I have a three-way switch that was wired in the configuration shown below. The switch with the load wire to the light is fully functional. however, whenever the other switch is positioned down it instantly trips the breaker. I have inspected all wires in the box for any visible damage, and tested if it still happens when all wires are separated.

I have a concern that maybe the 14-3 (specifically maybe the traveler?) that was ran may have been damaged during construction, but I do not know how to test for that with a multimeter.

How the three-ways were wired

  • 3
    Have you looked inside the boxes? Can you provide photos? Are you sure it's actually wired like that diagram, and not just that it was supposed to have been wired like that diagram? Nov 15 '21 at 3:32
  • 1
    Pictures are key. In particular with 3-way switches, different brands/models have screws for travellers vs. common in different places. Picture shows common on top-left, travellers on bottom left/right, but it could vary. Nov 15 '21 at 3:39
  • I used the color of the nut as a reference to orientation. I wired 3 other 3-way switches in this project (on the same circuit) with no issue. and have double-checked wiring multiple times, though I will again :)
    – Kayde
    Nov 15 '21 at 4:02
  • 1
    Noting the wires that are on the brass screws on the switch... are both those wires in the same cable? Same quesiton each switch. Nov 15 '21 at 8:31
  • 2
    "Color of the nut" is that the wire nut or is the "nut" the screw on the switch? Also, actual pictures of your actual switches will help. It's not impossible for you to think you've wired it correctly, but have missed something that a fresh pair of eyes will find.
    – FreeMan
    Nov 15 '21 at 13:21

As I went to take some photos to post, I went back and cleaned up the hot and neutral clusters (had to strip back one neutral wire that may have not been providing a good connection) in the box containing the power source. Once I did that I tested the switch, and it worked. So glad it was not an punctured insulation in the wall somewhere.

Thanks all


It sounds like you have a nail through a cable. The reason I say this is because as long as a 3 way is wired with a hot and the travelers it will not trip a breaker if the travelers are mixed up with the hot. If one of the cables has a nail through it touching the ground or neutral to one of the travelers when that one is live it’s a dead short to ground. An ohm meter can check for a short but make sure to turn the breaker off prior to testing.

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