Light Fixture Connection to 3 Cables (10 Wires)


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Old 07-18-20, 05:11 PM
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Question Light Fixture Connection to 3 Cables (10 Wires)

Greetings! I'd appreciate some help resolving the wiring issue described below. Thank you.

Situation: Hallway has two parallel ceiling lights controlled by one 4-way switch and two 3-way switches. One light box (referred to as Light Box #2 from this point) contains two 4-wire cables and one 2-wire cable. Unable to determine proper wire connections for ceiling light fixture.

Switches: one 4-way switch and two 3-way switches
* 3-Way Switch #1 (by front door) – common wire is black, while traveler wires are red and white; appears to be closest to power source (breaker box in garage)
* 4-Way Switch (hallway) – common wires are red and white, while traveler wires are red and black
* 3-Way Switch #2 (by garage door) – common wire is black, while traveler wires are red and white

Light Box #2: contains three cables: two 4-wire and one 2-wire
* 2-Wire Cable – one black and one white wire; appears to run from Light Box #1 and serves as power source
* 4-Wire Cable #1 – one black, one white, one red and one ground wire; appears to come from either 4-way switch or 3-Way Switch #1 (by front door)
* 4-Wire Cable #2 – one black, one white, one red and one ground wire; appears to come from 3-Way Switch #2 (by garage door).

<img src="https://cimg5.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.doityourselft.com-vbulletin/1500x2000/1_hallway_lights_switches_v3_4f9b30d4e67f3840c12d6f53816cec1d7c9cfd16.jpg" width="1500" height="2000"/>
1 - Hallway Lights & Switches

<img src="https://cimg8.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.doityourselft.com-vbulletin/2000x1504/2_light_box_2_outside_v3_d54b08453a7f0bbc0884729fdb8f08416e581883.jpg" width="2000" height="1500"/>
2 - Light Box #2 (exterior)

<img src="https://cimg5.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.doityourselft.com-vbulletin/2000x1504/3_light_box_2_inside_v3_a5adf949f6d38e199763f9bf4dd85ea087a4848a.jpg" width="2000" height="1500"/>
3 - Light Box #2 (interior)

<img src="https://cimg9.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.doityourselft.com-vbulletin/689x768/sw1_25b2438776607c02b0a3dc295bab05f43336307d.jpg" width="689" height="768"/>
3-Way Switch #1 (front door)

<img src="https://cimg3.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.doityourselft.com-vbulletin/630x722/sw3_ec1ca3db4535925b55c4669be63eca531a25ff63.jpg" width="630" height="722"/>
4-Way Switch (hallway)

<img src="https://cimg0.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.doityourselft.com-vbulletin/692x854/sw2_4cf1e466494aae13e132cf400004ec827582fba2.jpg" width="692" height="854"/>
3-Way Switch #2 (garage)
 

Last edited by PJmax; 07-18-20 at 06:46 PM.
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Old 07-18-20, 05:16 PM
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Wow.... this is needlessly confusing.

FYI.... a two wire cable is white, black and ground. IE: 14/2 w/gr NM-b cable.
A three wire cable is white, black, red and ground. IE: 14/3 w/gr NM-b cable

What happened ?
Why did you open all the splices ?

It's going to take a few to get this sorted.
 
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Old 07-18-20, 05:59 PM
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I resized and labeled the three switch pictures.
One problem is that all the travelers should be the same two colors in a four way circuit.

Switch 1 (3w) - red and white are travelers and black is common.
Switch 2 (3w) - red and white are travelers and black is common.
Switch 3 (4w) - red and white travelers on one side and red and black travelers on the other side.

The two wire cable in the ceiling box likely ties the two lights together but it is not hot.
The hot will come from one of the switch boxes.

Look at switch 1 ....... red and white go into a 3wire cable. Where does the black wire go of that cable and where does the black wire come from on the switch common ?

Same thing for switch 2.
One of the switches may be a dead end 3w. That means all 3 wires from the 3w cable are on the switch.

Switch 3 ......... There should be 2) 3wire cables dedicated to the 4w switch. If red and black are on one side..... where is the white going ? If red and white are on the other side.... where is the black going ?

 
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Old 07-19-20, 05:13 AM
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Hi, I don’t see any 4 wire cables, any way , are the only splices you disturbed in that ceiling box, or did you also mess with the switches?
Geo
 
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Old 07-19-20, 10:19 AM
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Thank you so much for the responses and clarification!

