3 way switch problem


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Old 12-10-16, 12:26 PM
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3 way switch problem

I've replaced countless switches, sockets and fixtures in my life but this one has me stumped.

Previous owner was big on dimmers and in our kitchens is a 2 switch light and one has a dimmer (sunrise remote zpr-3) with small located bulb. As others have discovered led bulbs and switches with locator light switches don't play well together. So I bought a standard 3 pole switch to replace it because we don't need a dimmer.

I have 4 wires: black, red, white and bare. I wire it all up according to the schematic and it works... except the other switch does nothing. I take this one off and see there is 1 red, 1 bare and 3 wires together black going into it. There's 3 white as well but they're not connected and tucked away. I figure maybe the switch isn't playing well and proceed to replace with another 3 pole switch. If I wore just the black and red it doesn't work, if I wore the black, red and white it trips the breaker. I've kept the twisted together wires in tact so far. is it something to do with the previous remote dimmer setup?

Thoughts?
 
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Old 12-10-16, 01:12 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

Your current wiring is setup for an electronic remote dimmer/switch.
You are working with 3 way switches. You will now need two of them.... one at each end.

At the one end you have a three wire cable.... red, white and black ONLY..... is that correct ?

At the other end you should have that same three wire cable.
What other cables do you have there ?

Currently the ground wire is being used as a current carrying wire and is incorrect.
 
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Old 12-10-16, 04:19 PM
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Thanks for the reply, at one end I have the 3 wire and bare ground. The same setup at the other end except there are 3 black wires twisted together and 3 white twisted. Just 1 red and 1 ground. I can take a picture if that helps
 
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Old 12-10-16, 05:25 PM
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other end except there are 3 black wires twisted together and 3 white twisted.
There should be a 3-conductor cable (red, black, white). You need to identify the 3 wires from that cable. Isolate those wires. It sounds like you also have two two conductor cables (black, white). Is that correct?

At the other end tell us the color of the wires connected to the traveler terminals and the color wire connected to the common terminal.
 
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Old 12-10-16, 05:25 PM
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Ok... so that means at the second end you have a three wire cable and 2) two wire cables.
That makes perfect sense...... a two wire for power in, a two wire for the light and a three wire switch line to the other switch.

3 black wires twisted together and 3 white twisted
That doesn't make any sense. That doesn't allow for any switching.

If you are 100% sure that's what you have then you will need to open all the splices.
You will need to find out which two wire cable is the feed and is always live.
You will need to verify the other two wire cable goes to the light.
 
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Old 12-10-16, 05:51 PM
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I believe this is what Pete is describing.

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Old 12-10-16, 05:59 PM
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That's exactly how I'd expect the circuit to look.

The three blacks combined and the three whites combined is puzzling.
It right up there with using the ground as a neutral.
 
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Old 12-10-16, 06:41 PM
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Currently I have the light working from a single 3 pole switch with the other switches caped. The other switch is the one i cannot get to work. All the wires are the same color as the working switch but there are more than one. When I opened it up to replace the switch the whites were not even a part of the previous working switch. Just the 3 blacks, the ground and single red. I don't know if the issue is in the other switch or what... I have black as hot and white as neutral and red as the traveler per the switch instructions. I tried other combinations in my trouble shooting and this is the only combo that worked, however I had not messed with the other switch and stopped messing when the breaker started tripping. <img src="https://i107.photobucket.com/albums/m312/belo83/17272F83-E0C5-434B-A576-2A007D45CBB2_zpswcrkpzea.jpg" width="600" height="800"/>
 
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Old 12-10-16, 06:48 PM
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These are the 2 switches I bought. On the single terminal side I have the red. On the double side I have the black at the bottom (also the color of the terminal) and white at the top. https://m.lowes.com/pd/Legrand-Radia...tch/1000001252
 
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Old 12-10-16, 07:22 PM
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I have the black at the bottom (also the color of the terminal)
The dark gray terminal is common. If you look at my diasgram you will see that on the dead end switch white goes to common and the red and black are travelers. Follow the diagram and it should work.

Attachment 74268

Note terms like top and bottom of the switch are meaningless. There is no top or bottom. The common is what counts and it can be anywhere on the switch. Its position may be different from my diagram. The important thing is to put the common wire on the odd colored screw, usually dark gray. The travelers are interchangeable.
 
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Old 12-11-16, 04:13 AM
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Thanks for the help, I'll try that but when I was replacing the dimmer side that orientation (white common and red and black travelers) didn't work, even though I had yet to mess with the other switch... knowing previously that it had worked.

