3 way switch help please

tlepardSeptember 2, 2013

I've been going through the house replacing the ivory outlets and light switches. I have two three way switches that control a light. Before, either light switch would turn the light on and off. When I went to replace the switches, the old switches just had the holes in the back for the wires to go in and all the wires fell out very easily, so I was unsure what was the travelers and the control.

I replaced the switches. Now I can turn the light on and off from Switch 1 (see attached picture). If Switch 1 is "off," then Switch 2 doesn't work. If Switch 1 is "on," then I can use Switch 2 to turn the light on and off.

I made the picture to try to show how the wires are connective. In Switch 1, there is one bundle of wires (a red, white, and black). I attached the black wire to the black screw on the switch. The red and white are attached to the brass screws. On Switch 2, there are 4 bundles of wires coming into the box. One bundle has a red, black, and white wire. The other bundles each have three wires (white, black, and bare). All white wires are attached together and don't go to the switch. The bare wires all go together and don't go to the switch. From the first bundle, I have the red and black wire hooked to the brass screws in the switch. The other black wires in the 3 bundles are attached together and then a pigtail goes to the black control screw on the switch.

I have a non-contact probe (sorry, not sure if it's called a probe or not). When I put the probe by the two wires I have connected to the controls, the probe made a lot of tones. It didn't with the other wires, so I'm assuming those two are the controls. I also have an analogue multimeter. It doesn't really come with directions but what I've read online, you need ground wires to use it to find the hot wires. Since switch 1 doesn't have a ground and the bare wires are tied together in switch 2, I wasn't sure how to use this.

Does anyone know what I did wrong or what I need to change to get these switches to work like they used to? Thank you for the help, and sorry for the lengthy post!!!

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OldBiker650

Oh good lord, I got a headache just reading this!!

From your description, power comes into Box-2 (for switch 2). The neutrals are bundled together, because they go straight to the fixture and are NOT switched. The switches are only for the hot wire. Likewise, the bare wires are just ground, they ground the junction box.

One line is HOT (power) from the panel. Switch 2 is supposed to connect this hot to one of two Traveler lines, Trav-1 or Trav-2. Switch-1 (in Box-1) is at the end of the line. It connects Trav-1 or Trav-2 to the line that goes to the fixture, thus completing the circuit.

I am guessing you just mis-wired Switch-1 (from your description). But you need to identify all the wires and exactly how your switch works.

Make sure you have the correct HOT wire (120 V-AC with your multimeter between it and ground). I am guessing the RED and Black wires are your travelers. Remove Switch 1 and just use Switch 2 and get the proper 120v on the two traveler wires as you flip the switch (first one then the other). The remaining wire (I am guessing white here) is what goes to your fixture. If thst is the case, put some black tape around the white wire to designate it as hot, not neutral.

Oooh, my head.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2013 at 11:04PM
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OldBiker650

That is to say, swap white and black in Switch-1.... my best guess.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 2:59AM
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