When I bought this fixer house, I got help from family and friends to make some improvements. One of my overly curious assistants was intrigued by the abundance of wires in the light box and evidently didn't think they were all needed to hang the new fixture. When the simplified approach didn't work, he couldn't remember the original wiring combination. Since then, several people have tried to remedy the problem. However, to the best of my knowledge, no one has attempted to rewire the switches.

As far as the switch wiring question, the black wire on #1 and #2 come and go on the same cable as the travelers. With regard to #3, the black wire is pig-tailed with three black wires and the white is pig-tailed with three white wires.

Standing by for further questions and/or guidance...

~ Tom

 
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Old 07-19-20, 11:59 AM
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I left you questions. I need the answers to go on.
If I walked into a job like yours I'd use my toner and tracer to positively identify every cable.
 
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Old 07-19-20, 02:59 PM
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Hi, how many conductors are in the box at the other fixture? just look don’t touch anything.
as Pete suggested all the cables need to be positively identified, it is possible that the 2 wire cable from the other fixture is all that required in that box and the other 2. 3 wire cables get spliced together, who knows.
Geo
 

Last edited by Geochurchi; 07-19-20 at 03:23 PM.
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Old 07-19-20, 03:08 PM
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Pete,

Please see below for answers to your questions:

Q1) Look at switch 1 ....... red and white go into a 3wire cable. Where does the black wire go of that cable and where does the black wire come from on the switch common ?
A1) The black wire that connects to the switch common runs into the same 3-wire cable as the red and white travelers.


Q2) Same thing for switch 2. One of the switches may be a dead end 3w. That means all 3 wires from the 3w cable are on the switch.
A2) Same situation as Switch #1. The black wire that connects to the switch common runs into the same 3-wire cable as the red and white travelers.

Q3) Switch 3 ......... There should be 2) 3wire cables dedicated to the 4w switch. If red and black are on one side..... where is the white going ? If red and white are on the other side.... where is the black going ?
A3) For the 3-wire cable with red and black connected to one side of the switch, the remaining white is pig-tailed with three other white wires in the box. For the 3-wire cable with red and white connected to the other side of the switch, the remaining black wire is pig-tailed with three other black wires in the box.

Thanks again,
Tom
 
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Old 07-19-20, 04:36 PM
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Ok...... good job. We now know that....

Switch 1 is a dead end three way switch.
Switch 2 is a dead end three way switch.
Switch 3 (4way) is where the system is getting power.

So here's where we stand.
I'm still convinced that the two wire in ceiling box 2 is the feed to ceiling box 1 for the light.
We have 2) 3 wire cables in the ceiling box.
Since sw1 and 2 are using red and white for travelers...... one of them is connected to the 4w switch.

Look at the diagram.....
We need to find out which 3w switchbox has power. There should be always live on the black wire.
Let me know which switch is live.
Go to the light box. Check the 3w cables. One should have power on red. When the switch in the previous test is known.... flip that switch and the black should now have power. Label that cable as A.

<img src="https://cimg9.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.doityourselft.com-vbulletin/869x422/3w_93565ad424474d288a474fd3727b0d5c16773ccf.jpg" width="869" height="422"/>
This a guess based on known logic.
 
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Old 07-19-20, 11:28 PM
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Test results are as follows...

Q1) Look at the diagram..... We need to find out which 3w switchbox has power. There should be always live on the black wire. Let me know which switch is live.
A1) The live black wire is located in the 3-Way Switchbox #2 (garage) on the left side of the diagram. The red wire is also hot when the switch is off and on).

Q2) Go to the light box. Check the 3w cables. One should have power on red. When the switch in the previous test is known.... flip that switch and the black should now have power. Label that cable as A.
A2) In the lightbox, red in the 3-wire cable that apparently runs from Switch #3 (4-way) only has power when that switch is on. Black in same 3-wire cable always has power except when Switch #3 is on to redirect the power to red. Switch #2 (garage) does not seem to control any of the black wires in the light box.

The diagram and light box photo below are updated to reflect these test results.

~ Tom

<img src="https://cimg1.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.doityourselft.com-vbulletin/869x422/pete_s_diagram_v2_343fe5c4357b18ec9cab67a33066a665fc70129a.jpg" width="869" height="422"/>
Diagram v2 - Identification of Hot Wires
<img src="https://cimg5.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.doityourselft.com-vbulletin/1297x973/3_light_box_2_inside_v4_e46bb71a1f63d24c0692b4a0a56b0d896c25b680.jpg" width="1297" height="973"/>
Light Box #2 - Hot Wires Identified
 
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Old 07-20-20, 01:16 AM
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Are you using a two lead voltage tester or meter or non contact tester ?
Non contact testers only tell you when there is high voltage in the area. They can offer misleading positives.

