3-way Switch Issue


  #1  
Old 06-25-17, 09:39 PM
G
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: United States
Posts: 15
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
3-way Switch Issue

I did some recent drilling in the ceiling, which may or may not have caused this issue (I honestly don't know):
1. There is a 3-way switch to two canister lights.
2. Both switches work perfectly by themselves.
3. When both switches are used together, one does not turn off the light if the other one is on.
4. As soon as you flip both switches, you can only turn off the lights with the second switch you used.

What might be my issue? How can I diagnose/fix this?
 
  #2  
Old 06-26-17, 05:54 AM
S
Banned. Rule And/Or Policy Violation
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: USA
Posts: 700
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Did the problem just start after you drilled? See if one of the wires came loose.
 
  #3  
Old 06-26-17, 08:21 AM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 13,970
Received 194 Upvotes on 170 Posts
Sounds like one of the switches has a traveller transposed with a common. This would cause your issue.
 
  #4  
Old 06-26-17, 03:54 PM
S
Banned. Rule And/Or Policy Violation
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: USA
Posts: 700
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Sounds like one of the switches has a traveller transposed with a common.
That would make sense if the problem was there since day 1. That's why I asked if the problem started when he drilled?
 
  #5  
Old 06-26-17, 09:10 PM
G
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: United States
Posts: 15
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
I am almost positive this problem hasn't been here since day 1. We have lived in this house for two years. I'd like to think I would have noticed this 3-way issue (it's in the kitchen), so I think it is a new issue. Is it possible that there is a loose wire in one of the switches?
Now I tried the switches again and it looks like if either light switch is up, the lights will be on and if both light switches are up the lights will be on. So basically both switches have to be off for the light to be off. Does that make any difference?
 
  #6  
Old 06-26-17, 09:14 PM
PJmax's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Jersey
Posts: 64,639
Received 3,892 Upvotes on 3,489 Posts
It will not be a loose wire. If the problem has not been there since day one then it is a new problem and you may have drilled and shorted the cable.

Switch position makes no difference in a three way circuit.
 
  #7  
Old 06-26-17, 09:20 PM
G
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: United States
Posts: 15
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
I think it seems more likely the lights are wired like this picture (https://i.stack.imgur.com/dJmSs.gif) and one of the wires in between the two lights got damaged?
 
  #8  
Old 06-26-17, 09:23 PM
PJmax's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Jersey
Posts: 64,639
Received 3,892 Upvotes on 3,489 Posts
You can't guess. There are many combinations of wiring a three way circuit. The one you linked to is rarely used.

What is the type of wiring in the house..... metal clad(BX) romex(NM-b) ?

You may have to pull the switches out of the wall and take and post some pictures of the wiring. http://www.doityourself.com/forum/el...-pictures.html
 
  #9  
Old 06-26-17, 10:29 PM
G
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: United States
Posts: 15
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
I know these are terrible pictures, but attached are pictures of both switches. I couldn't pull the switch out any further without pulling out all of the switches, and I did not have enough time.

What I can say is:
1. In box 1 (picture 4), there are two ground wires attached by a wire nut, then attached to the switch. There are two white wires attached by a wire nut, then attached to the switch. The switch has a white, black, red, and ground wire attached.
2. In box 2 (picture 1, 2, 3), the switch has a black, red, and ground wire attached, but no white wire.
Once I get more time, I will pull all of the switches out of the box to determine if that is an issue, but I do think it is far more likely i cut a wire somewhere else.

Name:  IMG_0692.jpg
Views: 222
Size:  42.1 KBName:  IMG_0691.jpg
Views: 204
Size:  38.1 KBName:  IMG_0690.jpg
Views: 197
Size:  35.6 KBName:  IMG_0688.jpg
Views: 196
Size:  30.0 KB
 
  #10  
Old 06-26-17, 10:37 PM
PJmax's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Jersey
Posts: 64,639
Received 3,892 Upvotes on 3,489 Posts
You can ignore the grounds. They are required but we don't need to discuss them.

