Three (one, two, three) 3 way switches (big kitchen) - doesn't work properly

Old 12-05-20, 06:26 AM
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Three (one, two, three) 3 way switches (big kitchen) - doesn't work properly

In the house I moved into, there's a nice big kitchen the center of the house. And three different entrances to the kitchen, the garage entry, the living room entry, and the dining room entry. They "kinda-sorta" work, but not perfectly. Basically, you can only turn the light back ON by using the same switch that turned it OFF last time. If we switch it up, and change which switch we use to turn it off with, we can turn it on back on by using that same switch next time.

We've more or less trained ourselves to just use the Dining room switch, to dodge having to deal with it. Is this a case where the switches were installed incorrectly, or would fixing this require wiring changes?

Thanks in advance
Old 12-05-20, 06:53 AM
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What you have is a 4-way switch. The actual light is considered one of the "ways" plus the 3 switches to operate the light. To be clear you have a switch from each entrance (3) to control one light.
A 4 way switch has five terminals: one ground and 4 circuit terminals divided into two matching pairs called travelers. Each pair of traveler terminals should be wired to the traveler wires from one of the 3 way switchesin the circuit.
Without seeing the particulars most likely one of the travelers is not correctly connected.
Google 4 way switch wiring diagram and find which diagram most closely fits your application. Where does power come from, the light or one of the switches.
The experts here can walk you through it. I can't. I need to have a diagram in front of me and the actual wires at hand.
I installed a 4 way in my garage many years ago. I also had to re-wire a 3 way switch in my house that the original owner screwed up. But like I said I can't just do it in my head.
Old 12-05-20, 07:20 AM
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I provided a sketch of 4-way wiring for another question in an attachment to (Post #18 here) that may help you. It shows alternatives for power originating at the first switch or at the light.
Old 12-05-20, 07:49 AM
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You will need to open all three switches and tell use the wiring in each box. Leave out the grounds. They don't affect operation.
CasualJoe voted this post useful.
Old 12-05-20, 11:37 AM
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Yes, it's a 4-way switch system. The first and last switches should be 3-way switches and all switches in between those two are 4-way switches. There can be any number (infinite) of 4-way switches in between the first and last switch.
Old 12-14-20, 03:15 PM
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Most likely problem with 3 way and 4 way switch subcircuits is a loose connection at one of the switch terminals.

Another reason (very farfetched) is that the switches are really independent, not a 4 way setup, and any one switch turned on turns the lithg on.

One way to narrow down on the problem is to list all possible combinations of the switch toggle positions and whether the light is on or off for that combination. For 3 switches there are eight possible combinations.

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