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Why Aren’t My Multiway Light Switches Working?

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Mark in Maine is on the line with an electrical question. How can we help you today?

    MARK: Yes, I have a couple of rooms. Our house is from around the 1930s and some of the rooms, the three-way wiring isn’t quite right. Like to turn on the light as you enter the room, you turn on one switch. You can’t go to the other side of the room where the other switch is and turn the light off; you have to go back to the original switch, turn the light off.

    TOM: Oh, OK. So do you know that it was originally designed to be a three-way switch?

    MARK: I do not know that.

    TOM: Listen, you’re going to have to hire an electrician to open up the wiring and test it, trace it out and figure out what’s going on. It’s either that a switch has gone bad or more likely, it’s just not hooked up correctly.

    MARK: OK. OK. Now, I had been told that there are switches that are specific to three-way and that is probably the problem but I’m – to be honest, I don’t know.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, that’s entirely possible but it’s got to be opened up and take a look at what switch device is in there and then also determine if it’s wired correctly. Because it sounds like, most likely, it was incorrectly wired. It might have been that somebody replaced one of those switches at one time and just hooked it up wrong.

    MARK: OK.

    TOM: I mean I’ve done that myself, just inadvertently. When I was painting, I recall, I took a switch apart to replace it from a toggle switch to a décor switch that’s the kind of flat-panel kind.

    MARK: OK.

    TOM: And I swore that I had gone wire for wire and got it right but I didn’t; I got it wrong. And it did exactly that, so I had to reverse some wires to get it working back again.

    MARK: Yeah, that’s pretty much it. I’ve got some research to do.

    TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project, Mark. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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