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I have 4 basement lights wired off one switch. There are 3 blacks and 3 whites at the first light. I tried the notes posted here from 2019 (below). When wired this way, 3 lights come on and off only with the breaker and the first light operates with the switch. Now what?

INFO FROM 2019 POST:

So your box has only 3 cables. That means it's most likely wired up like this

  1. Incoming cable from the previous fixture or circuit breaker
  2. Outgoing cable to the next fixture
  3. Cable to the light switch (looks like this might be the blue cable)

It looks like you nutted the wires all together. So somewhere in there you have a hot and a switched hot. When you flip your switch, you're creating a bridge between the hot and neutral, and thus your circuit breaker trips because you hit that max amperage instantly.

The good news here is that you can see the cables and where they go. What you need to do is follow the cables and label them. Then we're going to modify the box as such

  1. Connect all the bare ground wires together and nut them off. Add your fixture ground into this.
  2. Connect the incoming and outgoing white wires together with the white wire from your fixture and nut them off (very important the white wire to your switch is not in here)
  3. Connect the incoming and outgoing black wires AND the white wire from your switch. Use a black sharpie to mark that white wire so it's clear that it is a hot wire. Nut them off
  4. Connect the black wire from your switch (last wire left) to your fixture's black wire. Nut them off.
  • Can you post photos of the wiring at the switch please? – ThreePhaseEel Apr 27 at 23:17
  • There’s only a black and white wire at the switch – Luke Apr 27 at 23:48
  • So here’s what I just did: – Luke Apr 28 at 0:19
  • Hot white to switch black – Luke Apr 28 at 0:20
  • White switch to black light, other white to white light, hot black to other black. Lights all work on switch only, but they don’t stay on. The main one stays on, the other 3 shut off. – Luke Apr 28 at 0:21
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Things are different here. In that other box from the other post, there were 3 cables:

  • Always-hot (black) and neutral (white) from supply
  • Always-hot (black) and neutral (white) onward to other points of use
  • Always-hot (white marked with black tape*) and switched-hot (black**) from light switch

Your situation has these 3 cables (note one of them is changed):

  • Always-hot (black) and neutral (white) from supply
  • Always-hot (white marked with black tape*) and switched-hot (black**) from light switch
  • Switched-hot (black**) and neutral (white) onward to the other lights

You simply need to group all always-hots (certain blacks and remarked whites), all neutrals (unmarked whites), and switched-hots (those ones I recommend you mark red).

Marking things with tape to indicate their function makes things vastly easier, the next time you're inside that box.



* Use of the white wire, and this marking, is mandatory.
** Use of red tape to mark these wires is strongly recommended by me. This indicates their function -- switched-hot. If you don't want to do that, that's fine, but don't complain when you're confused :)

My recommended color code for wires is:

  • Black -- always-hot
  • White -- neutral (mandatory)
  • Red -- switched-hot #1 (this is a general convention)
  • Blue -- switched-hot #2 (ditto)
  • Two Yellow -- 3-way travelers (this is a Harper special :)
| improve this answer | |
  • Do I connect the two always hots to each other, the two remaining whites to the white lights, and the two remaining blacks to the black light? I tried, that didn’t work? – Luke Apr 28 at 1:07
  • The always hot white doesn’t come from the light switch – Luke Apr 28 at 1:10
  • @Luke Right, it doesn't test out hot right now, but you would wire it that way. Like I say, you don't have to actually mark them, but don't complain when you're confused :) Well, you do need to actually mark the switch leg white... – Harper - Reinstate Monica Apr 28 at 1:44

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