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Fixing 3 Way Switch & 4 Way Switch Wiring Problems

Solving 3 Way Switch & 4 Way Switch Wiring Problems

Existing 3 Way Switches

Virtually every house has at least one set of three way switches. They may be at the bottom and the top of stairways. Often they can be found at either end of a hallway. If one breaks or you wish to replace them with more decorative switches, you can often confuse the wires.

How to Wire a 3 Way Switch Video

If you hook up either one or both of the three way switches incorrectly, they will not operate properly. One switch may turn the lights on and off, while the other switch does nothing.

Which Wire is What?

Let's assume you are in a mess right now. The switches don't work. You don't have a continuity tester. Here is how to fix them. The first thing that must be done is to identify the two common wires. There will be one in each switch location. One of these wires is 'hot' continuously. The other one leads directly to the light fixture. Isolating them is usually not too hard.

Locate the circuit breaker in your electric panel that powers this light circuit. Turn it off. Go to each switch, take the cover plate off and remove the switch from the electric box. Unhook the wires from the switch. Don't allow them to touch one another. Hopefully you will also have two neutral (white) wires wire-nutted together in each box. Remove the wire nuts from both joints but keep the white wires together. Make SURE no black wires are touching each other or the white wires! Turn the circuit back on. Now it's time to be CAREFUL.

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4 Responses to Fixing 3 Way Switch & 4 Way Switch Wiring Problems

  1. I understand how to wire a 4 way switch between two 3 way switches to give me 3 switch positions to turn on/off a light. BUT how do I wire it so I can turn on/off a light from FOUR different positions? Do I just install another 4 way switch between to two 3 way switches? Please answer as soon as possible! THANK YOU!

  2. I am trying to follow your drections in the following "Fixing 3 Way Switch & 4 Way Switch Wiring Problems". It appears that some of the instructions are incomplete. I believe there should be more detail after "Now it's time to be CAREFUL." Can you provide me with a complete set of instructions as soon as possible.

    Thank you!

    • Al,

      Did you watch my videos? Tens of thousands have commented the instructions are the best on the Internet. Maybe your monitor is covered in dust or something. :-)

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