I'm trying to replace a 3 way switch with a smart switch but the wiring is confusing.

There's no green or bare ground and I was trying to figure out what the wire setup is with 2 black wires, 1 red, and 1 white. In the photo, you can see what looks to be neutral wires above the switch. But I'm not confident enough to make any definitive calls on this at all. Throwing it out to the community for help.

Appreciate any help I can get!

Edit sorry I added a photo originally. Apologies to everyone who kindly answered without having that to reference. Added now because of course you'd need to see this 🤦‍♂️3 way switch 4 wires

  • 3 way switch would have 3 wires, no ground. You could repurpose the wiring coming from the other 3 way switch
    – Traveler
    Oct 26, 2022 at 7:31
  • 3
    Most of the time, you don't get a choice where the 3-way "smart switch" goes. You can't just slap it anywhere you want. We'll need to have a look at your wiring. Please draw or show photos of the wiring in both switches. Oct 26, 2022 at 7:55
  • 1
    Pictures of all the wiring (with none of the devices disconnected!) involved will be most helpful in getting you an accurate and safe answer.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 26, 2022 at 11:38
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    In case it's not clear, you have to Edit your question to add the requested pics.
    – brhans
    Oct 26, 2022 at 15:02
  • Thank you to all of you who tried to help me without a photo. I swear I'd attached one...but apparently not. I've added it now and I'm grateful for any help.
    – nihir
    Oct 26, 2022 at 20:20

1 Answer 1


No ground? I've never seen switches like this, as the body appears all plastic, so perhaps ground is not needed, and perhaps this is permissible in your jurisdiction.

As to the 4 wires, well you really don't have 4, as as far as the switch is concerned, the 2 black wires are the same. These could have been implemented by twisting the 2 blacks together with a 3rd pigtail wire, and then that single pigtail wire brought to the switch and you would have only seen 3 wires at the switch, However, the electrician choose to join these wires by bringing one to the side screw and one to the backstab. Same effect, but not as clean in my opinion.

What to do? If your new switch has a ground, then you will have to find a ground in the box and bring it to the switch. As for the 2 blacks, you could do what was done here, use side screw and backstab (do not put both wires under the same screw!) or you could do as I suggest in the previous paragraph and use a pigtail.

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