3-way switch with two wrong states

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  #1  
Old 09-07-15, 05:33 PM
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3-way switch with two wrong states

We had a 3-way switch with pilot light in the house and a plain 3-way switch in the garage. Together they controlled the light in the garage. Ever since we've been here this pair of switches has not worked correctly. Usually the only way to get the garage light off from the house has been to set the switch in the middle.

We have lots of 3-way switches in our house, including another pair with pilot lights, only this one pair doesn't work. I mention that to suggest that it probably was wired correctly and, once upon a time, did work.

I have three 3-way switches that I have now tried, taking the old pilot-light switch out of the mix, between the house and garage, and regardless of which combination I use two states are wrong. When the garage switch is up then no matter which way the house switch is both travelers are getting powered and the light is on. In the states with the garage switch down, only one traveler is powered and the house switch can control the light.

Please let me know if there's not enough detail in my diagram. The red and the white go through to the house switch box and were used for the pilot light.

Is the wiring wrong? Could it be that though I've tried three that I still have a bad switch amongst the two? Or is something else wrong with the wires?

thanks!

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  #2  
Old 09-07-15, 05:43 PM
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Second diagram is closest but wire colors look off. Here is how I'd wire it. (Ignore the second light if you only have one light.)

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  #3  
Old 09-07-15, 07:05 PM
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Sounds Like there is a wiring issue somewhere. I'd start by finding where the power enters your setup (appears to be directly to a switch box by your drawing, but could be coming from the light box) and ensure that it is not tied to one of the travellers. I'm guessing that one of the travellers is tied to a hot somewhere between the switches (like in the light box for example.) Has the light in the garage been changed at some point? Does the start of this problem coincide with that?
 
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Old 09-07-15, 07:53 PM
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I think I'm starting to understand that the travels+common can be wired either way, like I have or like you show, ray. Since the common wire screw is colored differently and I believe all our other 3-way switches are the way I have it, I think it's clearer/makes sense in my case to keep the two travelers-at-the-top arrangement.

Yes, the power comes through the house switch box. The switch in the house is in a box with three other switches and I've been trying not to disturb the other two too much, but maybe that's next. I couldn't quite imagine the situation that can cause this both travelers charged scenario only when the garage is on the white. When the garage is set down/on black then the white traveler is only charged when the house switch is set up.
 
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Old 09-07-15, 08:12 PM
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If the other switches work properly there is no need to touch them.
 
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Old 09-07-15, 08:49 PM
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I think I'm starting to understand that the travels+common can be wired either way, like I have or like you show, ray.
No, the white of the cable must be used to carry the neutral from the switch where power comes in to the box where power goes out. It can not be used as a traveler.

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Last edited by ray2047; 09-07-15 at 09:09 PM.
  #7  
Old 09-08-15, 03:04 AM
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I just had a similar problem. Not knowing about the 3 ways switches, at a clients house, I tapped into the circuit, for for a newly installed garage door opener. That made everything go nuts. It could be someone made a similar mistake.
 
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Old 09-08-15, 06:55 AM
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Ray, for sure what is connected to the light fixture is red and white. I thought that a little odd so I did check. There is also a black and a bare in that cable but the black is not connected to the light fixture. So, it is the red that is connected to the garage switch.

The red that returned to the house switch is for the pilot light. However, I'm trying to simplify the situation presently so am just using a plain 3-way switch there for now. You're right that it is not serving a purpose at the moment, but it's for later.

Yes, you have correctly marked the 'power in'. That black is always hot.
 
  #9  
Old 09-08-15, 07:03 AM
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Interesting about the garage door opener, there are some outlets but I think they are using the black while the light fixture is using the red. I'll check what the garage door opener is using, though I'd think if it was using the switched lines we would've noticed it not working sometimes, still can't hurt to look at the bigger picture.
 
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Old 09-08-15, 07:24 AM
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It doesn't have to be the garage door opener. If any electrical work were done, at the same time that the problem arose, it could be your problem.
 
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Old 09-08-15, 08:11 AM
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Ray, for sure what is connected to the light fixture is red and white. I thought that a little odd so I did check. There is also a black and a bare in that cable but the black is not connected to the light fixture. So, it is the red that is connected to the garage switch.
Okay that changes thinks. You did not say the the light had a 3-conductor cable nor did you show that on your diagram. Do you have receptacles in the garage fed by the black wire of the light cable?

There is a major problem with your diagrams. It shows two white wires but there can only be one white wire, the white wire in the 3-conductor cable. That must be used for neutral.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 09-08-15 at 08:52 AM.
  #12  
Old 09-10-15, 06:15 PM
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The picture is of the individual wires involved, not cables. The cable of red, black, and white from the light enters the garage switch box and two cables exit. One contains the red + black & white travelers, and the other contains the unused black and the neutral from the light.

In regards to the comment about the start of the problem, I don't know when the problem started. It predates my ownership of this house.
 
  #13  
Old 09-10-15, 06:47 PM
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Chairish, Try to determine what wiring is original to the house & what wiring was added at a later date even if the date predates your ownership. I believe that's where the problem is. For example, is some of the wiring BX & some Romex?

Secondly, can you post some wide angled pics, of the wiring in the garage?
 
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Old 09-10-15, 06:54 PM
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Please answer my question and we will go from there.
Do you have receptacles in the garage fed by the black wire of the light cable?
 
  #15  
Old 09-11-15, 06:09 PM
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Ok, new picture that better shows wires grouped into cables and the relationship of outlets. Yes, there are outlets that use the black wire light cable.


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  #16  
Old 09-11-15, 06:37 PM
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If you wire it according to my diagram in post #2 it will work. Not sure why you keep trying to invent the wheel.

You current diagram has a red wire that goes nowhere and a two conductor cable whose neutral in a non code compliant way for the light. The neutral for the light must be in the same cable as the hot. That is the 3-conductor cable.
 
  #17  
Old 09-12-15, 11:41 AM
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I've tried using the two side screws for the travelers but that doesn't work either. With the original configuration it was pretty clear that the house switch was always charging one traveler or the other. The two travelers on one side arrangement leads to cases where neither traveler is charged.

Anyway, thanks everyone for your suggestions.
 
  #18  
Old 09-12-15, 12:16 PM
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It is normal for one traveler to be hot. Flip the switch the other should now be hot.
 
  #19  
Old 09-12-15, 01:10 PM
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I've tried using the two side screws for the travelers
Are you sure both screws are travelers? Position of the travelers on a switch will vary with the manufacturer. Positions given in a diagram may be different from yours. The two same color screws regardless of position on the switch are the travelers. The odd colored screw (not green) is the common.

Note sometimes for reasons lost in time a cable will be used that has more wires than needed. In that case the unneeded wire is caped with a wire nut on both ends and not used.

Also note the "hot" wire must be in the same cable (raceway, or conduit) as the neutral to limit heating effects. A neutral in another cable can't be used. If you find this done it must be corrected. Grandfathering doesn't apply because it was never correct.
 
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