Is my issue that remote dimmers are wired differently than toggles? If white is common I'm still baffled by the whites being tucked away and not even being connected to one of the switches.

Also might pick up a non contact line tester to help
 
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Old 12-11-16, 04:38 AM
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I was replacing the dimmer side that orientation (white common and red and black travelers) didn't work, even though I had yet to mess with the other switch.
No law the previous person used the same color scheme I did. You can't assume. You must pick a color scheme and wire both switches using that color scheme.

If I had been doing it I would have used the color scheme at the dead end switch. You can substitute that color scheme for the one I posted if you want.
  • Just remember the color wire connected to common at the dead end switch goes to black of the cable to light at the switch where power comes in.
  • And at the switch where power comes in black of power in goes to the common.
  • Remaining two wires of the 3-wire cable goes to the traveler screws at the power in switch.
  • White of power in and white to the light are connected together.

Note: You must use a multimeter (or neon test light or solenoid voltage tester) to determine which 2-conductor cable when disconnected is hot. (A non contact tester can't be used.)
 

Last edited by ray2047; 12-11-16 at 04:57 AM.
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Old 12-11-16, 06:16 AM
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Using the same color scheme on both ends tripped the breaker. Was going to use the tester to at least verify what color is hot.

The house was built in 92 and the switches original and working. So I find it hard to believe the builder changed schemes.

It's not like I'm trouble shooting a faulty setup, I'm just trying to replace switches that don't play nice with led bulbs.

I really appreciate your help by the way.
 
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Old 12-11-16, 06:26 AM
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By the way, looking at the diagram closer, do I understand it that the common on each switch will be a different color based off the light fixture? White common in one and black in the other?
 
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Old 12-11-16, 06:29 AM
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Based on your picture in post #8 that is not wiring for a 3-way switch. The whites are the neutrals, the blacks are your hots, and the red would be a switch leg. Please post a picture of the other box with the wires pulled out and perhaps we can figure this out. If you have a multi-meter that would be handy too.
 
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Old 12-11-16, 06:41 AM
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Other switch is the same, but just a single bl, rd, wh and bare.

It was wired for this remote dimmer thing without the whites even hooked up.

I do have a multi meter
 
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Old 12-11-16, 06:52 AM
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Was going to use the tester to at least verify what color is hot.
If you mean a non contact tester it is useless for determining what wire is hot.
do I understand it that the common on each switch will be a different color based off the light fixture?
Yes.

Tolyn wrote:
The whites are the neutrals
That only applies to the whites of the 2-conductor cables. The white of the 3-conductor cable is hot. If you mixed up the whites that would trip the breaker.

As Tolyn asked we really need to see pictures of the other switch box. http://www.doityourself.com/forum/li...rt-images.html.

It's not like I'm trouble shooting a faulty setup
The set up shown won't work for non electronic switches which is what you are installing.
 
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Old 12-11-16, 07:23 AM
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Again, if all the wire splices were not changed, then the group of whites should be neutrals. However, if things have changed and the wires have been moved around, then we have to almost start from scratch.

Other switch is the same, but just a single bl, rd, wh and bare.
So there is only one cable in the other box? I still would like a picture so I can see what you are seeing.
 
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Old 12-11-16, 08:33 AM
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This picture makes no sense for a mechanical switch. The white of the 3-conductor cable should not be connected to the neutrals for a mechanical switch but may have been done to provide a neutral for an electronic switch in the other box. You have replaced the dead end switch with a mechanical switch haven't you?

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Old 12-11-16, 09:02 AM
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I promise you it worked ray. I havent touched a thing
 
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Old 12-11-16, 10:59 AM
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current working switch (other than the other switch not working)
<img src="https://i107.photobucket.com/albums/m312/belo83/682AC906-BB9C-4EF9-820C-F1907845B6B9_zpstnsz5i0l.jpg" width="800" height="600"/>

the pair i'm trying to replace. they worked fine before i took them out.
dimmer on right is wired by only the one wire and currently working. notice how the remote only has 2 wires.
<img src="https://i107.photobucket.com/albums/m312/belo83/8FF79AC0-2677-4235-9244-430E177994BB_zpsvpum1cl0.jpg" width="800" height="600"/>

<img src="https://i107.photobucket.com/albums/m312/belo83/AE34F5AF-6E3C-495E-87D7-9C74DA35E2A3_zpsqgcxdyyk.jpg" width="600" height="800"/>
 
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Old 12-11-16, 11:19 AM
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So the second switch box is a two gang box with two switches. You didn't tell us that and that is important. Show us all the wires in the box and how they are connected. Pull out the other switch still connected and give us a head on shot of the switch and wires coming into the box.

