Troubleshooting two 3-way switch setups

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by Thatguy, May 7, 2009.

  1. Thatguy

    Thatguy Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,459
    Location:
    MD
    Are both lights supposed to go on and off together?
  2. Billy_Bob

    Billy_Bob In the Trades

    Messages:
    422
    Yes, that's called a California or coast 3 way...

    [​IMG]

    This an illegal and very dangerous wiring method and should never be undertaken.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 23, 2011
  3. alth

    alth New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Canada
    Trouble with 3way Switch!

    Yep, Both lights should go on and off together.

    and Ill give that a shot Billy Bob. another problem is that I cant change the wiring to Light #1 as the wall was completely finished by the previous owner, will this make a difference?
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2009
  4. Billy_Bob

    Billy_Bob In the Trades

    Messages:
    422
    You would just need access to the wire going to that light.

    And of course be able to wire everything else like in the diagram above. This is an illegal and very dangerous wiring method and should never be undertaken
    Or wire it in the traditional manner. Many ways to do this...
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 23, 2011
  5. Thatguy

    Thatguy Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,459
    Location:
    MD
    Do you then say you have 3 travelers instead of 2?
  6. alth

    alth New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Canada
    3-Way

    Off the top of my head I think I do have 3 travellers... Will update when I get home
  7. alth

    alth New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Canada
    Issue Resolved

    Thanks for your help everybody... the california circuit was the way to go

    should something go wrong your little a$$ will be in a very tight situation.

    This is an illegal and very dangerous wiring method and should never be undertaken
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 23, 2011
  8. timmer62

    timmer62 New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    greenville, sc
    3-way switch troubleshooting

    S1 down, s2 down, light off
    S1 up, s2 down, light off
    S1 down, s2 up, light off
    S1 up, s2 up, light on

    any ideas how to resolve?

    thanks
  9. mgabbard

    mgabbard New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Another 3-way case for you


    Hi there,

    I have a relatively new home (10 years old) and am replacing the standard rocker switches / receptacles in my house with decorator models room by room. Everything has been easy so far (3-ways, 4-ways, 2-ways, etc) , but am having trouble figuring out what's up with one 3-way in one of my rooms. The old switches I marked the common and the travellers, and on the new decorator switches I connected the commons to the common pole and the 2 travellers to the traveller poles. But the switches are behaving strange.

    #1 down, #2 down - lights are on
    #1 up, #2 down - lights are on
    #1 down, #2 up - lights are off
    #1 up, #2 up - lights are on

    So when #1 is up - no matter what #2 is (up or down) it still completes the circuit. And when #2 is down, no matter what #1 is (up or down) it still completes the circuit as well. Very strange. It's like they are wired in parallel.

    These are brand new switches and I have jiggled the wiring to make sure there are no shorts in the wires.

    Any guidance you can give you be most helpful. I've been looking at this one too long and need a fresh set of eyes.

    Thanks!

    ...M
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2010
  10. Jim Port

    Jim Port Electrical Contractor

    Messages:
    156
    Location:
    Maryland
    Regardless of UP or DOWN a 3 way will reverse the current condition of OFF or ON. Your setup is working properly.
  11. Thatguy

    Thatguy Homeowner

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    Location:
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    Jim Port
    Electrical Contractor
    This message is hidden because Jim Port is on your ignore list.
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    [So much for freedom of speech! :D I guess this comes under freedom of listening or not. . .]

    I found it is much easier to predict the results given the schematic instead of the other way around, but I can't resist a good puzzle.
    Taking only the case shown above, if you step through on a piece of paper all 3 ways of hooking up the 3 terminals of a working #1 switch to 3 wires and with switch #1 in both positions [6 diagrams in all] I don't see how this outcome is possible unless you have #22 wiring with 3 travelers.

    An "impossible outcome" means that we are assuming something that is not true.
    What's good about these is that we will probably learn something new. Plus, nobody else wants these budget-busters. :D

    To find out what it is I'd say check #1 switch with an ohmmeter. If it checks good something has changed inside the walls and that's a separate troubleshooting procedure involving a voltmeter and incand. bulbs.

    There are many different wiring diagrams for this, but I can only find two schematics. In any case it's a source in series with a load in series with an SPST switch made up of two 3-way and zero or more 4-way switches.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2010
  12. Jim Port

    Jim Port Electrical Contractor

    Messages:
    156
    Location:
    Maryland
    How would something have changed within the walls? All the wiring should be in accessible junction boxes. If the box was buried there would be no way to make a change to it.

    The example posted is the way that 3 ways work. There is nothing to troubleshoot.
  13. roncarter

    roncarter New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Camby Indiana
    1 dn 2 dn = off
    1 up 2 dn = off
    1 dn 2 up = on
    1 up 2 up = on

    I replaced porceline sockets (working properly) with can lights and found that I MUST have made an error, and now I seem to be missing the nuetral for 4 of the new lights. If I hook up a jumper wire from the nuetral at sw#1(where feed comes from) the 4 lights work but trips the breaker in one of the variations of switch configurations as follows:

    1 dn 2 dn = off
    1 up 2 dn = trip
    1 dn 2 up = on
    1 up 2 up = trip
  14. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,626
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    Switch 3 is probably, but not necessarily, the miswired one, and there are several ways it could be miswired. One problem is that you would have to test switches 1 and 2 under ALL possible configurations to ensure that 3 is actually the misfit.
  15. roncarter

    roncarter New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Camby Indiana
    3 way switch troubles

    I now have all 3 switches working so they can turn the lights all off and on, BUT... the bulbs (all same wattage) are dim. and if I remove any bulb, the rest of the lamps go off.
  16. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Messages:
    4,126
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    Ron,

    That will save you electricity, being wired in series.

    Nice Job.


    Have a Great evening.


    DonL
  17. roncarter

    roncarter New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Camby Indiana
    Thanks DonL, but they aren't wired in series. At least not in what might be considered the "normal" series circuit.

    It seems that one or more of them are 'hung' on travelers, rather than the neutral and hots. I have 4 boxes to go check to see where I hooked up wrong! All of the boxes are attached to the original ceiling joists 14" above the new 5/8FC ceiling, which obviously makes it very difficult to get to for troubleshooting purposes. I posted here to pick ya'lls brains about where I might start looking to possibly save some aggravation.
  18. Sinestro

    Sinestro New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Va
    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?

    off
    on
    on
    on

    The weird thing is, if the downstairs switch is on, then the upstairs switch can't turn off. Both on and off keep the light on.

    This one has been baffling a friend and I for weeks. Any help would be appreciated.
  19. ActionDave

    ActionDave Electrician

    Messages:
    346
    Location:
    Colorado
    It would be my bet that the upstairs switch is not functional due to miswiring, bad switch or it just plain never worked.
  20. Sinestro

    Sinestro New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Va
    The downstairs switch does the same thing though. Turn on the upstairs switch and you can't turn it off downstairs.

    This all worked until we took down a wall and one of the other light switches
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