I have 2 ceiling fans that were in my house when I moved in. Both fans have recently had the pull strings torn out of the switch. I took the fans apart, and wrote down the information on the switch, and both fans have a switch with 4 wires. The wires are labeled L,1,2,3. I went to the hardware store and bought replacement switches, also labeled L,1,2,3.

At this point I decided to play it safe and I labeled each of the wires based on the hole that they were inserted into (L,1,2,3). When I turned the power back on, instead of 3 speeds, I have 1. When I put the old broken switch back in place, the fan immediately runs on high (the speed it was on when the chain was pulled out), so I'm pretty sure that the fan is alright.

I'm nervous about just trying random combinations, not know what each of the different holes is for. I also do not know the manufacturer of the fans, so I am at a bit of a loss as far as reading manuals, or getting OEM help.

Will I be OK just trying different combinations until the fan is working better? I'd really rather not bring in an electrician.

2 Answers 2


Do you have any part of pull chain left in the old switch, even if you need to use tweezers or something to use it? If you do, then you could use a continuity tester or volt-ohm meter and test how the switch is working when the chain is pull through its cycles. That is, see which wires let voltage through (and it may be more than two at a time).

To me, "L" should be the hot voltage in to the switch, while 1-3 should be power to the fan.

If you can not test the switch directly, perhaps this article will shed some light.


  • The chain is completely pulled out of the switch. I toyed with the idea of prying the old switch apart to see if I could figure out how it is wired, but I'd rather not risk destroying the thing on the off chance that someone could help me out. I have read through the article that you referenced, but I missed the part where it pointed out that L is likely hot. This is definitely something for me to look into, and it gives me somewhere to start. I would guess that if I can only get low working, then I probably have L and 3 backwards.
    – Kirk
    Jun 7, 2011 at 21:15
  • "...then I probably have L and 3 backwards." That would explain why you only have one speed.
    – Jim
    Jun 8, 2011 at 3:03
  • Cool. Thanks Jim. I'll probably try swapping that around this weekend. I'll let you know how it works out.
    – Kirk
    Jun 8, 2011 at 12:46
  • Apparently I was confused when I wrote this post. The fan that only has one speed, does not in fact have 4 wires. It has 7. I tried some random combinations, and the best I could ever get was 1 speed. Different combinations would give me high or low (never medium) and I could never get more than 1 speed working at a time. I guess I will need to get a voltmeter or a multimeter and start testing this out.
    – Kirk
    Jun 13, 2011 at 1:36

L - Black, 1 - Grey, 2 - Brown, 3 - Purple
L - Orange, 1 - Black, 2 - Yellow, 3 - Purple
L - Black, 1 - Grey, 2 - Brown, 3 - Green
L - Grey, 1 - Yellow, 2 - Purple, 3 - Black
L - White, 1- Black, 2 - Blue, 3 - Yellow

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