I'm concerned with two white wires combined and attached to the switch. That doesn't really make sense.

Also.... a three way switch MUST have three wires on it. From what you are describing...... it sounds like this three way circuit never operated correctly.
 
  #11  
Old 06-27-17, 12:46 AM
C
Member
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 40
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
I have gone to many service calls where people used a 3 way system for years and it was wired incorrectly. A simple way to test is lets say the light is on go to either switch and flip it and it should go off, if it does then go to the other switch and flip it and the light should come on again, if it does the system is fine and if not then pull both switches out and you should see 3 wires going to each switch, now a correctly wired switch should have 2 wires coming out of one cable and going to 2 screws on the switch those screws should be the same color and the black screw should only have one wire coming from a different cable. If you see that only one is wired the correct way then make the other match and that should fix it. The color of the wires going to the switch don't worry about that just focus on the number of wires coming out of the whole cable and going to the screws on the switch
 
  #12  
Old 07-04-17, 02:19 PM
G
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: United States
Posts: 15
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Update:

Update:
After looking for cut wiring in the ceiling, we decided to replace the switches. We replaced one and, with that switch still hanging out of the wall and the other one untouched, the switches worked exactly like normal 3-way switches should.

We put that one back in the wall and replaced the other one, and now the breaker trips every time we try to turn it back on.

I have looked for any bare wires touching each other (other than the grounds that are all screwed together with a wire nut), and checked to see if I put the wires all back in the correct spots. I don't think I put the switches back together incorrectly.

What could be the issue? Is there a way to isolate which switch has the issue or narrow down where the issue is?
 
  #13  
Old 07-04-17, 02:50 PM
pugsl's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: United States
Posts: 8,161
Received 77 Upvotes on 70 Posts
Look for sharp edges or ground wire points sticking up Look for a burnt spot on switch or wires.
 
  #14  
Old 07-04-17, 03:22 PM
PJmax's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Jersey
Posts: 64,639
Received 3,892 Upvotes on 3,489 Posts
Typically what happens is that the insulation is compromised where the wire comes into the box and shorts to the clamp. You must work very carefully with older wiring as the insulation is easily broken.
 
  #15  
Old 07-04-17, 03:55 PM
G
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: United States
Posts: 15
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
No burnt spots or anything here.
Is there a way to wire things to narrow down where the issue is or cut these two switches out of my circuit? I tried taking both switches off and turning the breaker back on, but of course that didn't work.
At this point, for now, I wouldn't mind the lights not working so I can get that breaker back on.
 
  #16  
Old 07-04-17, 04:11 PM
G
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: United States
Posts: 15
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Attached are my wiring diagrams if that helps.
 
  #17  
Old 07-04-17, 04:17 PM
G
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: United States
Posts: 15
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Name:  IMG_0778.jpg
Views: 179
Size:  22.0 KB
Correct Wiring Diagram #1 attached
 
  #18  
Old 07-04-17, 04:20 PM
G
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: United States
Posts: 15
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Correct Wiring Diagram #2 attached.
Name:  IMG_0779.jpg
Views: 158
Size:  33.1 KB
 
  #19  
Old 07-04-17, 04:23 PM
G
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: United States
Posts: 15
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
What clamp are you talking about?
 
  #20  
Old 07-04-17, 10:45 PM
G
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: United States
Posts: 15
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
3 way switch Help

I had a 3 way switch that stopped working After looking for cut wiring in the ceiling (we had been drilling there on the same day), we decided to replace the switches. We replaced one and, with that switch still hanging out of the wall and the other one untouched, the switches worked exactly like normal 3-way switches should.

We put that one back in the wall and replaced the other one, and now the breaker trips every time we try to turn it back on.

I have looked for any bare wires touching each other (other than the grounds that are all screwed together with a wire nut), and checked to see if I put the wires all back in the correct spots. I don't think I put the switches back together incorrectly.

What could be the issue? Is there a way to isolate which switch has the issue or narrow down where the issue is?
Is there a way to get those switches off of the circuit so I can at least get the breaker on?

