Three-way switches have 3 terminals to carry circuit electricity and one terminal for a ground wire. Of the three circuit terminals, one is called the common and the other two are known as travelers. The common terminal may be labeled and is usually a different color than the traveler terminals. Depending on the manufacturer, the travelers may be on opposite sides of the device or the two terminals may be on the same side. In any case, the common terminal will be distinguished from the travelers in some way.
Here the source is at SW1 and the light fixture comes immediately after. The source neutral is spliced through to the light fixture. At the light the travelers are splice together and run to the 4-way switch. At the 4-way, the hot wire from the common terminal on SW2 is splice through to the hot on the light fixture.
In this circuit the source hot is at the common on the 3 way switch and 3-wire cable runs from there to the dimmer. The traveler wires run between the 2 switches and 2-wire cable runs from the dimmer to the light. The neutral from the source is spliced at each box to run through to the neutral terminal on the light fixture. The common on the dimmer is connected to the hot terminal on the light fixture.
Included is a diagram for a 3 way dimmer and an arrangement to control a receptacle from two locations. For more information about these circuits and troubleshooting tips check below.
If the switch is good and things still don’t work, check the wiring to be sure the hot source is connected to a common terminal and the light fixture hot is connected to a common terminal. Likewise, be sure the traveler terminals are connected between switches only and not to any hot wires or the load.
Check to be sure the traveler wires only connect between the traveler terminals on the switches. Also be sure the neutral from the source is connected to the neutral terminal at the light. A neutral wire will not be used with these switches, although some smart switches may make use of a neutral wire to operate the device.
When the electrical source originates at a light fixture and it’s controlled from a remote location, a switch loop is used. The circuit pictured here is wired with 2-conductor cable running from the light to the switch location. The white cable wire in this switch loop is wrapped with black tape and connected to the bottom terminal on SW1 and the hot source at the light. The black wire is connected to the top terminal on SW1 and the hot terminal on the light fixture. The neutral from the source is connected directly to the neutral terminal on the light.
At the receptacle the black cable wire from SW1 is connected to one of the hot terminals and the red wire is spliced to the white wire on the 2-conductor cable running to SW2. The white wire is wrapped with electrical tape to mark it as hot. The black wire is connected to the second hot terminal on the receptacle and to the top terminal on SW2 at the other end.
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