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Old 10-27-2013, 07:08 PM   #1
Tee2 OP
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Trouble shooting a 3-way switch

I have a 3-way switch that has been giving me problem for awhile. One of the switches was making a funny noise sometime and then the lights quit working. I replaced the switch and it worked for awhile then starting to act up. Sometime it would work sometimes it wouldn't. I would wake up in the middle of the night and it would be on.

So today I thought I would replace the other switch. Swapped the switch and still no light. I got out the meter and took some readings.

Power in was good at 123v. The travelers was odd, depending on the position 120v or 58-60v, never had 0v. Power out (to the light) was 120V or 58-60v. It would never be 0v.

So that makes me think he first switch I replaced was bad or went bad very soon after.

But I and getting 120v out of the switch so the light should work unless there is a problem with the fixture to/now. It is a track light with three FL bulbs. I did pull a bulb and tried an incandescent, still didn't work. Tomorrow I'll get a new switch and try that, but I have a feeling there is something else going on.

This light has been trouble free for the last 20 years.

Any ideas?

Thanks
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Old 10-27-2013, 07:46 PM   #2
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wrong forum, son.
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Old 10-27-2013, 10:18 PM   #3
Manuel Garcia O'Kely
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Switches are cheap, replace both of them at the same time and verify your wiring diagram - make sure all the wires are nice and tight at the connections. Test before you button up.

Look, it can't be the lights unless something ate wiring. I suspect one bad switch caused the second to bugger the newest one - don't ask me but you heard buzzing which is arcing inside the switch, current/voltage eats things, that's how ESD machining works eh??

Anyway, if it was my time, that's how I'd do it.
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Old 10-27-2013, 11:14 PM   #4
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Somebody swapped hot and neutral, somewhere in that circuit. You need to go and verify your wiring and fix the problem. Based on what you've told us, a bad switch is a symptom, not a cause.

Sorry for the tone. I hate typing on a touchscreen.
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Old 10-27-2013, 11:38 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hpsVFR View Post
Somebody swapped hot and neutral, somewhere in that circuit. You need to go and verify your wiring and fix the problem. Based on what you've told us, a bad switch is a symptom, not a cause.

Sorry for the tone. I hate typing on a touchscreen.
I was wondering if a hot/neutral swap would do that.

+1 on verify what's running where. Maybe look up some 3-way diagrams to see the various ways to hook it up properly and see which one you should be using based on where the line and the load tie in. Just because it's been working for 20 years doesn't mean it was right to start with.

Oh, and yeah, this should be in The Garage.
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Old 10-28-2013, 02:29 AM   #6
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You have something that is running in series at some point. Check the wiring.
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Old 10-28-2013, 09:41 AM   #7
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I'd shoot the fucker too. Breathe in, let it halfway out, and squeeze. Don't pull.
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Old 10-28-2013, 10:13 AM   #8
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1. Make sure your meter is good.
2. If meter is good then replace both switches at the same time.
3. Reset your circuit breaker for that circuit.
3. If you still have the odd voltage (50V) then there is a partial short somewhere. Disconnect each switch and take voltage readings.

Good luck
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Old 10-28-2013, 10:17 AM   #9
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I replaced the switches and that mostly fixed the stray voltage but still no light. I get 120v at the wires going into the track. Looks like the track went bad. I'll pull the track down and check that.
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Old 10-28-2013, 12:43 PM   #10
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Before you go to that trouble, unscrew the bulbs and check the voltage at the sockets.
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Old 10-28-2013, 01:15 PM   #11
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We have lights!

I did pull the last bulb and no voltage. Pulled to track and the connector that goes from wire to track looked like it arced some and needed cleaning with some sandpaper. With the track down I also ran the sandpaper along both legs to clean them up. Put some power to the track and it was fine. Put everything back up and we have lights.

Funny thing while doing the lights I had a spiting headache, and my eyes where burning. My wife and daughter said they had the same. My wife was cooking some stuff on the stove and the dryer was going. I go downstairs and the air was hot and damp. I pulled the vent duct and it was 60% clogged with lint. I told my wife and she said it has been taking twice as long to dry a load lately. Got out the shop vac and fixed that up too.

Here I take a vacation day from work to wash the bike and go for a ride to see some fall colors, pick up a few things I can't get on the weekends and I'm stuck working on the house.

Still have time to get to the welding store to swap out a tank though.
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Old 10-28-2013, 02:36 PM   #12
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Is that a gas or electric dryer? If gas, you might want to get a CO detector.
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Old 10-28-2013, 02:45 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by troidus View Post
Is that a gas or electric dryer? If gas, you might want to get a CO detector.
It's gas. CO detector is on the Memards list for tonight. We have one but its probably time to replace it.
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Old 10-29-2013, 12:24 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 68deluxe View Post
1. Make sure your meter is good.
2. If meter is good then replace both switches at the same time.
3. Reset your circuit breaker for that circuit.
3. If you still have the odd voltage (50V) then there is a partial short somewhere. Disconnect each switch and take voltage readings.

Good luck
This is what I should have written. A month ago, I was troubleshooting the same symptoms on a steel-hull boat I was working on, and in that case it was a swapped hot/neutral that was causing the short that was giving the strange voltage reading. It didn't help that on the boat all the wires are black.

Anyway, that's why I had wiring swaps on the brain.

Glad the OP got it figured out, and also glad to hear that a probable CO poisoning situation was rectified. These are really, really good things to take care of.
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