For cosmetic reasons, I've been replacing the switches and outlets in my house (from beige to white). It's been going well until I ran into two 3-way switches in a hallway that turn off and on one hallway light. I first replaced one switch with a single pole switch, turned back on the breaker to test and the hallway light stayed on and wouldnt turn off. Then realized it was a 3-way, went to the store and picked up 2 3-way switches and proceeded to switch out the wrong single pole switch (both switches have a red, white, black & bare copper wire)- however I'm certain I don't remember what was the common or travelers. Consider this switch #1. To further my stupidity, I thought I'd switch the other 3-way out (switch #2) (so they'd match) and when I turned the breaker back on I heard a buzzing noise and the breaker clicked off (3/4 position to the on switch). I removed both switches, was very careful that no wires were touching each other and turned the breaker back on- still buzzed and switched off. I've since tries a couple of combinations with no success. Any suggestions on what combination to use?

  • 1
    If you search the site for "3 way", you'll find lots of information you might find useful.
    – Tester101
    Dec 31, 2012 at 14:21
  • If each switch box only has the 4 wires you mention, how they connect will probably depend on how things are connected behind the light. Since the breaker trips with no switches attached, something must have fused in relation to the light before the breaker first tripped, so you need to get in there anyway.
    – bcworkz
    Dec 31, 2012 at 23:58

1 Answer 1


This site has useful diagrams for wiring 3ways http://www.homeimprovementweb.com/information/how-to/three-way-switch.htm

  • 1
    Answers relaying completely on links, become useless if the link dies.
    – Tester101
    Dec 31, 2012 at 18:31
  • Thanks for all your insights, I've got an electrician coming out tomorrow. Really glad I found this site for future questions!
    – Diana R
    Jan 1, 2013 at 22:58

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