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Three-Way Switches Not Working Properly

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Alright. Bill is on the line with an electrical question about a three-way switch. Tell us what’s going on.

    BILL: I am replacing some switches in my kitchen. I have three-way switches.

    TOM: OK.

    BILL: And now I can’t get it to work properly. I’ve got – I can turn – but if I turn them both on, they’ll – it’ll come on. I can turn it off at either location then but it won’t work like it’s supposed to work, you know?

    TOM: Yeah.

    BILL: I can’t exit from either door and turn it off or on.

    TOM: Yeah, well, I mean somewhere, you put the wires back a different way than when you took them off, didn’t you?

    BILL: For sure, yeah.

    TOM: Yeah.

    BILL: I can’t figure it out.

    TOM: Doing electrical work is not a DIY project. However, if you go wire for wire, then you can sometimes get away with it. But I can’t diagnose it from my location to yours. As good as we are, I can’t tell you which wire you got wrong. But the behavior that you describe indicates that something is wired backwards.

    BILL: Right.

    TOM: And it shouldn’t be difficult to figure out where it is. Did you change the lights, too, or just the switches?

    BILL: Only the switches.

    TOM: Only the switches.

    BILL: Yeah, I just put some modern – [a bay of] (ph) switches in my kitchen and didn’t get it wired back correctly.

    TOM: Right. Yeah. Are they dimmers or are they just regular switches?

    BILL: No, they’re just regular switches. Just three-way switches.

    TOM: Yep. Yeah, well, I think you have two of the power lines reversed. I can’t tell you which ones and I can’t tell you which switch but if you did it on one side, it could affect the whole thing.

    BILL: So, you think if I go in and change just the power lines on the switches …?

    TOM: Nah. I don’t want you to do it, because I can’t tell you exactly what to do. You need to get somebody that does this all the time to take a look at it for you or you need to bite the bullet and call an electrician and swallow your pride and get it fixed.

    BILL: Sad but true. It was worth a shot.

    TOM: Alright, Bill?

    BILL: I appreciate it.

    TOM: It’s one thing I won’t diagnose from afar is electrical work. But it’s probably a pretty simple mistake. And you know what you might want to do, if you think about anything else that’s small in electrical improvements or repairs that you have to do at the same time, because it’s probably not going to take them more than a couple minutes to fix this and you could probably use the service call to do a onceover on anything else that you need fixing – that needs fixing inside the house.

    BILL: Yeah. It’s such a small problem. We had an electrician in, gosh, just several months ago and had him fix some other things and I didn’t even think about it when he was here. But I won’t forget it again.

    TOM: Yep. Ah. See that? Make your list. Get him back.

    BILL: I appreciate (audio gap). Thanks so much.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Bill. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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