Three-way switch problem

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  #1  
Old 07-31-06, 12:25 PM
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Three-way switch problem

I have some hall lights that are controlled by two three-way switches. Last week neither switch would turn the lights off. I replaced both switches and still have the same problem. Only the breaker will turn the lights off. No work was being done at the time - I was out of town and wife barely knows the business end of a screw driver.

Any suggestions?
 
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  #2  
Old 07-31-06, 12:44 PM
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Remove each switch and cap all the wires separately. Turn on the breaker and see what happens.
This is a very strange type of problem since no work was done on the system. How picture hanging? Could be a nail though a wire. Any possibility of rodents chewing the wires in the attic?
 
  #3  
Old 07-31-06, 06:25 PM
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Well, I am more confused than ever. I pulled each wire and capped it in sequence. None of them had an effect - the lights are still on no matter what wire I cap on both ends.

For information sake. One end has standard white, red, black. The run of lights is in the middle, then the other three-way with black, black, white. On the first, white is on the solo side, on the other one of the blacks is on the solo side.

I confirmed that wife was doing nothing, went to turn the lights off and they would not go out.

This is crazy.
 
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Old 07-31-06, 07:07 PM
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I am going to venture a guess, since you have a b/b/w on one switch, that the lights are controlled at yet another location, making a 4 way switch necessary. If not, then the problem is most likely in the ceiling box where all these wires connect and/or pass. If you have all the switches out of the sequence, then there is power in the ceiling box that is completing a connection somehow.
 
  #5  
Old 07-31-06, 08:03 PM
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The term "solo side" means nothing. Depending on the manufacturer of the switch this could be the common or it could be a traveler.

What is the wiring at the light and tell us ALL the wiring at each and every location.
 
  #6  
Old 07-31-06, 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by racraft
The term "solo side" means nothing. Depending on the manufacturer of the switch this could be the common or it could be a traveler.

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Isn't that a pain. Depending on what brand of switch I have in my hand, I actually have to look as to what terminals are travelers and which is the hot/switchleg.

Sometimes a different colored screw is used to indicate either the travelers or the hot/switchleg terminal.

There should be one wire,that if removed would cause the lights to go out. Any other may be affected by a short within the switch. (which in my mind ,considering no other work done to the lights, is the probable cause of the problem)

It sounds as if one of the three-way switches shorted out internally. If one of the contacts remains closed when it should open, would cause what you are having with the control of the lights.
I would suspect the switch your wife first noticed did not turn off the lights.



What I would do:

turn off the power.

remove all wires (ground need not be removed) marking the locations of each wire.

cap off all wires (just in case somebody turns on the power while you are doing this)

using an ohm meter, check to be sure that there is continuity between only two terminals at any time on each switch. If there is anything other than this, you found your bad switch.

replace defective switch

reonnect all wires, correctly, of course

turn on power

enjoy having control over something in your life. Most of us have such little real control over anything in our lives, this is comething that should be savored.
 
  #7  
Old 07-31-06, 09:34 PM
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My guess is that the circuit is wired with power from the sevice panel connecting at the lamp socket. I think something has happened there that completly bypasses the switch circuit. There maybe some other posibilities if the switches were origonally wired wrong, Im thinking neutral side switching, If this is the case a short to ground could cause the lights to be on continuously rather than tripping a breaker. Take a look at the wiring in the switches, if there are only three insulated wires in each switch box then the power connects at the lamp socket.
 
  #8  
Old 08-01-06, 06:01 AM
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Sorry for the confusion and thank you for the help. Below is a diagram of the wiring in this area, as best I could make it out.

wiring diagram

I checked continuity through each switch. They appear to be OK, although I replaced both with new ones. Old and new are installed the same - common on old went to common on new, etc.
 

Last edited by Avec; 08-01-06 at 06:29 AM.
  #9  
Old 08-01-06, 06:10 AM
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Well that still does not tell us what wires you have at each location.

I would disconnect the wires completely from the switches, making detailed notes on how things are connected first.

Then I would verify power to the first switch and through the first switch properly. That means verifying power to the common of the first switch using either the neutral (if it goes through the box) or the ground, and then verifying power to the travelers of the switch (there should only be power to one traveler at a time). (This means connecting the common to the switch).

Then follow power to the second switch (after connecting the two travelers to the first switch) and verify power there in the same manner.

Somewhere you will find either a bad connection, a bad switch, or some other problem.

Remember, do not base anything on the switch screw terminal positions, they are meaningless. Go by the designations on the switch. The common will be a different color than the travelers.
 
  #10  
Old 08-01-06, 07:05 AM
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Well, after disconnecting both switches and checking wiring and connections at the box all of this comes into, it is now working. I reconnected the switches and wires the same way they came off, or at least I think I did. Anyway, things are now working.
 
  #11  
Old 08-01-06, 09:19 AM
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Do you have metal boxes? Do they have built in cable clamps? Could have been a clamp too tight and shorting the cable.
 
  #12  
Old 08-01-06, 11:29 AM
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Yes, metal boxes. I saw no obvious issues. I disconnected things to figure out what went were for my diagram. When I went to put it back together, I started to test things as I went, and it was working. We have been in the house for almost 6 years, and never had a problem with it before
 
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