3 way switches, wiring advice needed

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  #1  
Old 08-31-04, 04:05 AM
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3 way switches, wiring advice needed

I am remodeling an old apartment, and have moved one 3 way switch that controls an entry light and a light at the top of the stairs. (total two switches and two lights in this scenario) I am looking at 3 screws + a ground on the switches, of course, two at the top and one at the bottom.

I have the red on the same side of both switches, white on the other side, and black at the bottom. I basically did this following exactly how it was on the old switches that I removed. I am tripping the breaker when turning on the lights. If these wires are all in the same place, what other issues might be tripping the breaker? Should the reds and whites be reversed or even on opposites per switch?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts on this!
 
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Old 08-31-04, 04:22 AM
mgb
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Were the white wires on the old 3 way switches? Sounds like the white wires are neutrals and not travelers.
 
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Old 08-31-04, 04:55 AM
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If you are tripping the breaker then you are shorting power to ground. That means that either the ground wires are on the wrong screws or that there is a neutral wire in the box that you have connected to switch (where it does not belong).

The screws for the ground wires should be green. You can also usually see that the green metal behind the green screw is connected to the case of the switch.

You cannot simply take a new a new three way switch (or any switch) and connect the wires the same as the old switch. While any switch will have the same screw terminals as the one it replaces, they may not be in the same location as on the old switch.

My suggestion is that you put the old switches back in place. If you can do this and get the lights working properly, then you should be able to, one at a time, replace the switches. Do not pay attention to where the screws are located on the switches, but what color the screws are. On a three way switch two of the screws will be a common color while the other will be different. Match this to the old switch.

If you cannot get the old switches working properly then you will have to sort out the wiring. We can help with that, but will need a complete inventory of all the cables and all the wires at the switches and at the lights.
 
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Old 08-31-04, 06:00 AM
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Originally Posted by ghixson
I have the red on the same side of both switches, white on the other side, and black at the bottom. I basically did this following exactly how it was on the old switches that I removed. I am tripping the breaker when turning on the lights. If these wires are all in the same place, what other issues might be tripping the breaker? Should the reds and whites be reversed or even on opposites per switch?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts on this!
You can't go by location of the screws. Switches are not all made the same. You need to determine which screw was the common on the old switch and connect that wire to the common of the new switches.
The first thing I would do is install the old switches and see of the circuit still works. Then change one switch and verify the operation again.
The common screw is often a different color than the other 2(not the green one).
 
  #5  
Old 08-31-04, 01:09 PM
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Thanks for that info. By the way, when I first replaced the one at the top of the stairs, all was well. Then it was when I went to put the new switch at the bottom of the steps, keeping the wires on the same screws as the new switch at the top , that this problem started. It worked fine with one new and one old in place.

I am going to get a new breaker and two new switches as a "do over", and give this a try tonite.
 
  #6  
Old 09-02-04, 04:48 AM
mgb
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Do you have 2- 2 wire and a 3 wire in one of the switch boxes? Or are there 1- 2 wire and 1- 3 wire in each switch box? If so then what do you have the white wires from the 2 wire cables connected to?
 
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