I will post wiring diagrams. Box one has a dimmer and a 3-way. Box 2 has 2 regular switches and the other 3-way.

I think tomorrow I am going to get there new switches to trade out the old ones to narrow down the problem.
 
  #21  
Old 07-04-17, 10:48 PM
G
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: United States
Posts: 15
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Name:  IMG_0778.jpg
Views: 250
Size:  21.9 KBName:  IMG_0779.jpg
Views: 254
Size:  33.0 KB
These are the wiring diagrams.
R is red, b is black, c is copper, w is white.
 
  #22  
Old 07-04-17, 11:02 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 29,711
Upvotes: 0
Received 15 Upvotes on 13 Posts
Really can't make heads or tails of your diagram. (Also do not include ground in your diagrams. They just clutter them up but are not needed.)

Unless you have conduit it is easier to think of wiring in terms of cables. How many 2-conductor cables (black, white) and how many 3-conductor cables (black, red, white) in each box? Most important where does power come in, switch or light. If switch which switch. (You can not use a non contact tester to determine which cable is hot.)

Some Examples:

Name:  3-way_PWR-SW-1R.png
Views: 258
Size:  53.9 KB
Power in at the switch.

Name:  3-way_Dead-end-1.jpg
Views: 380
Size:  37.0 KB
Power in at the switch.

Name:  3-way-load_Switch-Loop.jpg
Views: 1105
Size:  39.2 KB
Power in at the light.
 
  #23  
Old 07-04-17, 11:17 PM
G
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: United States
Posts: 15
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Box 1 - 2 x 2 wire cables, 1x3 wire cable
(1 dimmer switch, 1 3-way)

Box 2 - 4x 2 wire cables, 1x 3 wire cable
The power is also coming into box 2.
(2 regular switches, 1 3-way)
 
  #24  
Old 07-04-17, 11:29 PM
G
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: United States
Posts: 15
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Here is a better diagram with no grounds

Name:  (1).jpg
Views: 282
Size:  27.8 KB

Name:  IMG_0781a.jpg
Views: 172
Size:  17.2 KB
 

Last edited by ray2047; 07-05-17 at 01:21 AM. Reason: Crop, enlarge. and adjust color.
  #25  
Old 07-05-17, 01:34 AM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 29,711
Upvotes: 0
Received 15 Upvotes on 13 Posts
My middle diagram is a reverse image of what your wiring should be. I have assigned box numbers based on your diagram. Just remember the box on the left of your diagram is on the right of my diagram.

Name:  3-way_Dead-end-1.jpg
Views: 526
Size:  38.2 KB

Her is a reverse images that matches yours.
Name:  3-way_Dead-end-1.jpg
Views: 792
Size:  38.9 KB
 

Last edited by ray2047; 07-05-17 at 01:57 AM.
  #26  
Old 07-05-17, 05:49 AM
G
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: United States
Posts: 15
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Ok. So now I know it's wired correctly, there has to be a short or ground fault somewhere. How do I find it? How do I narrow it down ?
 
  #27  
Old 07-05-17, 12:35 PM
PJmax's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Jersey
Posts: 64,639
Received 3,892 Upvotes on 3,489 Posts
The clamp I mentioned is where the cable enters the box.

You had the circuit working fine with both switches out of the boxes. You put the switches into the box and now have a short.

That tells me there is a short at one of the two boxes.

Help ?

Start by taking the switches back out of the box.
It is NOT always easy to see where the short is. There is not always an arc mark.
You need to look closely anywhere the wire comes near the box (ground).

Not sure why a second thread was started on the same topic but they have been combined into one.
 

Last edited by PJmax; 07-05-17 at 01:03 PM.
  #28  
Old 07-05-17, 02:24 PM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 13,970
Received 194 Upvotes on 170 Posts
Pull the replaced switch out of the box and see if the breaker still trips. If it does not you need to tuck the wires into the box more carefully so a ground does not touch any of the switch screws.
 
 

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
 
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Description:
Your question will be posted in: