Three ceiling lights which worked for years, cannot be turned off. There are three switches, each of which controls all three lights (they are all on or all off). Is there a simple fix or must I call an electrician? I didn't change anything.

  • If you are not electrically savvy - call an electrician. For now until your electrician comes out : To turn the lights off - turn off your circuit breaker in the circuit breaker panel.
    – Ken
    Dec 2, 2017 at 10:26
  • 2
    Toggling any one switch is supposed to change the lights so something is wrong. But to start with have you systematically checked all the states of the switch system to insure that there is no state in which the lights go out? S1 up, S2 up, S3 up; S1 up, S2 up, S3 dn; S1 up; S2 dn, S3 up; S1 up, S2 dn, S3 dn, etc.? Dec 2, 2017 at 10:29
  • This shows the basic idea of how these switches are wired: users.wfu.edu/matthews/misc/switches/4WayAnimation.html Dec 2, 2017 at 10:43

3 Answers 3


One of the switches has failed and will likely need to be replaced. There will be two "three way" switches and one "four-way" switch. It's the four-way that has broken. The switch may feel different when you toggle it.

Unscrew the bulbs until you get it fixed.

  • how do we know its the 4 way that failed?
    – agentp
    Dec 2, 2017 at 13:42
  • @agentp seems like the only likely cause is a short between the two switched wires. This short could happen at any of the switches. The four way might be more likely (more complex), but I agree it could be any of the three.
    – Jeffrey
    Dec 2, 2017 at 14:42
  • Sorry, I was wrong, Jeffrey's right, it could be any of the switches that has failed in such a way that the normal connections for both switch positions remain connected.
    – Okangan
    Dec 4, 2017 at 0:02

One of you switches have failed. The solution is to start replacing switches, like for like.


The switch leg for the light is hooked up to the constant hot.

  • 1
    This wouldn't explain why it worked for 3 yrs.
    – fixer1234
    Dec 4, 2017 at 4:23

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