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xke
4 way switch glitch - help
xke

My daughter's 1910 home has a 2nd floor light controled by three switches.* Since buying the home it has worked perfectly, but now the primary 2nd floor switch keeps the light on with the toogle either up or down.* The only way to shut the light off from this switch is to place the toogle switch in the middle.* When this is done, both downstairs switches will not work.I put a new 4-way switch in the primary location on the second floor.* It worked for a week and the same thing happened.* I don't know much about electricty, I simply moved the wires from the old switch to the same locations on the new one.Weird part:* If I remove the switch cover plate and just pull the switch out of the box and slip it back in, it will work for a day or so.please help

JACOB
Re: 4 way switch glitch - help
JACOB

Sounds Like you have a short in the wire in the wall I suggest you hire a Licensed Electrician to inspect the wires a home that age was built with knob and tube wire. the casing around the wire could had detorated causing a short.

xke
Re: 4 way switch glitch - help
xke

Thanks for your quick reply, all these wires are covered with a black cloth like material and it is in poor shape. The wire gauge is very heavy. I wonder if I taped all the wires I can see in this old box if it would solve the problem for now. I might try that, money is tight.

Thanks

Fencepost
Re: 4 way switch glitch - help
Fencepost

I've found that tape doesn't always work well on these old wires. Heat shrink tubing works very well, but of course you'll have to completely remove the switch in order to place the tubing. A heat gun is generally safer than a lighter or torch for shrinking the tubing.

xke
Re: 4 way switch glitch - help
xke

Thanks Fencepost. I did put some tape on the suspect switch, but the wires and covering looked in pretty good shape and of course the taping was a waste of time. However, I did look at another switch that is no longer in a postion to be used. It use to be at the bottom of stairs that have since be relocated.

I removed just the cover plate and that was enough to scare me. It was jamed in a re-plastered wall so tight I would need a scapel just to get the switch out. I did tighten two terminal screws that I could get at from the front. Of the bottom two wires, one looked like it was secured with a nail and the other was covered with plaster.

I put the cover back on after generating a few sparks and everything worked.

I will have to operate further when I have more time.

Question: Can I just remove this switch and cover each of those wires with a wire not cover after I clean that mess up? This switch never gets used.

Thanks

Jack
Re: 4 way switch glitch - help
Jack

No you can not disconnect the switch and wire nut the wires. One three way is connected to the power and feeds that power to the two travelers (one at a time) the other three way is connected to the light and picks up power from one of the two travelers. The 4 way crisscrosses the two travelers. Here is a site that explains three way and 4 ways function. http://www.wfu.edu/~matthews/misc/switches/4WayStills.html It might help you understand the wiring involved.
Jack

xke
Re: 4 way switch glitch - help
xke

Thanks Jack, I wish I would have read your reply earlier. I took that suspect switch apart and to my surprise it only had three wires. Of course, I thought I solved the problem!

To keep my self from looking dumber than I am and to keep a long story short; I put a new three way switch in there and everything is working fine now. If it's still working tomorrow I will declare victory.

Thanks

Jack
Re: 4 way switch glitch - help
Jack

I wish you good luck. One thing I would like to point out. Considering the age of the house and the wiring you described, it is possible you are dealing with knob and tube wiring. Withe this type of wiring it is quite possible the the switches are wired to switch the neutral rather than the hot in which case and sort to ground will turn on the lights rather than blow a fuse.
Jack

xke
Re: 4 way switch glitch - help
xke

The wiring in this part of the house probably is knob and tube. A lot of the wiring in the house has been upgraded and a large circuit breaker box installed. I know the new kitchen wiring is all new and A/C high velocity space pak units added to cool both the second and third floors separate from the first, a four ton compressor for up a a 3 ton for the first floor. But it appears that new wiring and outlets exist along side the old and both work and are tied into the new circuit breakers.

Electricity completely baffles me and I should stay away from it completely. But, both my daughters live in old houses and I'll try to fix something first before calling an electrian because of the cost these days. Of course neither daughter or son in law knows which end of the hammer to hold.

I read that web link you sent me and saved it to read again sometime. I'm afraid that it might as well be written in a foreign language though.

Have a great day and thanks agin for your input

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