3-Way Switch Wiring Problem

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  #1  
Old 10-17-08, 02:32 PM
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3-Way Switch Wiring Problem

Having issues with a 3-way switch. One switch needs to be in the "on" position in order for the 2nd swtich to turn the light off or on. If switch one is in the "off" position the 2nd switch will not operate the light.

I looked at how each switch is wired and they are consistant. Red wire in the middle of the switch. The neutral (whites) are all wire nut together in the box.

Any ideas?
 
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Old 10-17-08, 02:45 PM
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You have a mis-wired 3 way setup.

Did this ever work correctly? Have you made any changes to this setup?

You will need to tell the colors and number of wires in each switch box and connected to the switches. Do not use position on the switch, use common and traveller. Common terminals are commonly Black, but are always the odd color. Travellers are usually brass colored.
 
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Old 10-17-08, 03:03 PM
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Just bought the home so no history...

Each switch has 2 sets of wires coming in. first set has 2 wires (black and white), 2nd set has 3 wires (white-black-red). the two whites are nutted together in the box. The blacks are wired to the top and bottom of each switch and the red is wires between them. All wires are attached snugly.
 
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Old 10-17-08, 03:20 PM
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Originally Posted by pcboss View Post
You will need to tell the colors and number of wires in each switch box and connected to the switches. Do not use position on the switch, use common and traveller. Common terminals are commonly Black, but are always the odd color. Travellers are usually brass colored.
Please use the above when describing which wire is where. The most common setup is to have the blacks from the 2 wire cables on the common terminal on both switches.
 
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Old 10-17-08, 03:24 PM
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Sorry-

You are correct. Blacks are on the common terminals of the switch. Red on traveler. whites wire nut together in the box.
 
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Old 10-17-08, 04:39 PM
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You should have 2 travellers, a black and a red. Perhaps someone grabbed the black from the 3 wires + ground cable and put it on the common terminal.
 
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Old 10-17-08, 04:42 PM
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you have a hot coming in one side of this 3way system and a switch leg going out the other. Here's what needs to happen. black and red from same cable need to be on the same color screws. whereas the remaining black wire needs to be on the only black or dark brass screw. whites wire nutted in the box...grounds on ground screw..of course this is only one of the manyways of wiring a three way switch
 

Last edited by Sthrnamp; 10-17-08 at 04:43 PM. Reason: incomplete
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Old 10-18-08, 12:44 PM
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Thanks for the replies.. I think I understand what to do on switch one but not clear on switch two?

Switch 1: hot lead (black) goes to the commom terminal. Red and black wires (travelers) go to the other two terminals on the switch.

Switch 2: ??
 
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Old 10-18-08, 12:50 PM
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Sw 2 would have the red and black from the 3 wire cable as travellers. The black from the 2 wire cable would be the common.
 
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Old 10-18-08, 01:05 PM
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Sorry if I'm being dense... Are you saying the travelers from switch one are the travelers on switch two and the black from the two wire is again on the common terminal of switch two?

Essentially the same wiring set up on both switches--the black from the two wire is on the common terminals and red/black from the 3 wire are travelers on both switches?
 
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Old 10-18-08, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by palfer View Post
Sorry if I'm being dense... Are you saying the travelers from switch one are the travelers on switch two and the black from the two wire is again on the common terminal of switch two?

Essentially the same wiring set up on both switches--the black from the two wire is on the common terminals and red/black from the 3 wire are travelers on both switches?
You have this pictured correctly.
 
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Old 11-28-08, 04:44 PM
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Still struggling on this one.... Maybe you can guide me on how to set this up.

Sw 1. black on common, red and white are travellers.

Sw. 2 red and white are travellers and black wire which is from the light fixture (2 wire) is on common.

With this system, the setup only works when switch one is in the on position... then sw 2 will operate the light on and off. If sw 1 is off, sw 2 will not operate the light...
 
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Old 11-28-08, 06:16 PM
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The travellers on one switch are the travelers on the other.