A1) The live black wire is located in the 3-Way Switchbox #2 (garage) on the left side of the diagram. The red wire is also hot when the switch is off and on).
Can't be. Black is on common and always hot is expected. Red or white should be hot based on switch setting.
 
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Old 07-20-20, 05:25 AM
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Hi, how did you determine the white in cable A was the neutral? I would say your best bet would be to use an Ohm meter and check each cable, there are too many assumptions being made here, have you checked the wiring in the other fixture as I suggested previously?
Geo
 
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Old 07-20-20, 09:18 AM
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Geo..... that is my drawing. I made an educated guess and now we're confirming it.
 
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Old 07-20-20, 09:47 AM
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Got it Pete, seems like a lot going on there.
Geo
 
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Old 07-21-20, 12:39 AM
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I used a multimeter to check the AC voltage by touching the red probe to ground and the black to each wire. Will provide ohm readings tomorrow.

In the meantime, I opened Light Box #1 and discovered that it only has a 2-wire cable inside -- one black, one white and one ground. Please see photo below.

<img src="https://cimg1.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.doityourselft.com-vbulletin/1229x922/light_box_1_b90879898b50c07406e6ad7a033df7a91ef8e312.jpg" width="1229" height="922"/>
Light Box #1
 
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Old 07-21-20, 12:43 AM
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I'm still convinced that the two wire in ceiling box 2 is the feed to ceiling box 1 for the light.
ok...... that's confirmed.
 
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Old 07-21-20, 07:03 PM
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How did you determine the white in cable A was the neutral? I would say your best bet would be to use an Ohm meter and check each cable, there are too many assumptions being made here.
Please advise on the use of a multimeter to perform a resistance test on the cables. Other than removing the switch to confirm it works, haven't been able to find any applicable online tutorials. Thanks.

By the way, I double-checked 3-Way Switch #2 in the garage and confirmed that the black and red wires are hot when the switch is in both the off and on position. I plan to remove the switch and verify that its working properly, as well test each disconnected wire.
 
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Old 07-21-20, 07:31 PM
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Looks like switch is bad. I got an ohm reading on the red traveler screw when the switch was in both positions, so that probably explains why it was always hot. Going to buy a replacement and install this evening, Will keep you posted.
 
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Old 07-21-20, 09:47 PM
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Okay, replaced the 3-way switch in the garage and attached the wires the same as before with black on common, while red and white are travelers.

On the switch, black is still live. In the off position, red still has power as well, but transfers it to white when the switch is flipped on. At least that's how I'm interpreting the situation.

In Light Box #2, looking at the previously identified power cable that appears to run from the 4-way switch, black still has power when 3-Way Switch #2 is in the off position. However, when that switch is flipped on, the power now goes to the red wire in the same cable.
 

Last edited by Tomcat9121; 07-21-20 at 09:51 PM. Reason: Missing Word / Clarification
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Old 07-22-20, 05:23 AM
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Hi, this is what a 3 way connection should look like with no 4 way switch , if you were to remove the 4 way switch, splice the conductors together , red to red. Black to white at box , white neutral to white of light fixture , black from other 3 way to black of fixture.
<img src="https://cimg5.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.doityourselft.com-vbulletin/395x431/diag_6b68bbcd3f706f5e58c00db0f71094dfe8718106.jpg" width="395" height="431"/>
 

Last edited by PJmax; 07-22-20 at 06:22 PM. Reason: Add a pic
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Old 07-22-20, 06:38 PM
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On the switch, black is still live. In the off position, red still has power as well, but transfers it to white when the switch is flipped on.
This is correct. Not what you previously said.
Look at the diagram. The dark terminal is common. The dark terminal switches from one brass screw to the other one. So if the dark screw is always hot..... it will switch hot from red to white depending on switch location. So in the diagram I have shown switch 2 correctly.
<img src="https://cimg9.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.doityourselft.com-vbulletin/696x338/pete_s_diagram_v2_343fe5c4357b18ec9cab67a33066a665fc70129a_3bd627d484db26079ba0bf41ec08f013f06e5939.jpg" width="696" height="338"/>
The red and white from switch 2 are connected to the 4w switch as shown. That means on cable A..... the red and black will alternate hot depending on where switch 2 is and switch 3 is. That would mean white is neutral or dead.

Please confirm this?

If you have an ohmmeter..... see if switch 1 is cable B at the ceiling. Measure from black to white and black to red. You should see a short on one pair depending on switch position. If you change the switch... the short will change pairs. Just give me a yes or no on this.
 
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Old 07-22-20, 07:47 PM
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Geo, I apologize for the slow uptake, but not fully tracking.

