Home>Discussions>ELECTRICAL & LIGHTING>Light switches won't override eachother
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Light switches won't override eachother

I have two switches that operate the same light in my house, however, oddly enough, they don't seem to override eachother. In other words, if I use switch 1 to turn on the light, I can't use switch 2 to turn it off. If I hit switch 2, the light just flikers once, and stays on until I go back to switc 1 and flip that one off.

I have this situation on a couple of different lights in my house. I'm going to get an electrician to look at it but wanted to educate myself first - any ideas on what's happening here and what the fix is?

Re: Light switches won't override eachother

It looks like you have two conventional light switches, each wired as a dedicated switch. If the situation is this, both switches off, the light is off, if either switch is on or both switches are on, the light is on, than that is probably what you have.

You will need an electrician to put in switches that are designed for this circuit, but it may get more complicated than this if only two wire romex is used between the switches and the light. A third wire is needed and if it is not there, then the drywall might have to come down for new wiring to be run.

If the wall(s) that the switches are located on have attic space above them, then the electrician may be able to run wires through the attic for the switches.

This is not homeowner type work, it requires a licensed electrician. Not using a licensed electrician could void your homeowners insurance policy if a fire results from the wiring.

Re: Light switches won't override eachother

It could just be defective or worn out 3-way switch or if they are programmable switches, one or both are defective.


Re: Light switches won't override eachother

If this is a new problem, just started happening recently, then it could be the switches, as jlmcdaniels stated.

But if this condition has been there since the beginning of time, then it's the wiring. Around my city, a homeowner can work on his wires without a license. And you should see what people do...If there is a fire, trust the insurance company to find a way to reject all claims, even if everything was done by licensed contractors.

Re: Light switches won't override eachother

This seems like a failure of either or both "Three-way" switches, which are different than a single regular light switch. To determine this, kill the circuit at the fuse-box or breaker panel, pull the switches out of the boxes, and see how many wires are attached to them. A 3-Way switch will have 3 wires, a regular switch just two. There may also be a green or bare ground attached- don't count it. If you see one switch has three wires and the other has two, someone put the wrong switch in and you'll have an extra unused wire in the box as proof.

Unless you understand how a 3-way switch works or if you're not comfortable changing out switches, call an electrician. As long as there is the third "traveler" wire in both boxes the fix will be replacing both switches- cheap and quick. If you go that way, have them do a quick safety check of the whole electrical system which may catch other issues before they become a problem.


Re: Light switches won't override eachother

could be an inproperly hooked up 3 way switch. one of the screws are color coded. that is your line/return. the other two screws are the travelers. they just go between the swithches. the color coded screws is for the hot coming in and the return to the light. good luck and be safe

Re: Light switches won't override eachother

I have encountered such a scenario. The contacts in a 3-way are on a teeter totter like blade. When one breaks loose from its mounts it can make strange shorts between the blades take place. The most likely bad swith is the one that only flickers the light when the switch is operated.


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