We are replacing the switches in the basement and one of them was a dimmer knob, see attached photo. We replaced it with a Leviton 3 way switch and we just cannot seem to get it to work. I’m at a loss. The circled wire is the hot wire and there are two other wires in the box.

Black/red/white (with the circle) is the breaker panel. Black/white is the light fixtures. Black/red/white/ground is the traveler to the other switch. It’s confusing because there was an old 3 way dimmer knob on there and it doesn’t translate to the new switch. The original set up was 3 white wires nutted together, hot wire connected to the dimmer box, black traveler connected, then the remaining 1 black and 2 red nutted and connected by a wire to the dimmer box. I wonder if it’s because of the dimmer? I’m just thoroughly confused. enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

The other switch wiring is pictured below: Remote Switch Side 1 Remote Switch Side 2

  • 1
    Welcome to StackExchange... but never do this again. The thing with trying every combination is bad, because lots of combinations will seem to work, and then kill you. And what you did there with removing all the devices and splaying the wires out in every direction like this, leaves us in a bad place to help you. The way the wires were previously connected was absolutely essential to understanding the circuit. Unfortunately in 3-way circuits, colors mean nothing. Commented Aug 12, 2020 at 3:44
  • Thanks for the feedback. The wires aren’t all splayed out willy-nilly. We have gone through and identified what wires are what, I just don’t know the jargon to ask the right question in seeking help.
    – Emily
    Commented Aug 12, 2020 at 5:02
  • You have 3 cables - black/red/white, black/white, black/red/white. Do you know where each one goes? Power (breaker panel)? Other switch? Light fixture? Commented Aug 12, 2020 at 5:03
  • I added pictures of the old switch, no model number that I can tell. I’ll take apart the other switch and send pictures shortly. The old switch doesn’t work anymore (which is why we are replacing.)
    – Emily
    Commented Aug 12, 2020 at 15:30
  • No markings SMH, that was typical of early dimmers. What were they thinking? Now, when you look at the other switch, at least 60% chance you'll one "common" (black screw, hopefully) and two "travelers" (brass screws). Typical 3-way arrangements have 2 travelers: at any given time one is hot and the other not. There is no standard for colors in 3-ways, hence the need to open it up. Commented Aug 12, 2020 at 16:05

1 Answer 1


Based on your description of the wires, you have (not counting any ground wires as conductors) a 3-conductor cable to a remote switch, a 2-conductor line to the light fixture and a mysterious 3-conductor cable to the breaker panel. I have no idea what the red line to the breaker panel would be. I would just nut and tape that wire and leave it disconnected (maybe the builder ran out of 2-conductor cable and used 3?)

Here is one possible way to wire your switches.

wiring diagram

Here is an alternate wiring that might fit the edits to your question where it looks like a duplex remote switch is sharing the white wire with the other switch.

alternate wiring

  • Thank you. I gave it a try and the light turns automatically on but neither turn it off. Sigh. The upper switch is a strange one on its own. It goes to a completely separate light and works great with that other switch. There is, what appears to be a light fixture spot on the wall near the outlet, that somehow ties into that upper switch as some sort of pass-through. It’s not connected to the bottom switch though. I’m at a loss.
    – Emily
    Commented Aug 12, 2020 at 21:48
  • @Emily, that tab on the second switch connects the white wires on both switches. Did you try the second wiring? That should be able to turn off the light no matter what the other switch is doing.
    – Jon
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 0:53
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    So guess what? There’s a little brass tab on the switch that I didn’t remove and was wiring the whole dang thing as two single switches on the remote switch. It works now and I’m also going to die of embarrassment. Thank you SO much for all of your help and keeping me sane. It just didn’t make any sense as to why it wasn’t working. Haha. Ugh.
    – Emily
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 1:13
  • @Emily, Happy to help, if my answer solved your issue, consider accepting it
    – Jon
    Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 19:08

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