05:21AM | 02/20/03
Member Since: 09/11/02
78 lifetime posts

I recently tried replacing a pair of three-way switches in my home. They were very old (ceramic housing!) and didn't have the indicative single dark screw and two brass screw terminals.

Now, it seems that only one switch at a time can operate their common light fixture. To clairify, here's a scenario:

If the light can be turned on with the upstairs switch, that same switch can turn it off. However, if the light is turned on with the upstairs switch and turned off with the downstairs switch, then only the downstairs switch can turn the light back on. Basically, only the switch that turns the light off can turn it back on again.

Can anyone give me a clue as to what's going on?

Many thanks!


06:00AM | 02/20/03
Member Since: 09/17/02
524 lifetime posts
You have the common wire on the wrong screw. Put back one of the old switches if you can remember how it was installed. Then install one of the new switches. The new switch will have the common marked. You only have three possible wires for the common. When you get one working then install the other one.


11:35AM | 02/22/03
Member Since: 11/05/01
98 lifetime posts
This could be tricky. Of the three wires that connect to each switch the two that come into the switch box in the same cable are gennerally the "travelers" and should connect to the screw terminals that are the same color. The single wire that is left will connect to the odd colored screw on the switch. This is one of the most common installation methods but not the only one. If this does not work call an electrician.


03:41AM | 10/23/06
Member Since: 10/22/06
1 lifetime posts
Kelly, this is too easy. I don't know what those other guys are talking about, but here is what you need to do. First, shut off the breaker. Second, take all 6 wires off of the switches and either push them apart or put wire nuts on them. Now, go back and switch the breaker back on and take a circuit tester and find which of those six wires has current going to it. There should be only one. You can get a simple circuit tester at most hardware stores for about $3. Go back and switch off the breaker and take the wire that had the current going to it and place it on the black nut on the switch. This is called the common. On that same switch, you can now take the other two wires and place them on the other two "traveler" nuts on the switch. This switch is done. From this point on, you will only work with the second switch. Now, go to the other switch, and take the wire that had current going to it and place it on the black nut. Then take the other two wires and place them on the traveler terminals. Turn the breaker back on and see if that solved your problem. If it did, great! If not, turn the breaker back off, and rotate the wire that is on the black nut with one of the wires that is on one of the traveler terminals. Turn the breaker back on and try it again. If this didn't solve it, take the wire back off the black terminal and place it back on the terminal that you took it off of and then take the hot wire and change it out with the wire on the other terminal. One of these three combinations should have worked. I feel for ya, three-ways can be a pain! Do yourself a favor and buy a book on wiring for the future. I have one and I use it all the time!


06:54AM | 12/28/06
Member Since: 12/27/06
14 lifetime posts
3 ways are easy, 4 ways are a pain.
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