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Fixing 3 Way Switch & 4 Way Switch Wiring Problems

3 way switch

Fixing 3 Way Switch & 4 Way Switch Wiring Problems | What is this special black screw on a 3 way switch? Copyright 2017 Tim Carter

Fixing a 3 Way Switch TIPS

  • Use a voltage tester to help with this job
  • You just need to identify the continuous hot wire and the wire that goes to the light fixture
  • WATCH the EASY VIDEOS below
  • Be careful working with energized conductors
  • CLICK HERE to Get Tim's FREE & FUNNY Newsletter!

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 or traveler wires. WATCH THE ABOVE VIDEO to see what those wires are.


CLICK HERE to get FREE & FAST BIDS from local electricians in case you're too scared or frustrated to fix your 3-way switch.

Find the HOT Wire First

Identifying the travelers at each switch is done by finding the continuous hot wire at one switch and then discovering the wire at the other switch that goes to the light fixture.

One of the wires in the two three-way switches is ALWAYS hot assuming the circuit breaker is on.

Start by turning off the power to the switch circuit at the circuit breaker.

Disconnect all the wires from BOTH switches.

Be sure the wires are NOT touching anything and the bare copper ends are sticking out of the boxes and not touching anything.

Using a Voltage Tester

Use a voltage tester to find it. Watch this video to see how to use a voltage tester while a wire is HOT:

Be Careful

To identify the hot wire with a voltage tester, you need to work with the electric while it's energized.

Once you identify the HOT wire, connect that wire to the black screw at the switch you're working on. Refer once again to my own video above. Watch it again.

Go to the other switch and now find the wire that goes to the light fixture. You can do this using an extension cord that's plugged into an outlet. When you insert each of the wires at the second switch ONE AT A TIME into the hot plug socket on the extension cord, the light above will come on.

Take this wire and attach it to the black screw on the switch.

Attach the remaining two wires at each switch to the brass screws. It doesn't matter which wire goes to with brass screw.


Congratulations on your success!!!!

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