3 switches controlling one circuit

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  #1  
Old 10-09-14, 05:37 PM
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3 switches controlling one circuit

Hello,
just bought a house and the previous owner had done a lot of work himself. I have a switch that would not throw, jammed or busted internally. After taking off the face plates I saw the wiring did not exactly make sense. He had 2 four way switches and one 3 way switch in a single circuit to control 5 or six outlets. From what I understand it should be 2 three ways and a four way. I replaced just the broken four way switch without changing any wiring and the functionality was not ideal. A 3 way switch was the master. If it was on the other 2 switches could operate the outlets on and off. If the master was off, the other switches were useless. I am confused as to how to wire this so all three switches have the ability to control the outlets on or off independently of each other. The way I know how to wire it would have one less wire as 2 of the boxes have 4 wires plus ground. I can wire it and have unpredicatable results as to what combination allows on and what allows off but don't know if i should just wire nut this extra wire to its match. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 06:15 PM
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Can you tell us the number and colors of the wires and the number of cables in each switch box? Do you have a meter to test for voltage?
 
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Old 10-09-14, 06:15 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

Wow... that is a problem. Where to start. Easy for me to repair.... a lot harder for you.
You're right.... it should be 2) three way switches and x) four way switches.

You said there are four wires at the two four way switches. That would almost lead us to believe there is or was another switch somewhere for a total of four switches.

Is each switch in its own box or is one or more in a multi gang box ?

Can you tell us about the wiring in the three way switch box.
What colors are the travelers and what color is on the dark screw ?

At the four way switches.... what color is wire nutted thru ?
 
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Old 10-09-14, 07:07 PM
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Thanks for the quick response. The 3 way switch was in a multibox with several other switches controlling unrelated things. The wire nutted through at the four way switches is white. The dark screw on the 3 way has a red wire. The remaining two wires are red and black, with hte black wire being on the opposite side. Each of the 4 way switch boxes has 2 red 2 black 2 ground and the white is just passing through. Yes I have a multimeter. I usually work with dc stuff where when i'm confused I can follow traces....can't do that inside the walls. Thanks again. Let me know if you need any more info.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 08:40 PM
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with the black wire being on the opposite side.
Just FYI... with three way switches.... the side that the wires are on is completely irrelevant. The important thing is to always make sure the same wire goes back to the dark/odd colored screw. The other two are completely interchangeable.

I'm still of the opinion that you have another three way switch or there was possibly one that is not there now. Could that be possible ? If you look at the room or the area.... would it have made sense to have another one ?

In the box with the three way switch...... where does the white wire connect that goes into the cable where the red and black wires are used as travelers on that switch ?

Check the red wire from the common screw to ground. Is that red always live or does it become live only when the lights are on ?

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I've drawn a representative diagram. The wires leaving the right hand switch must go somewhere. If that red wire was connected as the red wire on the three way switch.... the circuit wouldn't work. In other words... the wires leaving the right hand switch don't go back to the box where the three way switch is.
 
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Old 10-10-14, 05:28 PM
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The red wire on the black screw is only live when the switch is thrown one way. The white wire ties back into a wire nut that every other set of wires going to other switches in the box ties back to. There is no other logical place for another switch to go, in fact these 3 switches all seem to be in fairly illogical places.
 
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Old 10-10-14, 06:55 PM
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It takes a lot to stump me. My problem is there is an unaccounted for cable or connection point.

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  #8  
Old 10-12-14, 08:55 AM
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Is there any danger in replacing the last 4 way with a 3 way and tying both lines out together at one nut? Since when I replaced the original 4 way with the exact same wiring I had undesired results, I think it was miswired from the getgo. Is there any way this new system could cause problems? Again thanks for your help.
 
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Old 10-12-14, 10:38 AM
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You could try replacing the right hand four way with a three way switch. The red and black would be travelers and the white would go on the dark colored screw.

You'll need to determine the correct incoming three wire cable into that box.
 
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