I am trying to replace a switch that is one of the 3 switches which operate the bulb. I am confused with wiring of the switch and when I just changed the same wiring on a Leviton 3-way switch but it doesn’t turn on light. I have attached pics for reference. I want to change this switch to a Smart switch that also need neutral white wire which I might be able to borrow from the box. I need help identifying each wire to install new switch.

I was told that one the three switches would be a four way switch.

P.S. I already have changed the one way switch next to it with smart switch by using neutral white wire from box. (This switch operates on a different trip switch that the one next to it).

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other switch

  • 1
    Neutrals must be on the same breaker circuit. Make sure only one breaker controls the power to that box, cannot mix neutrals of different breakers. Neutrals must be white. Whites do not need to be neutrals(yes confusing).
    – crip659
    Sep 23, 2023 at 23:03
  • Neutrals are newer switched but paired to the hots. The 3 way switch has 3 screws while the 4 way switch has 4 screws not counting ground
    – Traveler
    Sep 23, 2023 at 23:29
  • 1
    What does "operates on a different trip switch" mean? Does that mean that the other switch is on a different breaker ("trip switch") in the breaker panel? If so, then NO you cannot, must not "borrow" the neutral from that circuit. If it means something else, please edit to explain more fully what that means so we can help you better.
    – FreeMan
    Sep 24, 2023 at 14:17

1 Answer 1


A 3 switch configuration has:

  • 3-way switch with hot and two travelers. You may have neutral in the same box, or you may not, depending on how the circuit was wired.
  • 4-way switch two 2 sets of 2 travelers. There will be a 3rd wire in each cable. That 3rd wire will be the same wire in both cables and wire-nutted together. That wire could be neutral or hot or switched hot.
  • 3-way switch with switched hot and two travelers. You may have neutral in the same box, or you may not, depending on how the circuit was wired.

Based on the picture, this switch is one of the 3-way switches and has white marked as black, making that white wire not a neutral but either hot, switched hot or a traveler - impossible to guess a traveler because the convention is one black screw for common and two brass screws, so the blackened white wire must be on a brass screw (since the picture shows the black wire on the black screw). (Thank you FreeMan.) But that means that most likely the necessary neutral for a smart switch is not in this box.

It is possible that the other 3-way switch (but not the 4-way switch, based on what I can guess from this 3-way switch) will have neutral available in the box. It is also possible that the other 3-way switch has a 2-wire cable with hot and switched hot to the light fixture and not have any neutral at all. Need pictures of the other box, showing how the switch is connected and all other wires/cables in the box to know for sure.

Note that some smart switches for use with 3-way/4-way switch circuits use a "smart" device wired at each switch location, some use a "smart" device only at the first location with conventional switches in the other locations, and some use a "smart" device wired at the first location and non-wired remotes (battery operated) at the other locations.

  • Thanks for the response. I do have neutral (white) in the box which I used for single way Smart switch next to it and it's working. When I used tester while the switch was off, Power was showing on the right side Red wire. Once I turned on the switch all 3 of them (Red, Black and white marked as black) was showing power. Hope this info. helps to identify each wire. If I cannot install Smart switch due to multi way, at least would like to install 3 way white switch to match the color of Smart switch/plate next to it- Regards.
    – user174246
    Sep 24, 2023 at 10:53
  • Top post indicates this box has 2 separate circuits in it: "different trip switch". Unsure what you're trying to say about the neutrals here. Sep 24, 2023 at 11:28
  • 1) Different trip switch: Yes, two switches in the same box are powered separately 2) I do have Neutral in the box, which I used for the first Smart single pole switch in the same box. I would appreciate if you can help me with which wire is which in this switch.
    – user174246
    Sep 24, 2023 at 12:55
  • 1
    AIUI, it's not "impossible to guess" what that white-colored-black wire is for - it's attached to a gold screw on the switch. There are 2 gold screws & one black screw, therefore the 2 gold screws are the travelers, making the white-colored-black and the red wires the travelers. No?
    – FreeMan
    Sep 24, 2023 at 14:15
  • 1
    So it did work out :-) Used black as common, Red and black marked white as traveller and white from the box as neutral. Thanks for all your help!
    – user174246
    Sep 24, 2023 at 18:18

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