3-way illuminated switch wiring - question

Old 06-28-03, 10:35 AM
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Question 3-way illuminated switch wiring - question


I have an older home, and 2 3-way switches (top and bottom of stairs), which control 2 lights simultaneously. Wiring is BX for these switches/lights, and I'm not sure what the order of wiring is for this setup. Wiring is old, and hard to even tell black from white.

Here is my problem: The switch at the top of the stairs was an illuminated 3-way, which worked just fine. Switch at the bottom was a normal 3-way.

I replaced BOTH switches, putting a NEW illuminated 3 way back at the top of the stairs. I tried to hook them up exactly as they were removed. Now, either switch will successfully turn on/off both lights, as before, but the 3 way illumiated switch has a couple problems.

1) The 'illuminated light' on the 3-way switch is always on. This should only be on when the lights are off, as it was before I updated my switches.

2) The illuminated 3-way, if you 'tap' it just right, or don't hit it 'gently' enough, it will 'spark' or 'pop' and trip the circuit.

I have tried a new illuminated 3-way switch, as well as hooking up the 3 wires going to that switch in every possible combination. I cannot seem to fix either problem. I would assume that since the 3-way functionality is working properly from both switches, that the wiring must be correct - but something must be wrong.

Could the problem be with the wiring of the OTHER 3-way switch at the bottom of the stairs? Would that have any effect on the illumination at the top of the stairs switch?

Any help or advice would be appreciated!

Thank you.
Old 06-28-03, 09:18 PM
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Is the arc/spark produced inside of the switch, or is it in the box behind the switch? Perhaps these old BX cables have the rubber and cloth coated wires, and the insulation is damaged?

There is a good chance there are one or more wires mis-terminated because of the dirty/faded color on the wires.
It happens to the best of us.
You need to identify the two "travelers" (the two wires that go between the two 3-way switches). Is this a 3-wire cable (blk-red-whi) between the two swithces?

Old 06-28-03, 11:07 PM
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I believe the spark is in the switch, but I could be wrong.

As far as the wires, there is 1 BX coming into the box with two old cloth covered wires in it: a black and a white. There is a second BX coming into the box with just a black. That is all that comes into the box. I am unsure of what comes from what source.

As both switches are controlling two different lights, it is difficult to tell what is coming from where.

Thank you!
Old 06-29-03, 09:34 AM
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I am by no means an expert, but have installed those switches as well. I was told by the sales guy that you could only have ONE of the switches (in a circuit/room) be the illuminated type or they wouldn't work right. I never tested his advice and just bought one and left the other one alone..... Like I said, I'm no expert, but thought this may offer food for thougt.


"If someone else put it together,
I can take it apart!!!"
Old 06-29-03, 07:30 PM
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The new switches probably have the common in a different position. Check the old switch and the new switch for the location of the common. I suspect the single black wire coming in to be the common.

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