Perhaps this illustration will help.

The two wires directly between the switches are the travelers (usually red and black in the 3-wire cable).

The center part of the bottom wire in the illustration is the white wire in the 3-wire cable. It is spliced to the white in the two-wire cables in each switch box. Imagine a splice directly below each switch.

There are other arrangements (i.e. the light can physically be located between the two switches), but this is the simplest to picture and describe - and seems to be what you have, from your description. The others are the same thing electrically, anyway.

[Edit] Re-reading your last post... is there only the three-wire cable present in one of the boxes, or is there a 3-wire (and Ground) and a 2-wire (& G) in both?
 

Last edited by ByteWrangler; 11-28-08 at 06:27 PM. Reason: Maybe not what I first thought.
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Old 11-30-08, 08:29 AM
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Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.
It is a little crude but hopefully this helps. If it is wired like the picture then you may have a bad switch


 

Last edited by Buzz; 11-30-08 at 08:30 AM. Reason: Image was not being displayed
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Old 11-30-08, 10:41 AM
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Bytewrangler--

The light is physically located b/t the two switches.. and yes on sw 1 there is only the 3 wire. Sw 2 has the 3 wire and 2 wire. Let me see if I can better depict this:

Box 1-contains 3 wire and (2) 2 wires. all neutrals are wire nutted together. The 3 wire black wire is nutted to the other 2 wire blacks in this box which is bringing in 120V. The hot black lead of the 3 wire is brought to Box 2 and attached to commom terminal of sw 1. Red and white are travelers on sw 1 and return back to box 1 and are attached to travellers on sw 2. the black lead from the light is attached to the common terminal of sw 2.

hope this helps, kinda weird that the hot lead is brought into same box as switch 2 instead of switch 1.
 
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Old 11-30-08, 11:12 AM
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Your problem is a very common problem. It's simply a matter of the incorrect wire being on the "common" screw on one switch or the other. One approach is to diagnose the problem with a lot of checking and testing. Another approach, which you may prefer, is trial and error. Normally I never recommend trial and error for electrical work as it lead to a dangerous installation, but it's not really a problem for this problem.

You have three wires connected to each switch. One of those three wires belongs on the "common" (i.e., black colored) screw on each switch. So there are three possibilities at each of two switches, nine possible combinations in all. Try each of the nine combinations, one at a time, conducting a complete test on each try. All that walking back and forth to the breaker box will be good exercise. Keep accurate notes so that you don't end up trying the same combination more than once.
 
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Old 11-30-08, 01:12 PM
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Old 11-30-08, 03:06 PM
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Buzz-

This is exactly how it's wired yet my problem persists.. Don't know what I'm doing wrong at this point..

when sw 1 is in the on position, sw 2 will turn the light on/off. If sw 1 is off, sw 2 won't do anything.
 
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Old 11-30-08, 04:19 PM
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Cool 3-Way Switch Wiring Problem

Hello palfer

If the house is old maybe one of the switches is broke ---
or even if the house is new the switch(s) could still be broken..

If you have a meter TURN OFF THE POWER and remove the wires from one switch.
Then TEST from the COMMON screw to each TRAVELER screw.
If it is good do the next switch. --
Or you could just replace BOTH switches --Doing one at a time

If it is indeed wired up the way "BUZZ" drawings are it should work --
Just make sure you have the POWER wire on the common screw of one switch
(you may need to test that with a meter)--
and you have the LOAD wire from the light on the common screw of the other switch.

Hope this helps ---
Let us know how you made out!!

Have A Nice Day
Linesman
 
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Old 11-30-08, 04:57 PM
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If it is wired as per that diagram and you are certain that the "blacks" are on the common terminal of the switches (the one that is a different colour from the other two terminals) then I agree with "Linesman" in that one of your switches is most likely bad. If one is bad you may want to change both at the same time as they are fairly inexpensive and easy to change.

Good Luck!
 

Last edited by Buzz; 11-30-08 at 04:58 PM. Reason: to add "most likely"
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