Three Way Switch

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Old 10-21-20, 07:01 PM
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Three Way Switch

Hi everyone,

I am an idiot. I don't know anything about electrical work - now that this is out of the way, let me explain my issue:

I have a light switch in my basement that I have taken apart to replace with an updated switch and I noticed the switch box has a white, black and red line in it. Obviously then it's a three way switch. The wires also appear to be pig tailed (if that is the right term). The black and white wire come into the box and are joined with a different black and white wire presumable to make the wire longer to allow for the switch to connect.

At any rate, when I connect the black (which is the hot- I checked) to the switch on the black screw and then the white and red to the brass screws, and then flip the power back on, as soon as I flip the swtich it turns of a light I have upstairs and flipping the switch back on, won't turn anything back on. I have to go back and reset the breaker again to make everything work.

I guess then that the switch is tripping the breaker - but I can't figure out why. Further, I can't figure out why they originally put a three way switch in the basement that controls a dining room light upstairs....but that's a different issue.

Any advise?
 
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Old 10-21-20, 07:14 PM
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You're not certain that it's a 3w switch ?
Red, black and white in a box do not signify a 3w switch.

Where there three terminals.... a dark screw and two brass screws.... on the old switch ?
Look into the box at the three wire cable..... did two of those wires connect to the old switch ?
 
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Old 10-21-20, 07:42 PM
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So what is weird is that when I connect the wires to a three way switch and turn it off, it turns off the lights upstairs in my dining room, that are connected to a different switch. Would that not mean it is a three way switch, or would that just possibly mean that the switch uses the same circuit as the lights upstairs and when I turn the unknown switch off in the basement, it trips the breaker - which is why the lights go off upstairs?

I have three wires coming into that box - a red, white and black (and a ground that is grounded to the box itself). If not a three way switch, what else could this be? I took the old switch off a while back and never took note of how it was connected - and threw it away (since I am an idiot, per my first post).

Note - where this switch is, the most logical use for it would be to control and outside light....but no matter what I do to wire it up, it just trips the breaker. I have tried a three way switch, a two way switch with red capped off......I can't figure out how to make it work.
 

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Old 10-21-20, 09:22 PM
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Is there only the one cable with three wires in the box?
Did you do any work on the fixture this switch controls?
 
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Old 10-21-20, 09:35 PM
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Yes, one cable - with a black, red, white and a bare ground wire. I have not touched the fixture.
 
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Old 10-21-20, 09:50 PM
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We need to know all the cables/wires in that box.
Pictures are always helpful.... how-to-insert-pictures.

My guess.....
When you said black and white...... those should be connected together.
Black to black and white to white.
Then you add a short piece of wire... a tail to those two black wires to one switch screw.
The red goes to the other switch screw.
This would be a single pole switch with two screw terminals.
 
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Old 10-21-20, 09:58 PM
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I can try and upload a photo - but there is 4 wires coming into the box, all from one cable. A black, a white, a red and a bare ground wire. You are saying I should take the black and white, connect them together and then have one wire from that connection to a screw on the switch? The red to the other screw?
 
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Old 10-21-20, 10:02 PM
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Old 10-21-20, 10:31 PM
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Picture is helpful. Thanks.

My guess is not correct. You only have one three wire cable there.
That would indicate that there should be a 3w switch there because there are no other cables.

 
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Old 10-21-20, 10:36 PM
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Right....so I hook up the 3 way switch and......I know black is hot, black goes to black screw and red and white to the brass screws....I hit the switch and it trips the breaker. I can't figure the thing out. I also don't have a clue why there would be a three way switch there. I can't find the other switch that might control the light outside.

....maybe time to call up an electrician I suppose....
 
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Old 10-22-20, 06:42 AM
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Since the switch also unwantedly controls a light upstairs I suspect a wiring problem in the fixture.
My GUESS for the switch wiring would be, cap the white. Connect the black and red to the switch. We need to know about the wiring in the fixture to confirm switch connections.
 
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Old 10-22-20, 11:03 AM
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Ok thanks. I'll go outside here and see if I can look at what's going on in the fixture. Of note, I did what you said, capped the white and put a simple switch in - red and black to the switch and it stopped tripping the breaker when I would turn it off and one. The light outside never came on though, so that's the next place to look.
 
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Old 10-22-20, 02:47 PM
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capped the white and put a simple switch in - red and black to the switch and it stopped tripping the breaker when I would turn it off and one. The light outside never came on though, so that's the next place to look.
You apparently have a switch loop with a neutral , which is required by current code. That is good if you ever want to install a smart switch that requires a neutral.

At the fixture you should find some black connected together and the red connected to the fixture black.

You did confirm that the lamp in the fixture is working I hope. I would hate the problem to be a burnt out bulb.
 
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Old 10-23-20, 12:26 PM
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Haha...yes I put a new bulb in first. As it turns out, I took the fixture apart and there were old wires that had come apart from wire nuts. I reconnected everything, then I took a regular switch, capped the white wire and connected red and black. Switch works perfect now.

Thanks to everyone here. The idiot I am I was convinced this was a simple three way switch that was was not wiring correctly.

 
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Old 10-23-20, 12:33 PM
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Good job. Thanks for letting us know how you made out.
 
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