Three Way Switch Issues

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  #1  
Old 01-12-13, 10:49 AM
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Three Way Switch Issues

I have a three way circuit in my house that I'm sure is wired wrong. The downstairs switch controls the circuit; if it's off, the circuit is off regardless of what I do with the upstairs switch. If the downstairs switch is on, I can toggle the lights off and on with the upstairs switch. I didn't open up the downstairs switch, but the upstairs switch has two black wiress and one white feeding it. Does anyone know how to correct this so that it works like a normal 3-way?

The related issue that I have is that I want to install an outlet off of the upstairs switch. I thought that even though it's wired wrong I would still be able to do it. But the outlet is dead regardless of the switch position. When I test the three wires going to the upstairs switch, no combination of two wires lights up my circuir tester. Given the way it's currently wired, would I need to jump all three wires from the switch to the outlet to make it work? Thanks.
 
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Old 01-12-13, 11:16 AM
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Are there only three wires in the upstairs switchbox ?

If yes.....that is the end of a three way switch circuit and you can't tie in anything at that point.
 
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Old 01-12-13, 12:27 PM
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As PJ said, if you don't have a complete circuit at the upstairs switch then you can't extend power from it. We should be able to help you get the switches working, though.

All 3-way switch pairs work by having the panel feed connected to the common terminal on one of the switches, the load feed connected to the common terminal on the other switch, and two traveler wires connecting the other two screws on each switch to each other.

The first question is, do you have two 3-way switches installed? That is, do they both have smooth toggle faces? Neither one has ON and OFF molded into it?

If so, turn off the power to this circuit, open the downstairs switch box, and pull that switch out far enough to see all the wires connected to it and those behind it, and describe those and how they're connected. We should be able to help you from there.
 
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Old 01-14-13, 05:53 PM
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Wiring in Downstairs Switch

Here's what I found in the downstairs switch. Like the upstairs switch, it has two black wires on one side, but it has one red wire on the other side. But it looks like these wires were spliced onto the original wires (in the wall) with wire nuts, so I can't really see what the originals look like. One thing to mention: my house is REALLY old and has some knob and tube wiring still. I can't tell for certain what's here (the upstairs wires look like the 16g wires inside normal Romex).

I do have an old Fluke meter, but I don't know if there's any way to use it to determine how the switches should be wired.

Let me know if this helps or if you need more info. Thanks.
 
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Old 01-14-13, 07:39 PM
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If you tell us the colors of the wires connected to the terminals on the switches we may be able to figure this out. One of the screws on the switches should be an odd color. Do not use descriptors like top or bottom, left or right.

The meter can help you tell which wire is hot.
 
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Old 01-14-13, 09:04 PM
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the upstairs wires look like the 16g wires inside normal Romex
Type NM-b cable - "normal Romex" - starts at 14 AWG, AFAIK. No 16 AWG.
 
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Old 01-15-13, 04:43 AM
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On both switches, the black wires are attached to the two brass terminals on one side of the switch. On the downstairs switch the red wire is attached to silver terminal; on the upstairs switch it is a white wire attached to the silver terminal.
 
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Old 01-15-13, 05:02 AM
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red wire is attached to silver terminal... a white wire attached to the silver terminal
There should be no silver terminals on a standard 3-way switch. Usual colors are two brass, one dark gray. Can you post a picture? http://www.doityourself.com/forum/el...-pictures.html
 
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Old 01-15-13, 07:05 PM
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On both switches, the black wires are attached to the two brass terminals on one side of the switch. On the downstairs switch the red wire is attached to silver terminal; on the upstairs switch it is a white wire attached to the silver terminal.
Sides and positions don't matter, but terminal colors do. If you have two brass colored screws and one silver colored screw on each switch, then a reasonable first assumption is that the silver colored screw is the point, or common, terminal and the two brass colored screws are the traveler terminals. In addition, if the three wires attached to the switch are the only three wires on that box, then you only have a hot feed (in one box), a light feed (in the other box) and the two travelers in both boxes

You (we) need to determine which wire is which, so that we can tell which wire belongs on each terminal. To do that, turn the power off and remove and disconnect both switches. Straighten the wire ends, separate the wires, and use a wire nut to cap each wire. Then turn the power back on and test each wire for voltage.

If the boxes are metal, there's a slight chance that they are grounded and you can use a multimeter to test for voltage from each wire to the box. With knob-and-tube in the system, however, that is unlikely. Given that, I would use a non-contact voltage detector to sense for power. Test the non-contact detector against an appliance or lamp cord. Once it's working, test each wire. There should only be one, of the six, that shows power. Turn the power off and tell us which wire you found power on and we can tell you what to do from there.
 
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