Rookie Bathroom Wall Switch Problem


Old 09-27-06, 09:32 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 2
Angry Rookie Bathroom Wall Switch Problem

I am replacing the wall switch in my bathroom and have ran into a problem. When I pulled off the old switch there were 3 black wires hooked up to the "quick connect" holes on the old outlet. The white wires were in the back of the receptical but were not used. I was unable to tell from looking at the old switch which one was the ground wire. So being very careful I tried hooking up the black wires to the two screws and ground screw in every combination imaginable and I was unable to get the switch to work properly. I was able to get the light to come on in the bathroom but apparently the bathroom switch affects my bedroom switch and now that doesn't work. I have one of the two prong testers that lights up to see if electrical outlets work. Is there any way I can use that to tell which wires are which or do I need another tool? Also, once I find the ground wire, do the 2 other black wires need to go into a specific screw? I am a rookie at this and really need help.

Thank you!

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Old 09-27-06, 10:18 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
You do not have a ground. Hooking one of those HOT wires to ground is a good way to destroy a switch, a circuit breaker, a device or both. Not a good idea.

The white wires are NOT "not used" in the back of the box. They are connected together and are very important.

Two of those hot wires need to be connected together and pigtailed to one of the switch terminals, the other black wire needs to be connected to the other switch terminal. Connect nothing to the ground terminal of the switch.

You need to figure out which two black wires go together. You should have determined this by their placement in the old switch. If it's too late for that, you will have to go by trial and error, perhaps making educated guesses based on where the cables enter/exit the junction box.

One black wire is always hot. Another black wire gos to the light controlled by the switch. The other black wire feeds some other light(s) and/or receptacle(s) in the house on the same circuit.

If you go by trial and error there are are only three ways to try it.

One way (a wrong way) will have the light switched and the other part of the circuit switched.

Another way (another wrong way) will have the light always on and the rest of the circuit switched.

The correct way will have the light switched and the rest of the circuit always hot.

Good luck.
Old 09-27-06, 10:29 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 2
Thank you

I will do as you said.

I appreciate your help!
Old 09-27-06, 10:41 AM
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: port chester n y
Posts: 2,117
You are replacing a "device" which connects to "wires" at an "outlet-box" where "cables" with 2 or 3 wires enter the "outlet-box". The wires are best identified by color-- Black, White, and possibly Red. Describing a wire as a "ground" wire is confusing. The outlet box will contain "X" numbers of Black wires, and "X" number of White wires, and the wires enter the outlet-box in cable "pairs". The outlet-box may contain 3 cables , each with a "pair" of Black/White wires.

We presume the "device" you are connecting is a "single-pole" switch, which switches a fixture On/Off.

Please submit an accurate description of the number of Black & White wires that are contained in the outlet-box. You may have a "feed-in" cable pair, a "feed-out" cable pair, and a "switch-controlled" cable pair, = 3 Black wires & 3 White wires.

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