Really confused was there a switch in the single gang box you were showing us? If not it wasn't a 3-way switch. The dimmers in your picture do not seem to be 3-way switches. Yet the switces you bought were 3-way. Really confused.
 
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Old 12-11-16, 11:32 AM
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The other box is on a separate circuit and breaker that goes to a hallway light
 
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Old 12-11-16, 11:45 AM
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Just tested both sets of wires with switches removed. Black is hot on both ends. Red only working on 1 end with nothing connected. Red working on both ends with working switch wired in
 
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Old 12-11-16, 11:48 AM
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I can't get any power to white. I'm wondering if I should isolate the one wire that has the red with it...
<img src="https://i107.photobucket.com/albums/m312/belo83/F13CF30A-7010-41F6-A890-B86427131B09_zps37zye3zf.jpg" width="600" height="800"/>
 
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Old 12-11-16, 12:00 PM
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dimmer on right is wired by only the one wire and currently working.
One wire or one cable? A switch will not work with only one wire connected.

The two gang box:
The right one appears to be a 3 way
The left I can't tell.
Which one of these switches are you working on?
Is the 3 way that is hanging out new?
Is all the wires connected to this switch all from the same cable?

The other box is on a separate circuit and breaker that goes to a hallway light
Is this the other end of the 3 way?
Do the 3 ways control the hall light? (IF not, show us the box of the other 3 way)

At this point, testing the wires are not useful until we can determine what cables we are working with. As Ray pointed out, With electronic switches, things may have been rewired. You are installing mechanical switches which may need rewiring.
 
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Old 12-11-16, 12:04 PM
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In the double gang box, the switch on the left is a separate circuit. The switch pulled out is the one with the new 2 pole. 1 cable with 3 wires plus ground all working and connected. Power to white works with switch on.
The bare wires in the pic below is the other end that will not work.
 
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Old 12-11-16, 12:24 PM
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The switch pulled out is the one with the new 2 pole.
New 3 way, not a two pole.

1 cable with 3 wires plus ground all working and connected.
How do you know this? Are you using a non-contact tester or a multi-meter?

The wiring you have now will never work and will trip the breaker, as you have found out.

I want you to disconnect the wires going to the 3 way switch in the two gang box.
Then, disconnect the wires of the three wire cable (black, red, white) in the single gang box. Leave the grounds connected in both boxes.
Take a wire nut and connect the red and black wires in the two gang box together. In the single gang box, take your meter set to ohms or continutity and check between the black and red wires. You should read continutity or very low resistance.

This will confirm that the three wire cable is the same on both ends.
 
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Old 12-11-16, 12:42 PM
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I promise you it worked
I haven't studied the entire thread, too many details.
If the dimmer (both switches) worked before, and you want to replace the dimmer with a 3-way switch, then it should be easy.
The dimmer wiring should have been:
Line - Black
Red - Load
Yellow - three way application
 
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Old 12-11-16, 01:55 PM
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Spent the last hour troubleshooting starting from scratch. I have determined that I have a feed from the panel into the non working switch (just 1 live black). If I disconnect everything then no kitchen lights work. I have 4 separate lights in the kitchen. One is a disconnected fixture so I don't know if it's part of this mess. And 1 is just a light above the sink that I believe is a part of the counter recessed lighting. These 3 are all 1 way but the power to the recessed counter lighting is definitely fed through this one switch/ box as it doesn't work when the bundle is undone in this picture
<img src="https://i107.photobucket.com/albums/m312/belo83/17272F83-E0C5-434B-A576-2A007D45CBB2_zpswcrkpzea.jpg" width="600" height="800"/>
No matter what combination I use I cannot get the 2 way to work. If the wires are bundled without a switch the one 2 way and the recessed lighting works. When I attempt to wire in the second 2 way I get nothing or tripped breakers and I'm at my wits end.
<img src="https://i107.photobucket.com/albums/m312/belo83/922EF50D-0501-4F47-8D70-577483A83C98_zpssf1o4xbd.jpg" width="800" height="600"/>
 
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Old 12-11-16, 02:03 PM
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I haven't studied the entire thread, too many details.
If the dimmer (both switches) worked before, and you want to replace the dimmer with a 3-way switch, then it should be easy.
The dimmer wiring should have been:
Line - Black
Red - Load
Yellow - three way application
you'd think so, but i think these remote dimmer switches are wired differently than normal 2-ways
 
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Old 12-11-16, 02:14 PM
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No matter what combination I use I cannot get the 2 way to work.
That could be because there is no such thing. So do you mean a Single Pole Single Throw switch or a 3-way switch (SPDT)?
Black is hot on both ends. Red only working on 1 end
As Tolyn pointed out that sure sounds like you are using a non contact tester. Multiple times in multiple posts I have written you can NOT use a non contact tester. You need to use a cheap ($8-$10) analog multimeter. As Tolyn pointed out it is the wires of individual cables that count not just random wires but wires associated with a specific cable. Only one cable (almost certainly 2-conductor) will measure ~ 120 volts between its black and white wire.
 
