I am trying to change a couple of switches which are in the same junction box. They control the light on my deck and the flood lights on the corners of the house.
I took out the first switch - it had a black wire (1) stuck into a hole in the back of the switch, and another black wire (2) on a screw on the top right of the switch. (there is another screw on the top left, but no wire connected.) Since the wire in the box is too large to fit into the holes on the back of my new switch, I decided to take wire 1 and attach it to the bottom screw on the new switch, and wire 2 on the top screw of the new switch, since it was on top before. Then I loosened the second old switch, only to find that wire 2 from the other switch was in a hole in the back of this other switch. There was another black wire (3) in the other hole in the back, and then yet another black wire(4) on the screw on the top right of the old switch. Gah! A call to my brother-in-law later, I decided to attach wires 2 and 3 together on the top right screw (he said I could do that??) and then attach wire 4 to the bottom screw. Breaker back on - no light :(
Does anyone have any idea what i need to do?
First off, your brother-in-law is wrong. You cannot attach two wires to a single screw terminal (unless it is rated for that, which most switches are not).
Here's what I'm guessing you're dealing with. Remember it's only a guess since I'm not there and you haven't supplied a picture, or drawing.
Lets call the first switch you mentioned S1, and the other S2, then we'll use the numbers you mentioned above as the wire numbers.
You should also have 3 white wires connected together, and possibly 3 bare or green wires connected together. The white wires are neutrals, one from the breaker, and one going out to each light. The bare or green wires are equipment ground, and should be connected in a similar way as the neutrals.
If I'm correct, you should connect wire 4 and two lengths of scrap wire (~6" or so) using a twist on wire connector or other approved method. The scrap pieces of wire; or pigtails, should be made from a similar thickness and type of wire as wire 4. Next, connect one pigtail to each switch. Finally, attach wire 1 to S1 and wire 3 to S2.
Always make sure the power is off, before working on any electrical circuit. And if you need help, please contact a qualified Electrician.
Also don't forget. I'm not there, and I only have your brief description to go on. So I could be wrong.