1) Are you recommending that I rewire the 3-way switch in the garage to match the diagram by replacing the white wire with another black?

2) If I remove the 4-way switch, how do I handle the previously connected wires on that end and/or in the light box?

3) In the light box, that leaves the 3-wire cable from the switch in the garage and the 2-wire cable from the other light box. By disconnecting the 4-way switch, the previously connected red wire is no longer available. That doesn't match up with your proposal.

Again, sorry if I missed the intent of your post. If that's the case, please clarify. It just seems a bit confusing for a novice like me.

Honestly though, I'd like to keep troubleshooting with the 4-way switch still in place. Any other ideas?

Respectfully,
Tom
 
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Old 07-22-20, 09:01 PM
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Thumbs up

If you have an ohmmeter..... see if switch 1 is cable B at the ceiling. Measure from black to white and black to red. You should see a short on one pair depending on switch position. If you change the switch... the short will change pairs. Just give me a yes or no on this.
Pete,
Yes! Confirmed that Cable B is from Switch 1...
 
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Old 07-22-20, 09:59 PM
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You're doing great.
You've confirmed switch 1 and 2 wiring..... that's good. We're almost there.

Look at the 4w switch in the diagram. You'll see the red and white wires from switch 2 on there.
You'll see the red and black that also connect to the switch. You've confirmed that cable A is the three wire cable at switch 3.

I just want you to confirm up at the light box on cable A that red or black is hot and it changes when either the 4w switch is changed or switch 2 is changed. You can measure to the ground.

What happens is at the 4w switch..... when it's in one position it connects red to red and white to black. When you change the 4w switch it now connects red to white and red to black. It just reverses the pair. Once you confirm the power on the red or wire at the light box.... I'll give you the connections you need to make.
 
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Old 07-23-20, 04:11 AM
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Hi Tomcat, just follow Pete’s lead, he’s got you on the right track.
Geo
 
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Old 07-23-20, 10:17 PM
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Thumbs up

I just want you to confirm up at the light box on cable A that red or black is hot and it changes when either the 4w switch is changed or switch 2 is changed.
Yes, confirmed the following for Cable A in the light box:
* 4-Way Switch: black is hot in down position and red is hot in up position
* 3-Way Switch #2: black is hot in down position and red is hot in up position (same as 4-way)
 

Last edited by Tomcat9121; 07-23-20 at 10:35 PM. Reason: Misspelled Word
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Old 07-24-20, 05:42 AM
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Hi Tom, at switch #2 is that 3 wire a dead end or is there a splice there? Everything thing else seems to add up except where the neutral is coming from.
Geo
 
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Old 07-24-20, 07:58 PM
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At switch #2 is that 3 wire a dead end or is there a splice there? Everything thing else seems to add up except where the neutral is coming from.
Hi Geo, not sure... Can you explain the difference between a dead end and a splice, or tell me what to look for so I can tell? Thank you.

~ Tom

 
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Old 07-24-20, 08:08 PM
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Yes.... switch 1 and 2 are dead ends.
That means that all three wires on the switch are from the same three wire cable.

For Geo..... at the four way switch.... is where the hot and neutral are coming from.
I've shown it on the diagram.

Final splices at light box 2
Cable A white and two wire cable white = neutral to light fixtures.
Cable A red to cable B red. (traveler)
Cable A black to cable B white (traveler)
Cable B black and two wire cable black = switched hot to light fixtures.
All grounds connect together.

 
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Old 07-25-20, 04:43 AM
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Tom, never mind , Pete is right on track, I miss read the drawing.
Geo
 
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Old 07-25-20, 05:22 PM
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Final splices at light box 2
Cable A white and two wire cable white = neutral to light fixtures.
Cable A red to cable B red. (traveler)
Cable A black to cable B white (traveler)
Cable B black and two wire cable black = switched hot to light fixtures.
All grounds connect together.
Pete,

Worked like a charm!!! Very happy to have functional hallway lights again.

So grateful for your expertise and willingness to patiently guide me through the process.

Thank you for the easy-to-understand instructions and teaching me a lot along the way.

Your kind assistance is greatly appreciated. You're the best!

~ Tom
 
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Old 07-25-20, 05:26 PM
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Geo,

Nice meeting you. Thanks for your interest and insight. Take care.

~ Tom
 
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Old 07-25-20, 06:31 PM
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It could only be done with pictures. Good job.
 
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Old 07-26-20, 04:36 AM
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Pete, you start Teleserivce calls, Dr’s do it, you could that and not leave the comfort of your living room.
Geo
 
 

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