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Old 12-11-16, 02:30 PM
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No matter what combination I use I cannot get the 2 way to work. If the wires are bundled without a switch the one 2 way and the recessed lighting works. When I attempt to wire in the second 2 way I get nothing or tripped breakers and I'm at my wits end.
There is no such thing as a 2 way. There are single pole switches and 3-way switches. (and 4-way switches but we won't go there ) Single pole switches control a light(s) from one location. 3-way switches control a light(s) from two locations.

Your wiring diagram is wrong. Rarely will a 3-way circuit run through a light box.

Did you disconnect the 3 wire cable and test like I asked you to? You did not answer any of my questions.
 
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Old 12-11-16, 02:54 PM
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Ater answering Tolyn's questions here is a visual on testing for the power in cable.

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Old 12-11-16, 03:05 PM
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You guys are helping me so I appreciate that, but pointing out semantics when you know what I meant isn't helping me.

My diagram may be wrong, but I promise you that's what I have according to my non-contact tester which i understand could be wrong...but when absolutely everything in that box is disconnected, just 1 wire is hot and none of my fixtures work, even that controlled by a different switch (single).

A feed into a single box of white and black and 2 bundles of wires going out. 1 of those has a red wire, the other does not. This box powers at least 2 fixtures I promise. One of these light fixtures is controlled by a 3 way switch, the other is not but both are on the same breaker and also seem to get their power through this one box.

I'm going to talk to an electrician who works for me tomorrow because I'm tired now and at that point I'll get my meter out as well.
 
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Old 12-11-16, 03:10 PM
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One wire or one cable? A switch will not work with only one wire connected.

The two gang box:
The right one appears to be a 3 way yes
The left I can't tell. also 3 way
Which one of these switches are you working on? the right
Is the 3 way that is hanging out new? yes
Is all the wires connected to this switch all from the same cable? yes

The other box is on a separate circuit and breaker that goes to a hallway light
Is this the other end of the 3 way? a separate 3 way yes
Do the 3 ways control the hall light? (IF not, show us the box of the other 3 way) not the 3 way in question no, separate circuit and breaker

At this point, testing the wires are not useful until we can determine what cables we are working with. As Ray pointed out, With electronic switches, things may have been rewired. You are installing mechanical switches which may need rewiring.
answers in bold. i will do the voltage test tomorrow thanks again for your help. As an engineer i hate when things do not work and have to solve them... but honestly i'm at the point of just going back to the other switches and finding some non-led bulbs. With hunting season and the holidays in full swing I just don't have the time.
 
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Old 12-11-16, 03:14 PM
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OK.... just so we don't keep stepping on each other. You had a custom three way dimmer in there. That type of dimmer uses any switch at the other end to connect a traveler to neutral.

You had that remote switch being switched to the ground wire which to the switch is the same as neutral.

That tells me that there may have been a traveler problem. You may find that there is NO neutral at all. You may find that the twisted white is not a neutral and maybe a switched hot.

If you don't have the ability to open the wire connections up and test them..... then consulting an electrician is best. I have a feeling that some strange connections will be found if they did what I think they did.

So rather than bombing you with tests..... we'll wait to see what the electrician says.
 
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Old 12-11-16, 03:44 PM
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I do have the methods test, I'm a pretty good do it yourselfer and while environmental, I'm still an engineer. I'll admit to taking a bull in a China shop approach with this because I feel it's something simple and it's not the best time to deal with this problem right now, but one of the bulbs went out and I figured it was a 5 minute switch swap. Now that I'm in it I feel compelled to solve it and as a result several projects and 2 little boys were ignored today lol.

I figure just talking it out with him might help. And honestly if not, the old switches will go back in (if I can remember there configuration lol) and I'll find some cfl's
 
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Old 12-11-16, 04:35 PM
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I do have the methods test
Sorry but no you don't if you are using a non contact tester. Was just coming here to suggest you hire an electrician because this is just one of those situations that can probably only be solved hands on not by remote control. Wishing you the best of luck.
 
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Old 12-11-16, 04:59 PM
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I have a meter. Like I said I was trying to find an easy fix. It's clear after an hour monkeying with it today that I wasn't going to stumble upon the easy solution.
 
 

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