3-way switch keeps failing

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  #1  
Old 10-01-04, 06:20 PM
bearden
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Question 3-way switch keeps failing

I must have messed up on the first attempt to post this.

We recently hired and electrician to rewire our kitchen for a remodeling. A couple of weeks after most of the work was completed two of the 3-way switches failed. One completely, both sides of the switch held closed with the lights on and the toggle simply flopped up and down with no tension.

The second switch also resulted in the lights remaining on but this one could still be turned off from the second location.

Rather than call the electrician back I went to the supply house and picked up another pair of switches, turned out to be the exact same switch make and model.

A couple of days after replacing the switches, one of them has failed again. The switch controls outside lights, the circuit was not touched in the remodel other than a new home run to the breaker panel. The original switch, before the remodel, was in place for something on the order of 20-30 years.

I am having trouble believing that two switches, albiet from the same manufacturer but probably different supplies, failed. There are at least six more switches (2 way, 3 way, dimmers, etc) from this manufacturer in the kitchen with no problems.

 
  #2  
Old 10-01-04, 07:13 PM
R
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Why do you find it hard to believe that two switches could fail?

I had a four way switch fail for no apparent reason shortly after I installed it. I took it back and the supply house replaced it free of charge. They indicated that for failures are bot all that uncommon. He even went so far as to tell me that I should have tested the switch by moving the lever about 10 to 15 times before installing it. He said that if they are going to go they usually go during this test period, and you save yourself the trouble of having to remove and replace the switch if you find out it;s bad before you install it.

Anyway, I would take the switch back where you bought it. If it came from a big box store they won't do much with it, but a supply house will return it to the sales rep who may or may not turn it in for analysis. Yes, the manufacturers do care when their product fails.

As for your replacing the switch, I wouldn't have done it myself. I would have called the electrician back to replace it. Some electricians prefer to follow up on their own jobs, and would much rather do that than to have the homeowner swap something out and then later blame the electrician if they screwed up the wiring in the process.
 
  #3  
Old 10-01-04, 08:08 PM
J
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You say the switch flopped up and down with no tension. I find it hard to believe that it didn't fail. So what is the make and model, and how much did you pay for each switch? Did you connect it using screws or backstabs?
 
  #4  
Old 10-02-04, 07:25 AM
bearden
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Originally Posted by racraft
Why do you find it hard to believe that two switches could fail?

I had a four way switch fail for no apparent reason shortly after I installed it. I took it back and the supply house replaced it free of charge. They indicated that for failures are bot all that uncommon. He even went so far as to tell me that I should have tested the switch by moving the lever about 10 to 15 times before installing it. He said that if they are going to go they usually go during this test period, and you save yourself the trouble of having to remove and replace the switch if you find out it;s bad before you install it.
Well that was what I wanted to know. I consider this a high failure rate but with almost everything made in China/Korea at lowest cost it does not surprise me that much when I see valves with casting flash on the seat that tears up the seal after a couple of cycles. This is the first time I have had switches fail that were not 30-40yrs old but I have not bought a switch in probably a decade, I was also suprised that the failure state was a closed and not open circuit. Quality has really gone down hill but I'll see if the supply house will just exchange it.

Thanks for the tip to cycle test it BEFORE installing
 
  #5  
Old 10-04-04, 07:26 PM
U
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Originally Posted by bearden
Quality has really gone down hill but I'll see if the supply house will just exchange it.

Most switches are made in Mexico now and seem to be getting cheaper by the hour. We mostly use Leviton, and some P&S, but I'm not sure where the P&S are made.
 
 

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