Code so that they all can use the same Code.

Chicago is also an area that you may want to be cautious with. Chicago adopted their own Code that seems to differ with the NEC in many areas. Chicago seems to be more stringent.

I suspect that over the next couple of Code cycles we should find the Interantional Electrical Code to adapt to satisfy many countries to make a more uniform compliance requerment allowing most countries to use the NEC [International Electrical Code] as a world wide electrical standard for minimum safety.

Hope this helps

Wg
 
  #16  
Old 11-01-00, 01:13 PM
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John Nelson

Sorry if you believe that I jumped to too many conclusions. I am just trying to help not hurt. Also glad that we agree the one three way switch is a dead end.

You said;
The 3-wire could go from the second-floor 3-way to the light, with another 3-wire from the light to the 4-way, and another 3-wire from the 4-way to the downstairs 3-way. Is this so far fetched?

My opinion;
I see nothing wrong with your scenerio above.

You said;
And if the wiring is as I hypothesized, there is both a black and a red in the light box, and the light could be connected to either -- how would we know?

I believe;
If the wiring was as you described with power in the first three way switch box having the 2 wire cable in it, the black and red of the 3 wire cable coming from that switch box entering the light box would have to continue on to the four way switch box. The red or black of that 3 wire cable coming from the 3 way switch box having the power source could not attach to the light fixture.

You said;
But anyway, even if the power comes to the light, and then from the light to the upstairs 3-way, how do we know the line power arrives at the upstairs 3-way on the black wire. Couldn't it just as likely arrive on the white wire (if line black is connected to white in the light box)? In fact, isn't this the way it would be wired according to the 99 NEC (i.e., switched power returning to the light on the black)?

My opinion;
We can not know we have not seen the project. What you describe may be correct, any of the wires could be anything from anything.

You said;
I guess I'm still concerned. But I'm sure you're applying the experience of how things are usually wired (which I can't claim to have much of). I'm applying the skepticism of how things might be wired.

My opinion;
I think we all are concerned, and care.

John Nelson

Sorry to make you worry about my replies. Just trying to help.

Wg
 
  #17  
Old 11-01-00, 02:43 PM
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Thanks Wg. I think we've now beat this to death. Puzzled can take it from here.
 
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