I looked at a few answers before I wrote this, but none seemed to apply appropriately. The two I saw related to switched wiring for a plug and a light, but I am replacing a switch.

I took off an indoor switch connected to two outdoor lights. The switch had 2 backstabbed black wires and one white wire attached to a screw on the side. After further investigation, there were 4 cables coming into the box, each with a white, black, and ground. All the white wires were gathered under a nut. Two black wires were in a nut with the white wire attached to my switch. And the two remaining black wires were the backstabbed black wires.

My black wires do not fit in the push in the back part of my new switch, plus it seems those are unreliable. How do I get this connected back with my new switch?

  • Can you upload a picture? Nov 23, 2020 at 22:14
  • Yes, can you post photos of the inside of the box please? Nov 23, 2020 at 23:53
  • Is the "white" wire connected to the switch actually a black wire with a bunch of white paint on it? How many wires are attached under the wire nut with the white wires?
    – bigchief
    Nov 24, 2020 at 1:42
  • @bigchief there are 4 wires under the wire nut with only white wires. I cannot provide a good picture at this time because I lost my light for the day.
    – AThomack
    Nov 24, 2020 at 2:24

2 Answers 2


This may not be the ideal solution but I did get it connected an working. I did not realize that I could put more than one of the wires on a single screw on the switch. Once I figured this out, I simply connected the formerly backstabbed wires to their corresponding screws and doubling up on the screw that already had a wire on it.

Thanks for the help, and if you have suggestions on making it better, let me know.

  • I take it your new switch is screw-and-clamp instead of back-stab? Nov 24, 2020 at 2:25
  • 1
    Some switches, including the cheap ones at the big box stores, only allow one conductor per screw. Upload a pic so we can tell you if it is OK and safe.
    – bigchief
    Nov 24, 2020 at 2:27

Make sure the black wire going in the backstab is connected to the backstab closest to the screw terminal with the black wire. I am assuming this is the case, but we can't tell for sure without a picture.

Whoever wired this originally used a white wire for the hot pigtail. This small length of white wire connects from the wire nut with the black wires to the switch. Put some black electrical tape on this wire so it won't confuse anyone, or better yet, replace it with a 6" length of black wire of the same gauge or bigger (likely 14ga).

This original pigtail goes to one of the screw terminals on your switch. The other two black wires get put into a new wire nut with another new black 6" wire pigtail. This new pigtail goes to the other screw terminal on your switch. Unless you have a metal box, you should run a ground wire to your new switch's ground screw also. You might need yet another wire nut and another ground pigtail to connect ground to the switch properly.

When you post a picture we will be able to verify this is correct and give you additional advice if necessary.

  • I do have a metal box. I was wondering why so many of the grounds were not in use. The house is from the 70s.
    – AThomack
    Nov 24, 2020 at 2:23

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