Replacing a Three-Way Switch

by Lee Wyatt
(last updated July 23, 2014)

Have you ever noticed how with some light switches it doesn't really matter which way is ON or OFF? That is because these types of switches work in pairs to help control a light source from separate locations. Whether a particular switch turns the light on or off is totally dependant upon where the position of the switch is located. Frankly, replacing a three-way switch is an easy task as long as you take proper care, and follow these instructions.

Materials needed:

  • Three-way switch.
  • Electricians tape
  • Masking tape
  • Tester
  • Screwdriver
  • Combination stripper
  • Lineman's pliers
  • Long-nosed pliers

Procedure:

  1. Shut off the power. Whenever you work with electricity you should always turn off the power to that area. This will help reduce the chance of any electrocution or harm. Shut the power off at the breaker box, and make sure that you leave a note saying not to turn it on until you do it yourself.
  2. Identify and tag the common wire. Using a screwdriver remove the cover plate to the switch. Test to make sure that the power is turned off by flipping the light switch a couple of times. If the light doesn't come on, then there is no power. Identify the common wire (which is usually attached to a terminal that is a different color than the rest). Double check to make sure that you have the correct wire by following it back to the terminal and seeing if the terminal is marked common. Place a little bit of masking tape on to this wire, and write a "C" on it for future reference.
  3. Wiring one cable. Many three-way switches only have one cable that comes into the box, identified by having three wires plus a ground. Use a voltage detector to test and see which wire is the "hot" wire. Attach that hot wire to the common terminal, and then attach the other two wires to the traveler terminals. Connect the grounds, and test your work.
  4. Wiring two cables. Sometimes a three-way switch will have two cables entering the box. This situation is identified by having three wires plus a ground coming in, as well as having another cable which provides two wires plus a ground. While it looks confusing, you will still only find three wire ends to work with. Once you have identified these wire ends, proceed just as if you had only one cable coming into the box.

Author Bio

Lee Wyatt

Contributor of numerous Tips.Net articles, Lee Wyatt is quickly becoming a regular "Jack of all trades." He is currently an independent contractor specializing in writing and editing. Contact him today for all of your writing and editing needs! Click here to contact. ...

MORE FROM LEE

Making Your Own Christmas Wreath

A Christmas wreath can be a wonderful addition to any Christmas decoration theme. Instead of spending money that you just ...

Discover More

Using White Vinegar to Clean

Have you noticed how it seems like the cost of everything is rising on a daily basis? This is particularly true about ...

Discover More

Replacing Your Odometer

For some reason many people are afraid to tackle repairing or replacing the odometer on their vehicle. The truth is that if ...

Discover More

Find the Right Tool Right Away Finally, a homeowner's set that includes all the tools needed to complete basic DIY projects at an affordable price! The tools are stored in a molded case for security and portability. Check out Stanley 65-Piece Homeowner's Tool Kit today!

MORE HOME IMPROVEMENT TIPS

Replacing an Electrical Outlet

Replacing an outlet is one of the easier tasks that an amateur electrician can undertake. Here is how you can do this simple ...

Discover More

Selecting a Low Voltage Lighting System

Just because you want some lighting outside doesn't mean that you have to be using a whole lot of energy to do it. One of the ...

Discover More

Adding an Outdoor Receptacle

There are times when you find yourself simply needing another electrical outlet or receptacle more than you currently have. ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Receive an e-mail several times each week with a featured home improvement tip. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

Comments for this tip:

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is one more than 2?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Receive an e-mail several times each week with a featured home improvement tip. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

Links and Sharing
Share