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I'm sleuthing out a mysterious short in a 3-way circuit and could use some advice. I have an ordinary 15A breaker with a feed to our kitchen pendants, and some outlets in the room. The lights are switched with a 3-way circuit that out of the blue has started to pop the breaker when it is turned on. The circuit carries a load to both outlets and another light. I have been able to determine that when the 3-way switch is turned on it creates a short buzz near one of the outlets and then the breaker trips. I replaced the breaker, but that did not fix the issue. I then isolated the problem down to the pendant lights feed and the 3-way circuit. This appeared out of the blue today, and baffles me.

I pulled and examined both switches and they appear to be fine. The only thing I felt needed to be done was to tighten down the terminal screws, as they were fully extended. The wires are inserted into quick-wire slots. I debated about replacing the switches, but that would be just another easter-egg hunt, and not at all certain they would be at fault. Does anyone have a thought on what to check next? I find it strange that the buzzing noise is not in the 3-way circuit - or at least I don't think so.

  • If it's creating a buzz near an outlet, have you tried replacing the outlet? It's not normal for outlets to buzz. – Harper Mar 13 at 3:53
  • Have you hung anything on the walls or otherwise drilled into the walls recently? Even if done in an adjacent room a wire could have been nicked, causing a short. – JPhi1618 Mar 13 at 18:12
  • Turns out not to be the outlet that is buzzing as it is live and well. There has not been anything done work wise in this house for a long, long time. I went under the house and had the wife flip the breaker on and tried to listen for where the buzz was coming from, and all I could sense was somewhere above me. Please see my other comment to another poster. – DIYGUY Mar 13 at 22:43
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Grrr hahaha grrr hahaha grrr aaa Solved - and I have a very red face. Turns out that several years ago I replaced a light bulb in one of the pendants. When it did not light up, I determined that the base of the bulb was not making contact with the pin in the seat of the socket. To help it out I put a penny in the socket and presto - things worked (foolish me!). Turns out that the penny moved to one side when a new bulb was installed and gradually made contact with the socket wall - not good!

So, after a breaker swap, two 3-way switches and a lot of bafflement, I have only myself to blame. I'm lucky indeed that was all that happened, lesson learned as things could have turned out much worse. Enjoy the laugh - it's on me!

  • A penny saved is a penny zapped! – manassehkatz Mar 14 at 21:06

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