I noticed that one of the three switches used to control our kitchen lights was acting funny. By funny, I mean that when I flipped that switch to turn the lights on there was a delay of about 1 second. Looking through forums the most likely candidate was a bad switch. The other two switches work correctly. Went to Home Depot and picked up a Leviton 4 way switch, samve amperage and voltage (15A 120V) as my original. The only difference was the new switch had a grounding screw, whereas the old one did not. I did not have an obvious grounding wire in the box, so I decided to hook up the new switch without it (I understand this is not the best long term solution). I hooked up the 4 wires in the same position on the new switch as on the old one. Turned the power back on and none of the switches worked. Checked to ensure the screws were tight and there was a good connection. Went back to the old switch, it worked fine (the delay is gone too, for now). My question is, is it most likely the new switch is bad, or that there is some sort of "failsafe" in newer switches that won't let them work if the ground screw is not connected--from looking at the switch, this doesn't really seem likely, but thought I would ask. Thank you.

Thank you for looking at this.

I did not see any installation instructions when I first took it out of the package. I didn't think I needed them--I thought how hard could it be to detach 4 wires and attach them in the same place. Then, after reading your response I doublechecked and found they were written, in VERY small print, on the inside of the box. From the tiny diagram they supplied, along with your information that they may not be positional, I was able to hook it up and it works.

The old switch had the wires from each of the other two switches on one side or the other. This switch wants them on top or bottom.

Thank you again for your help. Robert

  • 1
    The problem, most likely, is that the wiring of the switch isn't positional, it's by role. Turn off the breaker and edit your post to include clear, focused pictures of each side of the existing switch (including showing the wires heading out the back of the box. Also, include a link to the exact model of the switch you purchased or a good clear picture of the install instructions. While you're editing, feel free to add in some paragraph breaks (blank line) to make your post more readable.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Nov 4, 2020 at 16:50
  • Make sure you didn't get a double pole single throw switch...
    – JACK
    Commented Nov 4, 2020 at 18:06

1 Answer 1


I hooked up the 4 wires in the same position

That's your problem right there. Common blunder with 3/4 way switches.

Manufacturers completely randomize screw positions on the switches. Every switch is different. You cannot rely on positions at all.

You must use screw colors.

Fortunately, this is not too bad to clean up: simply group your 4 wires by the cables they come in on, so you have cable 1/wire 1-2...... and cable 2/wire 1-2.

Now, on cable 1, put its 2 wires on the black screws.
On cable 2, put its 2 wires on the brass screws.

And you're done.

On your switch grounding, if the junction box is metal, your work is done. Switches ground though the 2 mounting screws. Otherwise if you see ground wires in the back of the box, you can pigtail a ground wire off of them and bring it to the switch. Note that adding a pigtail can entail a number of supplies and tools you don't necessarily have!

Lastly, a 1-second delay in a light starting cannot be caused by any plain switch. Unless your existing switch(es) have some sort of smart-switch/dimmer feature, it ain't them.

A 1-second delay is typical of certain fluorescent and LED lights, however. In the case of fluorescents, it is the tube being pre-heated for a soft start that extends the life of the tube (which is VERY long). In LED, there's really no reason for it.

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