Wire A Three Way Switch

wire three way switch

Three way switches are used to have two switches turn on light(s). They can do that because there is always power to both switches even if one of the switches is turned off. This article teaches you how to wire a three way switch.

brief how to

  1. Understanding Three Way Switches
  2. Attach the black wire from the power cable to the common terminal
  3. Attach the white wires to each other with a wire nut
  4. Use the holes in the wirestrippers to form a hook at the ends of the black wires
  5. Attach the wires to the brass terminals on the switch
  6. Attach the two white wires together with a wire connector
  7. If using a plastic box attach the two ground wires together and add a 6 inch pigtail to go to the gound on the switch
  8. If using a metal box attach the two ground wires together and add two 6 inch pigtails, one gets attached to the metal box and one gets attached to the switch
  9. Attach the switch to the box and test it
  10. Wire The light fixture

tools and materials

  • 2 Three way switches
  • Wire strippers
  • Needlenose pliers
  • Screwdriver, phillips head
  • Switch box
  • Wire connectors
  • If using a metal box you will also need, grounding screw and cable clamps

step 1 Understanding Three Way Switches

A three way switch has 4 screw terminals:

  • One common screw that the power hooks up to, Brass or Black colored
  • Two Traveleer screws, Silver colored
  • One Ground, Green colored

The First Box: The First box has the power come into it with a 2 wire cable, and a 3 wire cable going out if it to the second box and switch.

The Second Box: The second box has the 3 wire cable coming in from the first box and a 2 wire cable going out to the light.

The Traveler Wire: The 3 wire cable that goes between boxes has a 3rd wire in it that is red. It is called the "Traveler". The 3 wire cable allows power to go to the second switch even when the first switch is turned off.

step 2 Wire The First Switch

Attach the 2 wire cable FROM THE POWER SOURCE to the screw on the first switch:

  • Black wire to the "Common" screw on the switch. (the common screw is usually black in color)

Attach the 3 wire traveler cable GOING BETWEEN THE TWO BOXES to the traveler terminals on the first switch:(The "Traveler" screws are the same color)

  • Black wire goes to one of the "Traveler" screws.
  • Red wire goes to one of the "Traveler" screws.

Attach the White Wire:

  • White wire FROM the two wire power source connects to the white wire going TO the second switch, in the 3 wire cable, using a wire nut.

Ground Wires

  • Attach the ground wires to each other with a grounding wire nut and then attach the ground to the switch.

Push the wires into the box and screw the switch to the box.

three-way-switch-wiring

three-way-switch-black-wires

step 3 Wire The Second Switch

Attach the 3 wire traveler cable coming FROM THE FIRST BOX: (The "Traveler" screws are the same color)

  • Black wire goes to one of the "Traveler" screws.
  • Red wire goes to one of the "Traveler" screws.
  • White wire connects to the white wire going to the light.

Attach the 2 wire cable going TO THE LIGHTS:

  • Black wire to the "Common" screw on the switch. (the common screw is usually black in color)
  • White wire connects to the white wire going to the other switch using a wire nut.

Attach the White Wire:

  • White wire from the 3 wire traveler cable connects to the white wire going to the light fixture using a wire nut.

Ground Wires

  • Attach the ground wires to each other with a grounding wire nut and then attach the ground to the switch.

step 4 Wire The Light Fixture

Attach the light to the 2 wire cable. Black to Black, White to White, and Ground to Ground. Push the wires into the ceiling box and attach the light fixture to it.

Turn the breaker on and test your 3 way light switches.

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