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Thread: Troubleshooting two 3-way switch setups

  1. #1
    Homeowner Thatguy's Avatar
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    Default Troubleshooting two 3-way switch setups

    This assumes two travelers between the switches.

    Assign each switch a number.
    With switch #1 & switch #2 down, light is on or off?
    With #1 up & #2 down, light is on or off?
    With #1 down and #2 up, light is on or off?
    With #1 & #2 up, light is on or off?

    In principle, with the answers filled in, the problem(s) can be pinpointed.

    Test cases welcome. . .

  2. #2

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Thatguy View Post
    This assumes two travelers between the switches.

    Assign each switch a number.
    With switch #1 & switch #2 down, light is on or off?
    With #1 up & #2 down, light is on or off?
    With #1 down and #2 up, light is on or off?
    With #1 & #2 up, light is on or off?

    In principle, with the answers filled in, the problem(s) can be pinpointed.

    Test cases welcome. . .
    off
    off
    on
    off
    Looks like I'm the first test case. How do I fix it?
    Thank you in advance.
    Last edited by sakkyoku; 05-21-2009 at 01:16 AM. Reason: edited to get notification when post is replied to

  3. #3
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default switch

    It appears that one of the travelers is connected to the common on one of the switches, therefore there is only one configuration where both are "on" to let the lamp operate.

  4. #4
    Homeowner Thatguy's Avatar
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    Default

    Sw#1 is working like an on/off switch when #2 is up. When sw 2 is down there is no continuity.
    Either a traveler is not connected or it's like HJ said.

    Set both switches down so the controlled lamp is off.
    Assuming two travelers, like in most of the diagrams in this link
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Switch
    if you run a wire from the common of one switch through a 100w incand. bulb to the common of the other, the test light and the controlled (incand.) light should go on, equally faintly if they are both the same wattage. You can then safely put a piece of wire in place of the test bulb and you should get full brightness on the controlled light.
    If not, the wires feeding the common switch terminals are incorrect.

    You'll need an extension cord and clip leads.

    Never and I mean Never try anything that comes close to this. This is very dangerous and should never be attempted

    Thatguy this will be deleted should you ever post anything like this again. If you disagree PM me and we will discuss the safety issues involved.
    Last edited by jwelectric; 08-25-2011 at 06:26 AM.

  5. #5

    Default thanks

    I had switched a traveler and the common on both switches.

  6. #6

    Default

    next case...

    off
    off
    off
    on

    I'm replacing the old dirty switches with new white ones and have two different 3-ways with the same behavior.

    switch #1 is the end of the circuit and #2 is in the middle.

    thanks in advance.

  7. #7
    Homeowner Thatguy's Avatar
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    Check the switches using an ohmmeter as to operation and terminal labelling.

    Check that the common switch terminals go to the right wires and not one of the travelers.

    There is a slight chance that hooking up the switches incorrectly will damage a good switch so I'd run the light bulb test, but it is a bit inconvenient.

    NEVER use a light bulb tester for checking voltages
    Last edited by jwelectric; 08-23-2011 at 08:51 AM. Reason: safety

  8. #8
    DIY Junior Member Donwe's Avatar
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    Default

    Ok, here's mine.

    off
    on
    off
    off

    Thank you for your time.

  9. #9
    Homeowner Thatguy's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Donwe View Post
    Ok, here's mine.

    off
    on
    off
    off

    Thank you for your time.
    Assuming you have wired the switch common terminals [different color than the other two] and traveler terminals [same color] correctly, one of your travelers is open or one switch is internally defective in that there is no continuity between the common terminal and the traveler terminal when the switch is thrown to that position.
    It's an SPDT switch.
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...Switch.svg.png
    Last edited by Thatguy; 11-05-2009 at 03:08 PM.

  10. #10
    DIY Junior Member Donwe's Avatar
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    Default

    Thank you that was very helpful.

  11. #11
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default wires

    We do not know what the wire colors are in your circuits, but the hot and "hot" to the light go on the bright brass terminals. The travelers, which might both be the same color, but should be the only two left when the proper wires are on the common, attach to the two dark colored terminals. They can be connected to either one.

  12. #12
    Homeowner Thatguy's Avatar
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    The travelers may have phantom voltages on them, so use a 120v incandescent bulb to check for voltages. Most testers will respond to phantom voltages.

    NEVER use a light bulb tester for checking voltages
    Last edited by jwelectric; 08-23-2011 at 08:52 AM. Reason: safety

  13. #13
    Electrical Contractor Jim Port's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    We do not know what the wire colors are in your circuits, but the hot and "hot" to the light go on the bright brass terminals. The travelers, which might both be the same color, but should be the only two left when the proper wires are on the common, attach to the two dark colored terminals. They can be connected to either one.
    Normally the traveller screws are brass colored. The common is typically the dark colored screw.

  14. #14
    DIY Junior Member Donwe's Avatar
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    OK, so it was a bad switch, thank you again

    Here's a better one, I have three switches controlling an overhead kitchen light, switch one is a three way and is where the circuit starts and I have confirmed the hot leg is connected to the common post, switch two is a four way, and switch three is a three way. the problem is switches one and two will only control the light if switch three is on, any ideas?

  15. #15
    Homeowner Thatguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donwe View Post
    OK, so it was a bad switch, thank you again

    Here's a better one, I have three switches controlling an overhead kitchen light, switch one is a three way and is where the circuit starts and I have confirmed the hot leg is connected to the common post, switch two is a four way, and switch three is a three way. the problem is switches one and two will only control the light if switch three is on, any ideas?
    Post what you believe to be the schematic.

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