3 Way Switch with No Hope in Sight


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Old 03-21-14, 12:45 PM
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3 Way Switch with No Hope in Sight

Hi Everyone,

I have a set of 3 way switches that have kicked my butt. I feel like I have tried every combination possible and still do not have any light. I have 2 switches for my back porch lights, 1 in Master bedroom, 1 in the living room.

I used my cheapo multimeter to determine which wire is "always hot" in box 1.

Box 1 is the 1st picture. The black wire connected to the dark screw is the "common" terminal. The other black and red wire are from the same cable (Romex?) which are connected to the "traveler/brass" terminals.

The second picture is box 2.

Initially, there was a white wire loose in the junction box, which I wire nutted with the other white wires. The top red wire on the right is the only wire from that cable (black wire is nutted with another black wire in the top left, white wire is nutted with the other whites). The other red and black cable are from the same cable with the white nutted off.

I have no clue what is wired incorrectly....please help!!!!
 
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Old 03-21-14, 01:07 PM
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multimeter to determine which wire is "always hot" in box 1
If that was from a 2-conductor cable and black it goes to the common in that switch box. In the other switch box the white of the 3-conductor cable you connected to the neutral bundle goes to the white of the 2-conductor cable to the light. The black of the 2-conductor cable to the light goes to the common.
 
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Old 03-21-14, 01:32 PM
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In box 1, the black is from a 2 conductor cable and is connected to the common, so box 1 should be wired correctly.

In box 2 there are two 3-conductor cables and one 2-conductor cables. All of the white cables are bundled together. Is this incorrect?

Also, the black from the 2-conductor was "nutted" with one of the blacks from one of the 3 conductor cables. This layout was there previously which is why I didn't touch it.

Should I pull the black from the 2 conductor cable and put it on the common? If I do that, what do I do with the 2 red wires and the other exposed black wire?
 
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Old 03-21-14, 02:13 PM
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Where does the second 3-conductor cable in box 2 go? Does the 2-conductor cable in box 2 go to the light?
 
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Old 03-21-14, 02:28 PM
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I don't have any exact knowledge of how the lights themselves are wired, but the 2 conductor cable and one of the 3 conductor cables come from the bottom of the junction box and the other 3 conductor cable enters through the top of the junction box (I assume those go up to the lights?).
 
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Old 03-21-14, 03:21 PM
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Sounds like the circuit is fed at box 1 (black wire from 2-conductor cable), which is connected to common (like you said). The black and red from the 3-conductor cable are your travelers, which should connect to the two brass screws on the other switch (box 2). In box 2, my guess would be that one 3-conductor cable comes from box 1 and the other comes from the lights, with the red wire being the switch-leg (connect to common/black screw). The 2-conductor cable is probably feeding a plug. If the travelers in box 1 come from the same cable and the travelers at box 2 come from the same cable then the lights should work. If not, my next step would be to check the wiring inside the light boxes. Sorry to ask, but you're sure the light bulbs are good? Was the circuit working prior to installing the new switches?
 
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Old 03-21-14, 03:45 PM
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Yes, all light bulbs are good. The switches worked half-way prior to attempting to install the new switches. By half-way I mean that only 1 switch could control the lights, not both.

I took the red wire (top right in picture 2) or the lone red wire (the black and white were capped off) and connected it to the common.

I took the remaining red and black wires (from the same cable) and connected them to the brass screws and still no power...

I don't want to call an electrician, but it's slowly seeming like that may be the case. Our house has various electrical oddities (2 "dead" switches, 2 empty junction boxes in random walls, etc.)
 
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Old 03-21-14, 05:12 PM
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The switch in the second picture isn't a dimmer, is it? Either way, you need to expose the wires at the lights to make sure that the neutral & the hot lead go to the correct places.
 
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Old 03-21-14, 05:24 PM
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I'm coming in late and I don't want to confuse the issue. You said that the two wire cable coming into box one contains the hot wire. Are you sure ? Did you take the wire off the switch to check it ?
 
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Old 03-22-14, 05:55 AM
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I took the remaining red and black wires (from the same cable) and connected them to the brass screws and still no power...
You mean from the same box? There are only one pair of red/black wires per cable.

If only one switch worked before, then something isn't right. Hard to say what without being there. Could be as simple as a common and traveler being crossed. Before calling an electrician, I would disconnect the wires from both switches, pull the light fixtures, and start tracing everything out until you are certain which wires go where. Sketch a drawing as you go and post it here so we can provide further input.
 
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Old 04-17-14, 11:02 AM
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Ok guys, sorry for the delay in response.

The question from Pulpo asking about a dimmer got me thinking about my lights and remembered that on the top of each light fixture is a "photo cell". I looked the lights up online and they are "Dusk-to-Dawn" lights which turn on/off automatically based on the available sunlight.

Took everything off and investigated the wires. I'm not sure how my house didn't burn down this entire time...loose wires everywhere, no wirenuts...

Purchased entirely new lights without the auto capability (mainly because I never used the auto feature and the old fixture only used 13w bulbs) and reconnected/capped off all wires accordingly.

Thanks again for all of the help!!!!
 
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Old 04-17-14, 11:29 AM
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Thanks for letting us know the solution. It may help someone else.
 
 

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